Michael Buckman’s Blog: Dumbarton Oaks

There are certain places I love to visit in Washington.  Some are well known while others are not as famous.   Over the next few blog articles, I will tell you about them.  All are great places to visit this summer. This blog article will be about a hidden gem, one my favorites- Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. Dumbarton Oaks #1When I was a boy, my mother would always take me Dumbarton Oaks. It was one of my favorite places to visit in the city. Dumbarton Oaks is an historic estate and gardens.  This lovely place became my oasis from the hustle and bustle of DC and still is to this day.  The grounds of it are large and the gardens are beautiful.  I always enjoy wandering around and looking at all the plants and pretty flowers.  The house itself is amazing and well preserved.  You can take a tour of the mansion and then visit the grounds.  Do not miss going to the top of the hill on the estate to enjoy the views of Rock Creek Park. Let’s look at a bit of history about this beautiful estate. Dumbarton Oaks was given to Colonel Ninian Beal by Queen Anne of England in 1702. However, it was not until 1801 that the first house was built on the property by William Hammond Dorsey.  That house still stands today as the central part of the existing estate.  The Oaks portion of the estate was added later, in the mid-1800s.  By 1822 the Oaks, as it was known at the time, was the primary residence of then Vice President John C. Calhoun.  Vice President Calhoun resided there until 1829. map #2 dumbarton oaksAfter Calhoun left, the house passed through several owners until 1920 when Robert Woods Bliss purchased the estate.  In 1933 Bliss renamed it Dumbarton Oaks. This name came from the combination of the Dumbarton which was the initial named of the tract of land granted by Queen Anne, and Oaks which was the mid-1800's name of the estate.  Renovations of the house took place between 1921 and 1923.   Mr. Bliss not only renovated the house, he also increased the land size to fifty-four acres.   The larger acreage allowed the creation of the gardens and wildlife areas as we know and love today. A museum was added to house with a collection of byzantine artifacts, and in 1940, fourteen acres of Dumbarton Oaks was given to Harvard University, which was Mr. Bliss's alma mater. The remaining land was given to the National Park Service to establish Dumbarton Oaks museum and gardens, which is open today to the public. map dumbarton oaksA few personal tips:  normally it is not very crowded and the gardens can be strolled leisurely. The gardens are open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 am until 5:30 PM except on four national holidays when it is closed. The Garden entrance is located in Georgetown at 31st and R Streets, NW and easily accessible by taking a 30-series Metro bus. If you are a nature enthusiast, enjoy walks, or just want to escape the city for a few hours I highly recommend visiting Dumbarton Oaks, a hidden gem in Washington DC. For more information visit their website www.doaks.org or contact me at mbuckman1983@gmail.com.

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