Robert Brent

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Robert Brent
1st Mayor of Washington, D.C.
In office
Preceded by office created
Succeeded by Daniel Rapine
Personal details
Born 1764
Woodstock, Stafford County, Virginia
Died September 7, 1819
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic-Republican Party
Spouse(s) Mary Young
Profession quarry owner

Robert Brent (1764 – September 7, 1819) was the first mayor of Washington, D.C., the federal capital of the United States of America. Brent was born into a prominent Catholic family, for which the Brent Society is named.[1] The family lived in Woodstock, which was then in Stafford County, Virginia. His mother was Ann Carroll, whose brother John Carroll was the first Catholic Bishop appointed for the United States. Brent's father was a contractor and quarry owner.


In 1789 Brent married Mary Young — the daughter of Notley Young, a plantation owner in Prince George's County, Maryland. The couple resided on the Young family property after their marriage, and a few years later, Young's property was among those annexed by the Federal government for the new national capital, making Brent one of the first residents of the newly created Washington City. He soon took over his father's businesses, selling sandstone to the U.S. government for the White House, U.S. Capitol, and other early construction projects in the District of Columbia and thereby becoming one of the capital's most prominent merchants.

Mayor of Washington, D.C.[edit]

In 1802 Congress officially incorporated the city, including in its incorporation a directive for a mayor to be appointed annually by the President of the United States. On June 3, 1802 Thomas Jefferson wrote to Brent[2] informing Brent of his intention to appoint Brent as mayor of the city. Brent replied accepting the appointment that same day: "Altho I feel great diffidence in the talents I possess for executing that duty, in a manner which may afford general satisfaction, yet feeling it a duty to contribute my feeble aid for the public service, I will venture upon its duties."[3]

Brent was reappointed to the position seven times by Jefferson and three times by James Madison, finally relinquishing the position in June 1812. During his tenure, he essentially created the city government from the ground up — establishing markets, public schools, a police department, a fire department, and a system for taxation. In addition, since city planner Pierre L'Enfant had been dismissed before completion of his design, Brent was responsible for laying out many of the streets in the new city.[4] For all his ten years of busy service, Brent drew no salary for his service as mayor.

Other careers[edit]

During his lifetime, Brent also served as Paymaster-General of the United States Army, Judge of the Orphan's Court for Washington County, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Public Schools. He was the first president of the Patriotic Bank and of the Columbia Manufacturing Co.

Brentwood Mansion[edit]

Brent's home was located on the southeast corner of the present 12th Street and Maryland Avenue SW in Washington, DC, but he owned land throughout the region, including parts of Montgomery County, Maryland, and Washington County. His landholdings were largely inherited through his father's family, his mother's family (the Carrolls of Maryland), and his father-in-law.

In 1817 Brent had the Brentwood Mansion constructed in Washington County (the mansion site - Florida Ave and 6th Street NE is now part of the Gallaudet University campus in Northeast DC) as a present for his daughter Eleanor on her marriage to Congressman Joseph Pearson (Federalist - N.C.). Brentwood was designed by one of the Capitol's architects, Benjamin H. Latrobe. The Prince George's County, Maryland, towns of Brentwood and North Brentwood and the DC neighborhood of Brentwood (which formed most of the original estate) take their names from his home.

Brent died in Washington, DC, on 7 September 1819.


Robert Brent Elementary School in Washington, D.C. is named in his honor.


  1. ^ Mike Flach, "Fr. Gould Receives Brent Award", Catholic Herald (Arlington, VA) 5/26/10,,13047 . Accessed August 16, 2013.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Goode, James M. Capitol Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings, Washington: Smithsonian Institution (2003)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Mayor of Washington, D.C.
Succeeded by
Daniel Rapine