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Dumbarton Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks Review

Career diplomat Robert Woods Bliss and his wife, Mildred, bought the property in 1920 and tamed the sprawling grounds into acres of splendid gardens designed mainly by Beatrix Farrand. In 1940, the Blisses gave the estate to Harvard University as a study center, library, museum, and garden. The museum holds a world-renowned collection of Byzantine and pre-Columbian art. Both collections are small but choice, reflecting the enormous skill and creativity developed at roughly the same time in two very different parts of the world. The Byzantine collection includes beautiful examples of both religious and secular items executed in mosaic, metal, enamel, stone, textile, and ivory. Pre-Columbian works—artifacts and textiles from Mexico and Central and South America by peoples such as the Aztec, Maya, Inca, and Olmec—are arranged in an enclosed glass pavilion designed by Philip Johnson.

Normally on public view are the lavishly decorated music room (which hosted representatives from the U.S., Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union to lay the groundwork for the United Nations in 1944), special changing exhibits, and selections from Mrs. Bliss's collection. Docent-led tours of the collections and garden take place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning by appointment; architecture tours are at 1:30 on Saturday; house tours are at 3 on Saturday; special exhibit tours are at 3 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; and a public garden tour takes place at 2:10 daily except Fridays and Sundays.

    Contact Information

  • Address: 1703 32nd St. NW, Georgetown, Washington, DC 20007 | Map It
  • Phone: 202/339–6401; 202/339–6409 Tours
  • Cost: $8
  • Hours: Tues.–Sun. 2–5; garden tours, Tues., Wed., and Thurs. at 2:15; museum tours by advance reservation, Tues., Wed., and Thurs.
  • Website:
  • Location: Georgetown
Updated: 06-05-2013

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