Mrs. Townsend was the mother of Mathilde Townsend, pictured in a portrait by John Singer Sargent in the NGA collection (1952.3.1). Mary Scott was the daughter of the railroad executive and congressman William Lawrence Scott of Erie, Pennsylvania. She married Richard Townsend, president of the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad. When he retired in 1892, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where they became prominent socialites. In 1899 the Townsends commissioned the architecture firm of Carrere and Hastings to build a mansion at 2121 Massachusetts Avenue N.W. that was modelled after the Petit Trianon at Versaille. The building is now the home of The Cosmos Club.