Friendship Estate History
Friendship was the country estate for two generations of the McLean family: John Roll McLean and his wife, Emily, and Edward Beale McLean (“Ned”) and his wife, Evalyn, with their children: Vinson, Edward, John, and Emily — who later changed her name to “Evalyn.”
Ned and Evalyn McLean purchased the Hope Diamond – the world’s largest blue diamond (45.52 carats) — in 1911 from Pierre Cartier of Paris; It is believed that Mike, the McLeans’ Great Dane, occasionally lost the Hope Diamond when he was allowed to wear it and roam Friendship.
Ned and Evalyn’s children enjoyed a menagerie of domestic and exotic animals, including a white llama purchased from the Ringling Bros. Circus that wandered freely around the grounds.
Vinson Walsh McLean had his own furnished log cabin with a fireplace and flower garden at Friendship. While Ned and Evalyn were out of town on May 18, 1919, nine-year-old Vinson was struck by a car on Wisconsin Avenue outside of Friendship and died of a cerebral hemorrhage later that day.
Presidents Harding and Coolidge played golf at Friendship on the course that Ned McLean built, while Mrs. Coolidge enjoyed knitting on the front porch of the mansion.
President Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, “Princess Alice,” was Evalyn’s close friend and visited Friendship frequently. Immediately after her White House wedding to Nicholas Longworth (43rd Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives), she and her new husband spent the first phase of their honeymoon at romantic Friendship.
The English hedge and oak trees on the Friendship Estate were over 300 years old.
A Friendship Estate horse watering trough is beneath the lion’s head on the “McLean Gardens” sign on Wisconsin Avenue.
Water lilies were raised at Friendship.
When Evalyn wanted to learn the art of making home movies, she flew to California to learn from Cecil B. DeMille.
In order to widen Wisconsin Avenue (known as Tennallytown Road, Tennallytown Pike, and the “highway” back then) outside of Friendship, the government required the McLeans to tear down the stone wall along Wisconsin Avenue and move it back 32 feet.
When the Friendship Estate was sold to Defense Homes Corporation, it extended along Wisconsin Avenue from 50 feet north of Macomb Street and went to Rodman Street and then down to Arizona Avenue.
In 1901, John Roll McLean had the stone wall along Wisconsin Avenue built with a high iron fence on top – remnants of the fence are visible on the top of the wall.
John R. McLean had 30 dogs of different breeds on the Estate.
Mrs. John R. McLean held regular Sunday luncheons at Friendship for guests who, at some point in their lives, ran the U.S.
John R. died at the Friendship Estate on June 8, 1916, and his funeral was held there. He is buried at Rock Creek Cemetery in the McLean family mausoleum, which is near the Walsh family mausoleum.
The two iron gates at Friendship were previously at the Druid Hill Park in Baltimore and were 70 feet wide and 13 feet high.
Before the estate was named “Friendship,” it was owned by Georgetown College, now University, and referred to as “College Villa.” The property was used for retreats, and the religious used a flagstone path called “Monks’ Walk” for contemplation and prayer.
Before that, the Friendship Estate tract was owned by British Col. Richard Pyle. He had the house torn down and built the English-style manor house that became Friendship (and that the McLeans added onto) around 1800. He and his family lived at the house for several years.
Before Col. Pyle bought the Friendship land, it was owned by General Thomas S. Jessup, who captured Indian chief, Osceola. General Jessup was not received and treated warmly by the neighborhood because of the way Osceola was captured, so he moved on in a short time.
George French was the original owner of the Friendship Estate tract and sold it to General Jessup. Mr. French named the tract “Eden Bower,” and it was described then as very beautiful.
In her book “Father Stuck It Rich” with Boyden Sparkes’, Evalyn Walsh McLean described the Friendship Estate in the following ways:
“. . . There are almost eighty acres inside the wall; it is a regal holding with lovely gardens, a private golf course, greenhouses, stables, and other instruments of country living . . . . (171)
“There was a duck pond. We kept donkeys, goats, and fat waddling geese as well as ponies, horses, cows, and other creatures whose only obligation was to make our children laugh – once in a while. There was a greenhouse, and in this place $50,000 had been spent just for rosebushes . . . . (177)
“A mad place, truly! – with a monkey in my bathroom, a llama on the lawn, and our corridors shrill with curses of our parrot (learned from a diplomat). In the stables when my children wished to play at being
grown-ups they could find there midget horses and the coach, brightly painted, that had once belonged to General Tom Thumb. (190)
“All the puppies and other young pets got their adolescent training in my bathroom, so that sometimes the second floor at Friendship was like a zoo . . . . (216).
“Amusement was the sort of stuff we tried to mine from all our hours at Friendship.” (194)