Though I'd never walked to Georgetown from my child's Washington, DC office, I didn't think it would be such a bad walk. I had somewhere in Georgetown I really wanted to visit, so once the rains stopped I decided to give it a try. The good part about walking up this Georgetown street was the fact it was so pretty AND that the return trip would all be downhill.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection is an institute in Washington, D.C., administered by the Trustees for Harvard University. It supports research and learning internationally in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies through fellowships and internships, meetings, and exhibitions. Located in residential Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks welcomes researchers at all career stages who come to study its books, objects, images, and documents. It opens its doors to the public to visit its historic Gardens, designed by Beatrix Farrand; its Museum, with world-class collections of art; and its Music Room, for lectures and concerts. The institute disseminates knowledge through its own publications (such as Dumbarton Oaks Papers and symposium volumes) as well as through the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (published by Harvard University Press). Dumbarton Oaks also makes accessible ever more of its resources freely online.
In 1920, after a long and careful search, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss found their ideal country house and garden within Washington, DC. They purchased a fifty-three-acre property, described as an old-fashioned house standing in rather neglected grounds, at the highest point of Georgetown. Within a year the Blisses hired landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand to design the gardens. Working in happy and close collaboration for almost thirty years, Mildred Bliss and Beatrix Farrand planned every garden detail, each terrace, bench, urn, and border.
Since that time, other architects working with Mildred Bliss, most notably Ruth Havey and Alden Hopkins, changed certain elements of the Farrand design. The gardens have also changed in function. In 1940, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss gave the upper sixteen acres to Harvard University to establish a research institute for Byzantine studies, Pre-Columbian studies, and studies in the history of gardens and landscape architecture. They gave the lower, more naturalistic twenty-seven acres to the United States government to be made into a public park. An additional ten acres was sold to build the Danish Embassy.
The grounds were what I really wanted to see, and they did not disappoint. Considering it's the middle of summer and I still found them stunningly gorgeous, I absolutely cannot imagine how lovely they must be in the spring or fall, I've heard there's a long line to get into the park during those optimum times, but today I was the second person in the gate.
I knew there was a rose garden, but must have missed it in the maze of pathways. I had decided not to look for it because roses wouldn't be much to look at this time of year, right? Oh, I was wrong and fortunately the next path opened into a glorious garden filled with exotic color and fragrance.
Glorious! You pulled me in with that first photo of the wonderful white crape myrtle, and the thread just got better and better. Being in this kind of garden is my idea of perfect happiness & you certainly did it justice with your pictures. This is a hefty reminder of the lushness & beauty of the SE United States.
You are correct about the flowers, which are mallows, a type of Hibiscus.
Thanks for the plant ID, Bixa. I knew someone here would know it! I'm obviously not a gardener, so can only imagine the delight those of you with green thumbs would attain from a trip to Dumbarton Oaks. I hope to return sometime during another season to experience something a bit different.
There is also quite an extensive museum with a focus on Pre-Columbian and Byzantine art. I plan to post a few photos here as soon as I can get to it, as well.
I'm glad you brought that up, Kerouac, because I've been a bit confused, but not enough to do anything about it. Your question prompted me to read a little of the nice brochure I was given.
Here's a bit more from the website first:
Robert Bliss's career brought the Blisses to Paris in 1912. There they became friends with a circle of Americans, including the artist Walter Gay, the author Edith Wharton, and Mildred Bliss's childhood friend, the historian, diplomat, and banker Royall Tyler. Tyler introduced the Blisses to Parisian art dealers and sparked their passion for collecting, especially Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art. In Paris, Mildred Bliss began to support musicians and host musical evenings.
In 1920, the Blisses purchased the Georgetown property that they named Dumbarton Oaks. Their redesign of the house and the creation of gardens—directed by landscape designer Beatrix Farrand—made Dumbarton Oaks one of the outstanding residences of Washington. In 1940, the Blisses offered Harvard University the gift of Dumbarton Oaks, with its grounds, buildings, library, and art collections. Robert Bliss died in 1962, and Mildred Bliss in 1969.
I had to exit the gardens and go halfway around the block to enter the museum, which has no entry fee.
There was an eclectic assortment of art on display in a few of the rooms in the main house, but the lighting was very dim. Since it made even hand-held night shot camera settings frustrating, I gave up.
However, the wing housing the Pre-Columbian art was modern and well lit.
I had overlooked this thread somehow. I'm delighted to have found it this morning when I have the time to savor it.
I love the combination of the formal gardens with the less formal spaces. Also, the combination of native and non-native plant specimens and most especially the varied water features. In many ways it reminds me of the garden at Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's beloved garden restored some 20 years or so). Do you know approximately how many acres it covers?
The museum space, as Bixa noted, is likely one of the most aesthetic uses of space I've ever seen in a museum.
A wonderful, delightful gem of a report HTMB. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.
Thank you very much, Casimira. I'm sure you could appreciate the gardens on a whole different level since you are a gardener extraordinaire. I believe the gardens are 16 acres in size, though they seem much bigger due to the way they are terraced and separated into delightful little sections.
I came across some interesting information as I was looking for the size of the property. The gardens are only opened a few days per week and the hours are 2 to 6 (and closing an hour early in the winter). I had assumed they rented out space for special events as a way to help sustain the upkeep of the place, but they do not even allow professional photos to be taken in the gardens. No special events are permitted, and there is a notice that if you even look like you are wearing wedding attire they will insist you leave the property.
They probably use those hours while closed for the maintenance crew. All that mowing not to mention the pruning and weeding must take hours and hours. I worked next door to a lovely public garden here (not even close to the size of this one) which at one time had been a private home. It used to really annoy me that their maintenance crew "did their thing" during hours when visitors (who paid an entrance fee!) were trying to tour the place. If I was one of those visitors and a leaf blower or weed whacker was in use I would most certainly complain and demand my money returned. They also used to rent the place out for weddings etc. but, the neighbors put a halt to that due to the noise. It hurt them financially as they relied heavily on the extra revenue.
On another note, this garden must be absolutely gorgeous in the springtime.
Thanks for the heads up on wedding attire. Should I go I'll be sure to leave my flowing white skirt at home.
There were actually crews working in the lower - kitchen and flower - gardens on the day I was there which kept me from venturing into those areas. Yes, I'm sure there is constantly work to be done, particularly when everything has a tendency to run riot in the summertime.
The pre-Columbian museum section was gorgeous. There were people, but I waited until I had most sections to myself before taking photos. The collection of items in the house section of the museum, on the other hand, were extremely difficult to view, much less photograph. Most of the rooms were only very dimly lit and detail on the displayed items difficult to see.
Oh my goodness htmb...what a beautiful photo-essay! The photos are outstanding and show off the immaculate gardens and buildings to perfection. You are one heck of a photographer! I am slowly catching up on a lot of stuff I missed and due to the fact I was furiously packing when you posted , I'm sure you will forgive me? Well done and thanks for showing us.