The Blairs

Built in 1824, Blair House became politically central in Washington, D.C., the moment the Blair family took up residence in 1837.

Francis Preston Blair was a circuit court clerk from Frankfort, Kentucky, whose editorials in his local newspaper attracted President Andrew Jackson’s attention. Jackson invited Blair to convert the Globe, a failing D.C. newspaper, into a pro-administration publication, and in 1830, Blair, his wife Eliza, and their three children moved to the nation's capital. Seven years later, they took up residence in the former home of Dr. Joseph Lovell, the first surgeon general of the U.S. Army. It would soon become known as Blair House.

As editor of the Globe and the Congressional Globe (the first published proceedings of Congress) with partner John Cook Rives, Blair acquired a good deal of political power. Many political players, including presidents, sought his insight. He was the most influential member of President Jackson's informal group of advisors, the “Kitchen Cabinet,” and remained an important confidant to Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren. Abraham Lincoln also sought Blair’s counsel during his presidency and appointed Blair's eldest son, Montgomery, to his cabinet as Postmaster General.

In 1859, Francis Preston Blair built a home at 1653 Pennsylvania Avenue, next to Blair House, for his daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee. This home, known as Lee House, is now an integral part of the Blair House complex.

Photo courtesy of Carol Highsmith