Favorite Things – #6 – Greater Dumbarton Oaks

While GM is on his honeymoon, he’s publishing his top ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today number 6: Greater Dumbarton Oaks.

What does “Greater Dumbarton Oaks” mean? It’s meant to refer to all the aspects of Dumbarton Oaks, including those that get ignored in preference for the gardens. So for the record, this is what GM means:

  • Dumbarton Oaks Gardens
  • Dumbarton Oaks Park (the part of Rock Creek Park just north of the mansion that is open and free all the time)
  • The Byzantine Collection
  • The Pre-Columbian Art wing designed by Phillip Johnson
  • The Friends of Music Series

There’s a lot to Dumbarton Oaks. But as GM has complained in the past, Harvard does a terrible job engaging the institution with the wider population. Whereas Tudor Place hosts holiday parties and Easter Egg hunts, Dumbarton Oaks maintains overly restrticted hours and runs few special programs. The buildings and grounds are maintained almost exclusively for the benefit of the lucky few Harvard landscape architecture students who are resident there.

But that criticism aside, Dumbarton Oaks truly is an incredible collection of spaces and natural and manmade beauty. And one exception to the general rule that Dumbarton Oaks doesn’t host many special events is the aformentioned Friends of Music. Once a month from November to April, the ridiculously grand Music Room of the mansion is turned over to its intended purpose. The series invites top notch musicians to play in an intimate and unique space. GM’s been a subscriber for about six seasons, and it’s absolutely worth the price.

Add the artwork of the two collections and the formal gardens to the rambling and overgrown faded glory of Dumbarton Oaks Park and you have a priceless treasure. If it weren’t for their stand-offish attitude towards the public, Dumbarton Oaks would be much higher on GM’s list. As it is, they remain at number six.


7: Sara’s Market

8: Bistro Lepic

9: Q St.’s Elms

10: Abundance of Stores


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