The Brookeville White House

The Brookeville White House

The Brookeville White House

Just off Route 97 in Brookeville, Maryland, stands an 18th Century home, lovingly restored by Sandy and Duane Heiler, that served as America’s capital for about 18 hours in late August 1814.

Invading Maryland from ships in the Chesapeake Bay, British troops routed the Maryland militia in the somewhat embarrassing Battle of Bladensburg, then put Washington, D.C. to the torch.  President James Madison, who rode to Bladensburg to watch the battle, narrowly escaped capture by fleeing across the Potomac.  He spent forty-eight hours on the lam, coming to rest nowhere.

Receiving word that the British had withdrawn to pursue an attack on Baltimore, the president rode up the post road from Washington to Brookeville, a settlement of prosperous Quakers.  Many other refugees were huddled in Brookeville’s houses.

After being turned away at a home that was already at capacity, Madison spent the night in the home of Caleb Bentley, a silver engraver and watchmaker.  A few feet from the house stood the post office, the closest thing to a federal facility in Brookeville.  Madison slept in a bed for the first night in several.

For that night, with the nation’s public buildings smoldering in Washington, tiny Brookeville served as the nation’s capital.

The Heilers’ restoration of the house has been meticulous.  Though some additions and adjustments were made to the building in the 1840s, the 18th century residence that Madison experienced can be felt in every room.  The Washington Post recognized their effort as producing the finest historic home in the region.

The Heilers are organizing archaeological explorations of their historic property, while Brookeville is planning bicentennial observations for August 2014.  We are all in the Heilers’ debt for preserving this lovely piece of history.

Sandy and Duane Heiler in the parlor of the Brookeville White House.

Sandy and Duane Heiler in the parlor of the Brookeville White House.


  1. Elizabeth Kane on February 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Madison House is a real treasure. Without the Heilers hard work and loving attention to detail, The Brookeville White House may well have been lost to history. The Heiler’s children have also contributed their architectural and artistic talents to the renovation.

    • Moisés Pereira on January 7, 2020 at 9:23 pm

      Can I visit the house inside ? I have a very popular channel . Thanks

      • David Stewart on January 8, 2020 at 5:32 am

        It’s a private home, but sometimes open for special events. You might inquire at the Brookeville town office.

  2. Sean Archer on October 14, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Interesting that nothing is mentioned of Gene and Juanita Archer, who began the restoration process, and as far as I know were the ones who initiated the process of getting Madison House recognized as a historic landmark. I still have the stamp that was created to commemorate 175th anniversary. My father and his brothers grew up in that house, and I heard many stories about the restoration process when I was a kid.

    • David Stewart on October 14, 2019 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks for adding to the story — I didn’t know that part of it. It must have been a special place to grow up.

  3. Robin Lawson on July 25, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    During this time of isolation due to the pandemic I have been learning more and more about my family heritage. Turns out I am a direct descendant of Caleb Bentley. His granddaughter Sarah Bentley Brown married John Ridgely Parks. My paternal grandmother was a Parks. Caleb Bentley is my great, great, great, great grandfather-7th generation.
    Maybe you can put in a good word for me to the Hellers!ha I’d love to tour the home sometime. Thx.

  4. Tyler urban on February 11, 2021 at 9:35 pm

    my fourth great grandfather owned this home. amazing job on resto!

  5. James Archer on February 26, 2021 at 12:22 am

    In 1958 my parents purchased “The Madison House” also known as “Capital For A Day”. Gene and Juanita Archer moved our family into this old rundown home with no electricity, central heating or indoor plumbing. Juanita’s vision and a lot of hard work turned it into a historical preservation. She relied on her contacts with the Smithsonian and the Williamsburg Preservation Commission for guidance and The Williamsburg craftsmen To keep accents authentic. Her vision restored the home to landmark status and several times featured in tours of historic homes of Maryland. Mom and Dad have long passed but I know they would be overjoyed to know the Hellers have embraced the historic nature of their home.

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