Georgetown House Tour Draws Record Crowds on a Perfect Day
By April 25, 2022 0 746•
It was a beautiful sunny, slightly breezy spring day in the 70s with blossoms in the gardens, as people of all ages stood patiently in sometimes long lines waiting to visit the eight featured homes on Georgetown’s House Tour 2022 — the 89th one and a welcome return after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. More than 2,100 persons purchased tickets, according to House Tour Chair Donna Leanos.
“We’ve had record attendance,” said Georgetown’s St John’s Episcopal Church Rector Gini Gerbasi midway through the day. “We completely ran out of our printed glossy-paper tour books, so for awhile we handed out photocopied pages at the check-in table at the church. Then, we ran out of those — and so we used ‘signed’ copies of the April 13th print issue of The Georgetowner newspaper that features the house tour on the cover.”
The eight featured houses ranged from classic federal historic places, such as the multi-storied Flanagan home on 3312 N St. NW, built circa 1818, the Bayer home at 3130 Dumbarton St. NW built in 1874 and the Bloomfield home at 1519 28th St. NW, built in 1890. The oldest was the City Tavern Club at 3206 M St. NW, built in in 1796, one of the few founding era buildings in the District.
All of the homes have had extensive modernization, remodeling and expansion — usually by adding open kitchens and family rooms with a wall of windows and doors leading to brick-lined backyard gardens, often with a fountain, a pool or a fireplace. But most displayed treasured original features as well: wooden floors, door brass, molding, fireplaces and alcoves. Many mixed polished period antique entrance tables and decorative items with modern furniture and abstract art.
Several homes such as the Swabb home at 3131 P St. NW, dating from 1890, and the Sroka and Kammeier home on 3323 R St. NW, dating from 1962, emitted gasps from visitors as they entered the single porticoed front door. The interiors had been gutted and modernized, opening up small rooms into large ones with tile floors, white walls, large arches, sky lights and large back yards (one with a jacuzzi accessed through the ground floor exercise room and lounge). Julia Child’s former home at 2706 Olive Street drew special attention because of the large kitchen dining room filled with memorabilia of the famous American intelligence-agent-turned-renowned-French-cooking-instructor who lived there before going to Paris. Unlike Child’s famous kitchen this one had long clean shelves along walls instead of the clutter of dozens of hanging pots and knives that are iconic Julia.
One house stood out as most original: the detached former farm house on the west side of P Street with its trolley tracks. It was built sometime between 1844-69. Constance Chatfield Taylor has filled the home with furniture and family art (one showing her lying on a small sleigh pulled by a horse) from her and her mothers’ farm houses in Virginia. During the pandemic, Taylor moved her photography and digital documentary production studio to the front bay windows where she happily “got to know the neighborhood anew.” Her large garden has an art studio, croquet lawn, large pond and a potting shed with a desk and a rack of polo mallets —of course —for the Virginia horsewoman.
Docents at all the houses were well informed about the homes’ histories and what had been done there. But most visitors were interested in how the homes presently were lived in, not only decorated but used. Interesting to many were how huge TVs were subtly placed so that they didn’t dominate a room often filled with tasteful art pieces. Also interesting to many was the layout in narrow spaces of ultra-modern kitchens with six burner plus stoves, multiple ovens, warmers and wine coolers as well as double refrigerators with freezer drawers on the bottom and microwave ovens hidden below the counter.
The dozens of volunteers, many of them church members, who checked in visitors and distributed required plastic booties and masks at each house, worked in shifts. Several told The Georgetowner they were tired but excited and grateful for the crowds. Proceeds will benefit the various missions, ministries and community center of St. John’s at 3240 O St. NW that has been serving Georgetown for more than 225 years.
After walking and being on one’s feet for hours, the stacks of crustless sandwiches, cakes and cookies and the pots of coffee and assorted hot and cold teas and lemonade at the traditional house tour tea served in St. John’s Blake Hall were as welcomed as the return of the Georgetown House Tour.