90th Georgetown House Tour Has Thunderous Conclusion

The hot tea, homemade crustless cucumber, olive, tuna and chicken-salad sandwiches and lemon, orange and chocolate cakes were greeted with special joy by dozens of somewhat bedraggled participants of all ages at the 90th Georgetown House Tour 2023 and afternoon tea on Saturday, April 21, for those who got caught in an almost tropical-like downpour about 2:15 p.m., while on the tour.

The storm didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits, however, nor did the attendance seem to be particularly affected.  Of course, after the rains stopped,  the tour continued until 5 p.m.

“I got to seven of the nine houses on the tour,” several tea drinkers told the Georgetowner. “We got to eight,” said two others entering St. John’s Episcopal Church at 3240 O St NW, as tour, church and Washington Junior League volunteers helped them shake water from their umbrellas and gave them towels to dry off with as best they could.

The showcase Georgetown residences were filled with viewers as soon as they opened at 10 a.m. Visitors enthusiastically wanted to see the layouts, the architecture, the décor and to hear the stories of the selected residences and owners. Most all the houses on the tour this year had been built – or at least parts of them – before the 1920s.  That was a feature of the tour this year celebrating its 90th showing – and one of the longest house tours in the country.

As one would expect, all houses have been extensively remodeled, reconfigured and repurposed – some several times.

Several had had the once popular central staircase dividing rooms and passageways in the iconic narrow Georgetown townhouses moved to the side, opening of a large living room or dining area space that often was opened in the back with large glass doors to an expansive garden.

Many enlarged the kitchens with long buffet tables and dining counters and added dining rooms to seat eight to ten guests comfortably in the back.

Several made what must have been cozy front parlors into large welcoming entrance halls with large decorative features like palatial arm chairs and six-foot-plus high gold framed mirrors. Such rooms also boasted large art works.

Almost all had garden rooms, if not actual gardens (i.e., with vegetables and such) with fireplaces, large grills and couches — maybe a legacy of Covid days when people had to stay at home but wanted to be outside.

One home that had originally been a workshop in the 1800s, added rooms in front and back to make an elegant home fronting P Street.

Another enlarged its space by incorporating taller ceilings in the remodel. Several had reconstructed old garden sheds and garages into glass studios and guest houses, one with glass walls and with a second-story addition. They are part of the increasing number of auxiliary units that some cities like Washington, D.C., are encouraging be built on larger single home properties to increase density.

Four of the seven homes had been remodeled by architect Christian Zapatka.

These included his just recently opened office on P Street in an old three-story former residence that now seemed greatly enlarged with ten-foot ceilings and full-size folding wall panels to separate rooms horizontally.

Also included in the tour was the renovated Renwick Chapel at Oak Hill Cemetery, almost directly across from the historic former home of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, and near her grave.

The only thing missing in the home tour, according to some visitors, was a peek at the more personal items that made this tour in the past more one of lived-in-homes and not just staged ones that seemed prepped for sale.

“People want to come to see how Georgetowners live in the smaller but elegant even luxurious homes of Georgetown with all their books and photos and even TV remotes,” visitors from Bethesda told The Georgetowner. One remarked that she liked House Number 1 on the tour, the 35th Street home of Zapatka    “because I liked his “stuff” – such as sculptures, books and magazines. She liked seeing how he could convert his “luxurious work desk into an elegant dining table.”

Architect Christian Zapatka was honored with the Frida Burling Award by the Georgetown House Tour at its Patrons’ Party last week.


One comment on “90th Georgetown House Tour Has Thunderous Conclusion”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *