The Town of Brookeville played a significant role in history, as United States Capital for a Day on August 26, 1814, during the British occupation of Washington. On this day, President James Madison and his staff sought refuge in the Brookeville home of Caleb Bentley (now known as the Madison House) following the British invasion and burning of Washington.
Full information about the Madison House and other historical homes in the Town of Brookeville is available in the Walking Tour Guide.
Brookeville is a historically significant 19th century rural settlement in Upper Montgomery County, Maryland, approximately 18 miles north of the District of Columbia. Covering approximately 60 acres, the Town consists of 55 individual properties and has an estimated population of 135 residents.
The Town was founded in 1794 by Richard Thomas, on land inherited by his wife Deborah Brooke from her father Roger Brooke IV, son of James Brooke, an influential Quaker settler and the largest land holder in what was to become Montgomery County. Early houses were notably the Caleb Bentley House (now known as the Madison House), the Blue House, and the Valley House. To this core, Thomas laid out an additional 56 – acre lots sited along two major streets (Market & High) and two side streets, (North and South). Brookeville was incorporated by the Maryland General Assembly in 1808 which appointed three town commissioners – making Brookeville the oldest incorporated municipality in Montgomery County.
Brookeville grew quickly as a bustling market town, with many houses, two mills, a tanning yard, stores, a post office, two schools, a blacksmith, a constable, two physicians, two shoemakers, a seamstress, and a carpenter. During the early part of the 19th century, Brookeville was a center of commerce and education in an area that played an important role in the development of the science of agriculture. The Town was part of a network of progressive agronomists, including Thomas Moore, who initiated a number of improvements in farming methods that were practiced both locally and later nationally.
It was in the home of one of these progressive farmers, Caleb Bentley (who was also the first Brookeville Postmaster), that President James Madison and his staff sought refuge following the British invasion and burning of Washington during the War of 1812. For two days during the British occupation of the capital in 1814, the President conducted the business of the Federal government from the Bentley home. Following its historic role as the nation’s “Capital for a Day,” Brookeville continued to thrive. Changing transportation patterns, however, led to the demise of the town’s commercial businesses. Today, as a predominantly residential town, Brookeville remains a unique and diverse collection of period structures with a range of architectural styles existing in the same relationship to one another and to the main roadways as when they were originally constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries.