Dumbarton Oaks Park
It was in the spring of 1986, on one of my weekend wanderings, that I happened upon Dumbarton Oaks Park. A pleasant enough day—just my 11 year old son and me—walking along Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, turning on R Street for no particular reason, deciding to take the path that I would later know to be Lovers’ Lane, and entering Dumbarton Oaks Park.
Nothing about that day would portend that, 10 years later, I would be fortunate enough to be intimately involved in the planned restoration of Dumbarton Oaks Park. What I saw that day was the lushness of the place, its “wildness.” What I experienced was a sense of quiet and solitude.
Dumbarton Oaks Park is an exceptionally significant historic landscape, where the naturalistic gardens and built features offer a very special experience to those who visit. The park is a striking example of one of the most important designs by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. Mrs. Farrand is considered the “finest woman landscape architect of her generation.” The owners of the Dumbarton Oaks estate, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, wanted Mrs. Farrand to create for them an illusion of country life within the city. And, working closely with Mildred Bliss, Mrs. Farrand made the vision a reality.
Today, there are two main divisions to the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks: the formal gardens owned and maintained by Harvard University; and the naturalistic garden that is Dumbarton Oaks Park. Mrs. Farrand intended for these two parts to be connected, a unified design where one can view the woodland of the park from the upper gardens. Over the past three years of close collaboration, the National Park Service and Dumbarton Oaks Gardens have come to share a commitment to revealing, once again, the vision of Mildred and Robert Bliss and Beatrix Farrand for the gardens of Dumbarton Oaks.
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Working in partnership with the National Park Service and the greater community, the Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy is committed to restoring the historic park to its mid-20th Century heydays.