There is a small town in northeastern Montgomery County that calls itself the United States Capital for a Day; Brookeville, Maryland was founded as a Quaker community in 1807, played an important defensive role during the War of 1812, and is a beautifully preserved town today. The Town is a recent recipient of a Heritage Fund grant to welcome visitors to this historic place.


In August 1814, during the War of 1812, British forces captured and burned Washington, DC. Residents escaped the attack by heading north, including President James Madison who arrived with his entourage in Brookeville. There they were given food, shelter, and medical attention, as needed.

Why Brookeville? Brookeville was the first town on the road north from Washington and at the intersection of an east-west thoroughfare, and its reputation as a pacifist community also made it a desirable refuge.


Upon arrival, President Madison spent the evening of August 26, 1814 in the home of prominent Brookeville residents Caleb and Henrietta Bentley. Caleb Bentley operated the Brookeville post office from his large but simply adorned Federal-style home – now called the Madison House – built by Brookeville’s founder, Richard Thomas, Jr, in 1798. Spending only one night there, President Madison returned to the Capital as the British left Washington, and hence, Brookeville was the United States Capital for a Day.

Thanks to many dedicated members of the federal government and the welcoming Brookeville community, the President, as well as important information and valuables, were safe during the attack. Before the British reached Washington, two Senate clerks packed up important Senate papers and transported them to Brookeville by wagon, too.

The Town of Brookeville was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It is also a Montgomery County Historic District and part of the National Park Service’s Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. The Maryland State Archives hosts a webpage with detailed information and an interactive map of the Town for those looking for more information.

Commemorating the War of 1812

All of Maryland commemorated the bicentennial of the War of 1812 – most ubiquitously with the State’s former license plate. It was also a time for the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission and Maryland heritage groups to rally around a major event to produce and promote new educational and heritage tourism resources.

The Town of Brookeville contacted Preservation Maryland in early 2016 – and was later awarded a $1,250 grant from the Heritage Fund to provide for the design, manufacture, and installation of three signs marking Brookeville’s historic significance. The Town of Brookeville received the remaining funds from its own budget, Heritage Montgomery Heritage Area, and in-kind support from local residents. The signs now sit prominently at the town’s entrances on Georgia Avenue, Brookeville Road, and Market Street.


The amazing history of the Town of Brookeville is just one example of the stories that simply would not be told without the financial support of the Maryland Historical Trust and Preservation Maryland’s Heritage Fund.

This Heritage Fund Highlight post was researched and written by Kyle Fisher, one of Preservation Maryland’s Waxter Interns. With degrees in history, communications, and teaching, Kyle has contributed greatly to our education and outreach programs, including this blog. Learn more about Kyle and our intern program here: