The Laird-Dunlop House


The Laird-Dunlop House is a 40 room Colonial Revival mansion that stands at 3014 N Street N.W. Construction began in 1792 until 1793 and two wings were later added on to it. The house was built by John Laird, the owner of a tobacco warehouse and for a while, Georgetown’s wealthiest resident.

The property then went to Laird’s son-in-law, lawyer James Dunlap (March 28, 1793 – May 6, 1872. Dunlop was born in Georgetown (Which was then part of Maryland and would be until 1801 when it was ceded to the District of Colombia.) 

Dunlop received an A.B. from Princeton and then read law (a common practice then) in the district where he entered the bar. Popular rumor says he was a law partner with Francis Scott Key, another political creature on the DC scene in those days)

Dunlop held a series of political appointments in DC including secretary for the municipal corporation of Georgetown and in 1838 he became a judge of the Criminal Court of the District of Columbia. Ten years later President Polk appointed Dunlap to the US Circuit Court of the District of Columbia and in 1855, President Pierce elevated him to Chief Judge of the Circuit (The position was abolished by Congress in 1863) Dunlap eventually retired to private practice in Georgetown and died in 1872. 

In 1915, the property was purchased by Abe Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, yet another player in the local DC political scene. Lincoln split his time between the property, which was now referred to as the Laird-Dunlop House, and estate in Manchester Vermont, dubbed Hildene. When Lincoln died the property was passed to his wife Mary Harlan Lincoln who continued to live in both homes until her death in Washington, D.C., in 1937. Robert and Mary are both buried at Arlington Cemetery.

In 1936 the house was purchased by Helen Burgess, the eldest child of William Pierson Hamilton (great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton) and Juliet Pierpont Morgan (daughter of John Pierpont Morgan) who was born and raised on the family estate Table Rock in Sloatsburg, New York. By comparison, Table Rock included eight houses and a chapel. Of the eight houses, the fifty-two room Table Rock House featured a bath and  fireplace in each room. It is a convent today.

On June 10, 1916, Hamilton married the New York Police Commissioner Arthur Hale Woods. Woods was responsible for instituting better police training by introducing an official police academy modeled after Scotland Yard.

 He also became an expert on gang related violence and was a supporter of Inspector Joseph Petrosino and the "Italian Squad", a special detectives unit which combated organized crime in Italian-American neighborhoods.

He was partially responsible for its revival following Petrosino's murder in 1908. Woods police force started efforts against the hundreds of street gangs operating in the city at that time, breaking up gangs in a systematic sweep from the Battery to Spuyten Duyvil which concluded with the Hudson Dusters two years later, he also became involved in labor racketeering during the "Labor Slugger War".

 Working with District Attorney Charles A. Perkins, he was responsible for the arrests of over 200 known criminals during his first year in office.  In 1937, Woods retired from public life due to ill health and settled in Washington, D.C. where he lived for several years before dying of a cerebral hemorrhage on May 12, 1942. His funeral was held at St. John's Episcopal Church in Georgetown.  On March 5, 1955, Hamilton married the banker and diplomat Warren Randolph Burgess who was serving in the Eisenhower administration.

In 1984, the property was owned by Arnold Sagalyn and his wife Louise London, a lawyer.  Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1918, Sagalyn graduated from Oberlin College and the Graduate Institute of International Studies at Geneva, Switzerland.

In 1939, he was hired as special assistant to Eliot Ness Cleveland’s safety director from 1935 to 1942. In one case, Ness assigned Arnold Sagalyn to tail a man named Dr. Francis Edward Sweeney whom Ness suspected was the phantom butcher, known as the Torso Murderer. The killer left some of his victims, there were 12 in all, naked, decapitated and dismembered between September 1935 and August 1938.

Sweeney was the son of immigrant Irish parents. He had served as a medic during World War I, attended both Western Reserve and John Carroll universities and earned his medical degree at St. Louis University’s School of Medicine. Then, according to the report put together by Sagalyn, Sweeney collapsed into a paranoid schizophrenia state that drove him to alcoholism, drug abuse and,  if Ness was right, mass murder.

 In late 1938, Ness secretly apprehended (Kidnapped) Sweeney in 1938 and had interrogated him and forced him to take a lie-detector test which he flunked. However Sweeney was released because the initial arrest had been bogus. For many years afterward Sweeney sent abusive postcards. Sweeney died in 1964.

In 1942, Sagalyn came to Washington to help organize a nation-wide law enforcement program against prostitution. He went on to become an aide to the Chief of the Public Safety Division of the Office of Military Government in Germany. There, he helped direct the reorganization of the German police system.

In 1961, Sagalyn was appointed Director of the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Law Enforcement Coordination where he was responsible for the coordination of criminal investigative activities of the Bureau of Narcotics.

In 1965 Sagalyn became the Treasury Representative to the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, (AKA the Crime Commission.) and then went on to serve as  associate public safety director of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders .

In 1983, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and his wife Sally, purchased the property and live there today.