Concept

Dumbarton Oaks

Summary
Dumbarton Oaks, formally the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, is a historic estate in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It was the residence and garden of wealthy U.S. diplomat Robert Woods Bliss and his wife Mildred Barnes Bliss. The estate was founded by the Bliss couple, who gave the property to Harvard University in 1940. In 1944, it was the site of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference to plan for the post-WWII United Nations. The research institute that has emerged from the bequest to Harvard is dedicated to supporting scholarship in the fields of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian studies, as well as garden design and landscape architecture through its research fellowships, meetings, exhibitions, and publications. It also opens its garden and museum collections to the public, and hosts public lectures and a concert series. Dumbarton Oaks is distinct from Dumbarton House, a Federal Style historic house museum also located in the Georgetown area. The land of Dumbarton Oaks was formerly part of the Rock of Dumbarton grant that Queen Anne made in 1702 to Colonel Ninian Beall (ca. 1625-1717). Around 1801, William Hammond Dorsey (1764–1818) built the first house on the property (the central block of the existing structure) and an orangery. Edward Magruder Linthicum (1787–1869) greatly enlarged the residence in the mid-nineteenth century and named it The Oaks. The Oaks also was the Washington residence of Senator and Vice President John C. Calhoun (1782–1850) between 1822 and 1829. In 1846, Edward Linthicum bought the house and enlarged it. Henry F. Blount bought it in 1891. Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss acquired the property in 1920, and in 1933 they gave it the name of Dumbarton Oaks, combining its two historic names. The Blisses engaged the architect Frederick H. Brooke (1876–1960) to renovate and enlarge the house (1921–1923), thereby creating a Colonial Revival residence from the existing Linthicum-era Italianate structure.
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