Georgetown was popping this past weekend, the last in April, with even the extended sidewalks up Wisconsin Avenue between O Street and Reservoir Road packed with persons of all ages. The weather was perfect: sunny, breezy, 70 degrees.
Long lines were constant outside Thomas Sweet ice cream shop and in front of Café Bonaparte, where customers were getting sidewalk service of four kinds of hot, savory crepes. Up the east side of Wisconsin, continuous tables with a selection of the local stores’ special offerings were decorated with French flags for the annual French Market on Book Hill. French provincial table décor items were going for sale prices, and even A Mano was selling decorative watches for $5.
In addition to the crowds attracted by the French Market, all day Saturday hundreds of people stood in line in blue protective shoe coverings, mainly on the east side of Wisconsin on Dumbarton, O and Q Streets, to see the historic homes open for the annual Georgetown House Tour. Special focus this year was on table settings. All the homes had dining areas showcasing fine china, silver or gold cutlery and beautiful, sometimes unusual, flowers and decorations. One roof deck table featured a a 10-foot-long wooden bowl filled with dozens of green apples, with two buckets filled with metal cacti on each end. Almost all the renovated kitchens had hidden refrigerators – behind wall cabinets and even under the counters.
Crustless tea sandwiches and cakes (only two of each) were served to paid tour-goers at St. John’s Episcopal Church on O Street for the afternoon tea. It featured country singers in the parish hall, but the church also hosted an organ recital at 1 p.m. and a panel discussion by Georgetown architects and designers at 3 p.m. Christian Zapatka, Deborah Winsor, Dale Overmyer and Frank Randolph participated in an informal, interactive discussion — with a house-tour audience packed into the main church pews — about the challenges of building and remodeling in an increasingly regulated Georgetown and its significantly changing demographics.
“Almost every month new regulations and orders are passed that architects must follow in restoration and construction projects that are becoming increasingly complex,” the architects agreed. Responding to the growing number of families with small children who are buying into Georgetown, architects are being asked to expand and remodel homes going out in the backyard, popping up with decks and rooms two to three stories above the original house, and increasingly dive under in new subterranean rooms and pools, often lit by ingenious skylights, light wells and glass staircase walls.
But all the architects agreed they loved working in the historic town, trying to reflect its long colonial, Federal, Victorian and ever-changing modern design and history, as well as the changing needs of the owners. They seemed to agree that it’s all worth the trouble caused by the now (way more than what used to be) normal, three-month permit review process.