During this crazy summer of transition I was treated to a outing with friends that mirrored some of our experiences in Brussels together. Sherry, now retired and living in DC, and Sarah, visiting from her home base in New York, invited me to explore the museum and gardens of Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown.
This early 20th century estate houses the art collections and libraries of Robert and Mildred Bliss. The house and its treasures now belong to Harvard University, providing a place for scholarship to those whose interests lie in Byzantine and Pre-Columbian Art, as well as garden design and landscape architecture.
In 1944, the Music Room was the site of talks that laid the groundwork for the creation of the United Nations, producing the United Nations Charter that would be adopted by the member countries in San Francisco the following year. (The above pictures do the room no justice! I was harried by a tour of 9 year old scholars!)
For me the highlight of the day were the gardens. While the house was gifted to Harvard, the grounds and carefully crafted Italian gardens were gifted to the National Park Service. Entrance to the park is from a completely different location than the house and a nominal $10 entrance fee is charged to those wanting to wander the grounds (entry into the museum’s galleries is free).
Mildred Bliss worked closely with Beatrix Ferrand to create the gardens and the result is a wondrous place to both appreciate the artistry of the garden’s designs and to take in the beauty of nature all around you. I highly recommend a trip to Dumbarton Oaks to anyone living in, or visiting, D.C. You can find more information on their website here.
There was so much more to see, but with the forecast calling for storms within the hour, our time was cut short. In fact, we only made it as far as the guard’s canopy before the skies opened up. After a brief wait we continued on our way to M street and the nearest Irish Pub for a beer.
I am grateful for friends who also enjoy exploring the cities around us and digging up the gems that so often go unnoticed during our time in the area. Our day evoked, for me, memories of exploring ancient chateaus, 12th century monastery ruins, quaint shops, and the natural wonders around Belgium. I may not have access to those sites anymore, but I still have access to good friends who share my curiosity and love of adventure. I now have a job that will take up a good portion of my time, but I do hope to see a lot more of this in the coming months of our D.C. tour.