Local Color: Dunbarton Oaks

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with three things. Lucille Ball was one of them. There's a famous I Love Lucy episode where the Ricardos and Mertzes are in Italy and Lucy is trying to get into an Italian movie. She ventures off to a grape vineyard in an effort to "soak up local color," but once she's in the grape vat, stomping away, an all out female brawl ensues. Sitcom gold.*

As our weeks in DC wind down, I have been motivated to cross off items from my bucket list. Fortunately, the list was relatively small, but ever since listening to this story about crystals, chicken wire, France, and leapers I have been dying to get to Dunbarton Oaks to see the imaginative cloud installation in person. We finally made it this past weekend. 

Dunbarton Oaks is the name of a 10-acre house and gardens happily situated off Wisconsin avenue in Georgetown. Originally purchased by Mildred and Robert Bliss in 1920, the property is now owned by Harvard and has a research library on the premises. The Blisses expanded and renovated the property, adding multiple terraces and fountains to the existing landscape. In collaboration with the landscape designer, Beatrix Farrand, they worked to design gardens that had color throughout the growing season and incorporated sculpture as art wherever possible. In essence, they sought to create a retreat for students and scholars alike, a place where they could focus and write their life's work. (I think we could all use a retreat like that.) Dunbarton Oaks has all the charm of a Jane Austen estate stuck in the middle of urban setting. I could easily have spent an entire day there, but since they are only open four hours a day I settled for what we could see before the rain set in.
There is something magical about water reflections.
While 10,000 crystals are breathtaking, I found the rose garden, Italian ellipse, cutting garden, and emerald pool equally as inspiring. I took about 150 additional photographs in a futile effort to capture its beauty.** Hopefully exploring Dunbarton Oaks is now on your DC bucket list.

*I must give credit to my smart friend who does a Local Travel section on her blog. I'm claiming a similar feature and calling it Local Color. Hopefully that won't incite a brawl.

**Additional images can be found on my Instagram feed.



  1. Wow. These pictures on stunning. This place is definitely on my bucket list now.

  2. I agree! Fantastic! Katie, wanna make it a date?


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