Fittingly, this year’s Georgetown House Tour will begin with a Patrons Party at a home still buzzing with the spirit of its most famous owner, hostess extraordinaire Oatsie Charles.
“She handled her guests like kindling, setting fires among and between people, until the whole party was aflame,” is how one observer explained the magic of Mrs. Charles, who died in December.
Her house, at 3259 R St. NW, was sold to Brooke and Stephane Carnot in 2007 for $7 million.
Built in 1857, the yellow Victorian boasts a garden as colorful as its grande dame, a perfect launch for the tour with its theme of “Deeply Rooted: Georgetown Homes of Yesteryear and Their Gardens of Today.”
Born in Alabama in 1919, Marion Charles moved to Washington in the 1940s with her then husband, Thomas Leiter, an heir to a department store fortune.
Her home on R Street became ground zero for Georgetown entertaining. She amassed a menagerie of friends, ranging from Ian Fleming to John Kennedy.
Charles’s sense of mischief and fun set her apart from her more decorous Georgetown peers. When she upbraided Fleming, a notorious rake, for his treatment of her girlfriend, she got a kick out of his response.
“‘Mr. Fleming, I consider you’re a cad.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Mrs.Leiter, you’re indeed right. Shall we have a drink on it?’ ”
When Nancy Reagan came to Washington, her first stop was at the hive of the queen bee. The two ladies became fast friends, despite their political differences. The Patrons Party will be held on Wednesday, April 24, with the tour held the following Saturday, April 27. Tickets may be purchased in advance online at georgetownhousetour.com.
A major Georgetown social event, the Patrons Party raises almost half the proceeds for the Georgetown House Tour, which benefits the ministry and outreach programs of St. John’s Church.