It was a beautiful sunny and slightly windy spring day in the 70s with flowers in the gardens, as people of all ages waited patiently in long queues to view the eight houses featured on the tour of Georgetown homes 2022 – the 89th and a welcome return after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. More than 2,100 people bought tickets, according to House Tour president Donna Leanos.
“We had record attendance,” St John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown rector Gini Gerbasi said midday. “We completely ran out of our glossy printed tourist guides, so for a while we handed out photocopied pages at the church registration table. Then we ran out – so we used ‘signed’ copies of the April 13 print issue of The Georgetowner newspaper which features the house tour on the cover.
The eight houses featured ranged from classic Federal Historic Sites, such as the multi-story Flanagan House at 3312 N St. NW, built circa 1818, the Bayer House at 3130 Dumbarton St. NW built in 1874, and the Bloomfield House at 1519 28th St. NW, built in 1890. The oldest was the City Tavern Club at 3206 M St. NW, built in 1796, one of the few buildings from the district’s founding era.
All houses have been extensively modernized, remodeled and extended – usually adding open kitchens and family rooms with a wall of windows and doors leading to brick lined rear gardens, often with a fountain, pool or fireplace . But most also display precious original features: parquet floors, brass doors, moldings, fireplaces and alcoves. Lots of polished antique hall tables mixed and decorative items with modern furniture and abstract art.
Several homes such as the Swabb House at 3131 P St. NW, dating from 1890, and the Sroka and Kammeier House at 3323 R St. NW, dating from 1962, emitted gasps from visitors as they entered the front door. single gate entrance. The interiors had been gutted and modernized, opening up small rooms into large ones with tiled floors, white walls, large arches, skylights and large backyards (one with a hot tub accessed through the exercise room and living room from the ground floor). Julia Child’s former home at 2706 Olive Street has drawn particular attention due to the large kitchen-dining room filled with memorabilia from the famous American intelligence agent turned renowned French cooking teacher who lived there before moving to Paris. Unlike Child’s famous kitchen, this one had long, clean shelves along the walls instead of the clutter of dozens of hanging pots and knives that are iconic to Julia.
One house stood out as the most original: the isolated old farmhouse on the west side of P Street with its tram tracks. It was built between 1844 and 1869. Constance Chatfield Taylor filled the house with furniture and family artwork (one showing her reclining on a small horse-drawn sleigh) from her and her family’s farm. mother in Virginia. During the pandemic, Taylor moved her photography and digital documentary production studio to the front bay windows where she happily “recognized the neighborhood.” Her large backyard has an art studio, croquet lawn, large pond, and shed with a desk and a rack of polo mallets—of course—for the Virginia rider.
The guides at all the houses were knowledgeable about the history of the houses and what had been done there. But most visitors were interested in how the houses were currently inhabited, not only decorated but used. Interesting to many was how the huge TVs were subtly placed so they didn’t dominate a room often filled with tasteful artwork. The layout in narrow spaces of state-of-the-art kitchens with six burners plus ranges, multiple ovens, wine warmers and coolers as well as double refrigerators with freezer drawers at the bottom and microwave ovens hidden under the counter were also of interest to many.
The dozens of volunteers, many of them church members, who were registering visitors and distributing the plastic slippers and masks needed in each house, worked in shifts. Several told Georgetowner they were tired but excited and grateful for the crowd. Proceeds will benefit the various St. John’s Missions, Ministries and Community Center at 3240 O St. NW which has served Georgetown for over 225 years.
After walking and standing for hours, the piles of crustless sandwiches, cakes and cookies and the pots of coffee and assorted hot and cold teas and traditional house tour tea lemonade served at St. John’s Blake Hall were as well received as the return of the Georgetown House Tour.