John Marshall (1755 - 1835) is best known for his role as the “Great Chief Justice” and his influence in creating the Supreme Court of the United States as we know it today. Marshall served on the US Supreme Court from 1801 through 1835. The Richmond, Virginia home he lived in from 1790 until his passing in 1835 has been meticulously restored and is now open as a museum.
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The Marshall House contains the largest collection of personal possessions once belonging to the Marshall family. Highlights of the collection include a French mantel clock from 1810 which belonged to John Marshall. The gilded, detailed clock is reminiscent of French Empire style. Marshall’s choice of the item was possibly influenced by a diplomatic trip to France in the late 1700’s. An English harp from approximately 1810 is thought to have been owned by Marshall’s younger sister. The wood harp with gilt decorations was built by Sébastien Erard. The home contains two oil portraits of John Marshall. One, an oil on canvas, was painted in 1834 by William James Hubard. The portrait was done when Marshall was nearing 80 years old, and because the family found it an unattractive likeness, it was never hung in the home while Marshall was alive. It returned to the museum 1972. The second portrait, by Jeremiah Paul, is an oil on wood panel, still in its original frame. The portrait was used as the source of a famous 1815 engraving, done the same year as the painting when Marshall was approximately 60 years old. Highlights of furniture in the collection include an English mahogany library bookcase, from between 1760 and 1780 and a Rosewood and brass inlay couch and matching set of chairs from between 1810-1830. Other personal items include export Chinese porcelain, tea sets, coffee pots, a saddlebag and shaving kit. The home also contains the largest collection of Federal period furnishings. The brick house was built in the Federal style, and has been described as simple and unpretentious. Panels in the living room and parlor reflect the hand-carved woodwork common in 18th century homes. The home features a formal dining room, living room and parlor on the first floor, as well as three bedrooms on the second floor. The house is located in the elite Court End residential neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia and was one of the first homes in the area when it was built.
History: The Marshall House was built in 1790. John Marshall lived there until his death in 1835, and the home stayed in the Marshall family until 1907. After Marshall’s death, the home was owned by his daughter, Mary Marshall, who rented out the house to several influential people, including Robert Gwathmey, a realist painter active in the early 1900’s. Marshall’s granddaughters Anne and Emily Harvey owned the house next, by which point the lot which had once encompassed the entire block had shrunk to just the home and a small yard. The granddaughters sold the home to the City of Richmond in 1907. Plans by the city to tear down the house and build the John Marshall High School on site were successfully thwarted by several area women’s organizations who, in 1911, placed the home in the care of Preservation Virginia. Preservation Virginia was founded in 1889, and was the first historic preservation group in the United States. Today Preservation Virginia manages the preservation and care of over 20 historic sites in the state of Virginia. The John Marshall House was granted National Historic Landmark status in 1960.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The house is open for self-guided tours Fridays through Sundays. Group tours are available and should be scheduled in advance. Preservation Virginia occasionally hosts public events at the home. Past events have included “Treachery and Treason,” a special tour recounting the treason trial of Aaron Burr and the treachery of Guy Fawkes. Court End Christmas is Richmond’s longest running holiday tradition in which several Court End homes are open to the public free of charge. The event is partnered with food, drinks, and holiday shopping.
What’s Nearby: The Court End neighborhood where the John Marshall House is located grew in waves beginning in 1780 when Virginia’s capital moved from Williamsburg to Richmond. Several early Federal style buildings are open to the public including the White House of the Confederacy, the Wickham House, the Old City Hall and the First African Baptist Church. By the 1840’s the neighborhood was well established as a district for Richmond’s wealthy elite.
818 East Marshall St., Richmond, VA 23219, Phone: 804-648-7998