Mapping Georgetown: Renovations at Julia Child’s Georgetown Home
By July 14, 2021 0 385•
He was looking for a run-down Georgetown property to renovate for a while.
Then one day, Rory Veveers-Carter, a co-founder of the human resources company Jaba Talks, happened to notice an ad in the paper showcasing the sale of an American icon’s house. World famous chef Julia Child (1912-2004) had owned the Georgetown home at 2706 Olive St. NW. Asking price, $935,000 — that was back in 2015.
Veveers-Carter told the Washingtonian he was intrigued that Child and her husband Paul lived at the old sunny yellow clapboard house — rotted and crumbling, with a large hole on the back wall. Also, Child was said to have worked on “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” while living at the home.
“It looked perfect—dilapidated, well- priced and in a great location,” Veveers- Carter said. “The Julia Child connection was also interesting as my grandmother was a fan and had her kitchens in New York and Cape Cod in the same style, pegboards and all!”
Veveers-Carter was introduced to the personality of Julia Child by his grandmother who would watch her cooking shows for inspiration. With kitchens designed just like Child’s, echoes of the famous American chef who helped popularize French cuisine were around all the time.
Child and her husband Paul moved to Georgetown in 1948. They met while working for the Office of Strategic Services (aka the CIA before it was the CIA). Paul loved food as much as Julia did and when they moved from Georgetown to Paris,
Julia began taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu — the beginning of the rise of the icon we know and love today. See this time in their lives played out onscreen with Nora Ephron’s “Julie and Julia,” made in 2009.
While in the home on Olive Street, Child gave cooking classes with Georgetown ladies (some were rumored to be diplomat and socialite Pamela Harriman and former Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham). In the book “My Life in France,” Child said it was during this time she really polished her teaching skills. Neighborhood women would meet with Child Monday mornings then go and cook the meals they learned for their husbands during the week. They would make items like poached eggs with mushroom duxelles, sauteéd chicken with tomato sauce, apples braised in butter with orange sauce and more.
Veveers-Carter has cooked many of Child’s dishes and when he first moved into the house on Olive Street, he thought quite deeply about what his first meal would be there. Ultimately, he chose lamb shank provencal with a creamy madras sauce, bringing together Child’s French inspiration with a twist of the food Veveers-Carter was raised on. “As [Julia] said, don’t be afraid to try and fail,” he said. “That is a mantra I adhere to.”
Veveers-Carter believes Child truly loved cooking and educating people to not be afraid of trying, so the biggest homage he can pay is continue those traditions. He sees himself as a “custodian of history” in Child’s former home.
During his renovations, Veveers-Carter found the location of Child’s old kitchen behind a bunch of plaster. His renovations team also found a window sealed up behind a wall in colors that are consistent with Child’s kitchens. “We have preserved part of the wall and will place ‘her window’ in front, allowing the cook and guests to see where the revolution in American cooking started,” he said.
When it comes to restoring homes — for lack of a better term — this isn’t Veveers- Carter’s first rodeo. He shared that he owns a 1700s Cape house and an 1800 Vermont salt box house. In England he even lived in a 15th century home. The hardest part of this particular renovation, however, was the unknown. “The house was dilapidated, there was visible rot and holes in the walls and animals and birds lived in the cavity,” he said. “I knew I had a challenge, but I wouldn’t know [how big] until we pulled away the internal walls and exposed the bones of the house.”
When they finally did expose the bones, it was worse than Veveers-Carter and his team could have imagined. However, he was patient and stuck with it and shared that the house will be move-in ready by July. Just a few weeks ago he had his first guest over.
“The Smithsonian hosts Julia Child’s kitchen, but Georgetown hosts the birthplace,” he said. “It can stand proud as a testament to its past, not only as her home but one of the few remaining homes in the area owned and built by Edgar Murphy, a leading member of the African American community that called this area home.”
As far as the coming decades, Veveers- Carter hopes the house on Olive Street will host many evenings of cooks and friends gathered in the kitchen, being inspired and inspiring others to master the art of cooking.
“Personally, I hope every future owner shall remember they are only custodians of history and within these walls, something special was started,” he added.
More information on Veveers-Carter’s efforts can be found on Facebook and Instagram at “jewelonolive.”