John Peter Van Ness

wikipedia Wikipedia view on Wikipedia
John Peter Van Ness
John Peter Van Ness.jpg
Mayor of Washington, D.C.
In office
Preceded byJoseph Gales Jr.
Succeeded byWilliam A. Bradley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 6th district
In office
October 6, 1801 – January 17, 1803
Preceded byJohn Bird
Succeeded byIsaac Bloom
Personal details
Johannes Petrus Van Ness

November 4, 1769[1]
Ghent, New York
DiedMarch 7, 1846
Washington, D.C.
Resting placeOak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Marcia Burns
(m. 1802; her death 1832)
RelationsWilliam Van Ness (brother)
Cornelius Van Ness (brother)
ParentsPeter Van Ness
Elbertje Hogeboom
EducationWashington Seminary
Alma materColumbia College

Johannes Petrus "John Peter" Van Ness (November 4, 1769 – March 7, 1846) was an American politician who served as a U.S. Representative from New York from 1801 to 1803 and Mayor of Washington, D.C. from 1830 to 1834.[2]

Early life[edit]

Van Ness was born in Ghent, New York on November 4, 1769. He was the son of Elbertje Hogeboom (1743–1806) and Judge Peter Van Ness (1734–1804) and was a member of an old Dutch family.[3] He was the older brother of William P. Van Ness (1778–1826), a federal judge, and Cornelius P. Van Ness (1782–1852), an Ambassador to Spain and Governor of Vermont.[4][3]

He completed preparatory studies at Washington Seminary and attended Columbia College in New York City. He studied law and was admitted to the bar, but never practiced.[2]


1805 portrait by Gilbert Stuart. Original on display at Edgewater, a historic mansion in Barrytown, New York.

Van Ness was elected as a Democratic-Republican to New York's 6th congressional district for the 7th United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of John Bird and took his seat on October 6, 1801. In April 1802, he was defeated for re-election by Federalist Henry W. Livingston.[5]

On January 17, 1803, Van Ness's seat was declared vacant, because in 1802 he had been appointed by President Thomas Jefferson as a major in the District of Columbia militia and under the U.S. Constitution no member of Congress could hold another federal office. He then made Washington his home and was president of the second council in 1803. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel commandant of the first legion of militia in 1805, brigadier general in 1811, and major general in 1813. From 1811 to 1814, he served as the second Commanding General of the District of Columbia National Guard. [2]

During the 1820s, Van Ness was a member of the prestigious society, Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, who counted among their members former presidents Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams and many prominent men of the day, including well-known representatives of the military, government service, medical and other professions.[6] He was a friend of Washington Irving.[7]

In 1829, he was an alderman of the city of Washington and from 1830 to 1834, Van Ness was the mayor of Washington, D.C.[2]

Van Ness was second vice president of the Washington National Monument Society in 1833 and was president of the commissioners of the Washington City Canal in 1834, and president of the branch bank of the United States at Washington, D.C.; he was also president of the National Metropolitan Bank from 1814 until his death 1846.[2]

Founding of the Washington Jockey Club[edit]

In 1802, the Washington Jockey Club sought a new sight for the track that lay the rear of what is now the site of Decatur House at H Street and Jackson Place, crossing Seventeenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to Twentieth Street-today the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.[8] Van Ness, along with John Tayloe III and Charles Carnan Ridgely and the support of Dr. William Thornton, G. W. P. Custis, John D. Threlkeld of Georgetown, and George Calvert f Riversdale, the contests were moved to Meridian Hill, south of Columbia Road between Fourteenth and Sixteenth Streets, and were conducted at the Holmstead Farm's one mile oval track.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Marcia Van Ness, wife John P. Van Ness. 1805 portrait by Gilbert Stuart. Original on display at Edgewater, a historic mansion in Barrytown, New York.

In 1802, Van Ness married Marcia Burns (1782–1832), the daughter of David Burnes (1739–1800) and M. Anne (née Wightt) (1740–1807).[10] She was a prominent philanthropist herself, and supporter of the orphan asylum.[11] Together, they were the parents of:[12]

Home of David Burnes (Burns) and his daughter, Marcia (Burns) Van Ness, with the Washington Monument in the background, Washington, D.C., by Frances Benjamin Johnston, ca. 1889. Burn's cottage was demolished in 1894

The couple lived at the Van Ness House, constructed in 1813 to 1816, located at Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, and 18th Street, N.W. It was demolished for the Pan American Union Building.[13]

Van Ness died on March 7, 1846 and was entombed in the Van Ness Mausoleum, which originally stood on H Street, N.W., between Ninth and Tenth Streets in Washington, D.C. His wife who had died September 9, 1832, was also entombed there.[14] In 1872, the mausoleum and the Van Ness remains were moved to Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown.[15]


Although not a Catholic, Van Ness donated the land on which the cornerstone of St. Mary Mother of God church, at the southeast corner of Fifth Street and H Street, N.W. would be laid on March 25, 1846. The land donation was made with the stipulations that Catholic worship should begin there within one year, ensuring the completion of the church on October 18, 1846, and that worship be regularly continued there. If Catholic worship were to ever cease at the location, the land would revert to the Van Ness family. A new building was constructed in 1890, and the site continues to be the home of St. Mary Mother of God church.[16]


  1. ^ U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records, Baptisms at Claverack, New York Reformed Church, entry for Johannes Van Ness, retrieved via, January 20, 2015
  2. ^ a b c d e "VAN NESS, John Peter - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b Men of Vermont: An Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters and Sons of Vermont. Transcript publishing Company. 1894. p. 78. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  4. ^ Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine. National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. 1967. p. 866. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  5. ^ "John Peter van Ness [1770-1846]". New Netherland Institute. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  6. ^ Rathbun, Richard. The Columbian institute for the promotion of arts and sciences: A Washington Society of 1816-1838. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, October 18, 1917. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
  7. ^ Jones, Brian Jay (2011). Washington Irving: The Definitive Biography of America's First Bestselling Author (in Dutch). Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. p. 100. ISBN 9781628721881. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  8. ^ Green, Constance McLaughlin (2013). Washington: A History of the Capital, 1800-1950. Princeton University Press. p. 45. ISBN 9781400847693. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  9. ^ Lewis, Tom (2015). Washington: A History of Our National City. Basic Books. p. 105. ISBN 9780465061587. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  10. ^ Huntington, Frances Carpenter (1969). "The Heiress of Washington City: Marcia Burnes Van Ness, 1782-1832". Records of the Columbia Historical Society. 69-70: 80–101. JSTOR 40067706.
  11. ^ "John Peter van Ness [1770-1846] Early Founder/Historic Leader". New Netherland Institute. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  12. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States, as Illustrated in the Lives of the Founders, Builders, and Defenders of the Republic, and of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work and Moulding the Thought of the Present Time. University Microfilms. 1967. p. 316. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  13. ^ Boese, Kent (August 11, 2009). "Lost Washington: The Van Ness House". Greater Greater Washington. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  14. ^ William Richard Cutter, William Frederick Adams, eds. (1910). Genealogical and personal memoirs relating to the families of the state of Massachusetts. 1. Lewis historical publishing company.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  15. ^ Clark, Allen C. (1919). "General John Peter Van Ness, a Mayor of the City of Washington, His Wife, Marcia, and Her Father, David Burnes". Records of the Columbia Historical Society. 22: 125–204. JSTOR 40067123.
  16. ^ Spalding, Thomas W. (1989). The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1789-1989. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 138. Retrieved 18 September 2017.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Bird
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
Isaac Bloom
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Gales Jr.
Mayor of Washington, D.C.
Succeeded by
William A. Bradley