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Saving Georgetown's Valley of Eden: Part 1

May 9, 2012

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

What do you think of when someone says Dumbarton Oaks Park?  If you’re familiar with Georgetown, you know there’s a beautiful Federal-style estate up on the hill with exquisitely-designed formal gardens, and public lectures. That’s Dumbarton Oaks.

If you’re accustomed to walking on R Street, you know that next to Dumbarton Oaks is Montrose Park, that ever popular destination for dog walkers and joggers. Then there’s Oak Hill Cemetery next to that, with its own lushly landscaped rolling hills and meandering paths down into Rock Creek Park.

But what’s that about Dumbarton Oaks Park? I’ve lived here longer than I’m going to admit, and until last Saturday, never seen this “private valley of Eden.” That’s how Rebecca Trafton, president of the Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy, describes it.  And she’s right.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)
(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

A couple of weeks ago, for the 71st anniversary celebration of the public opening of Dumbarton Oaks Park, there was a party at the Italian Embassy. I was there, met Rebecca and learned all about the current efforts to restore the park to its former glorious state. Room full of passionate advocates, wonderful cause. And still, I had not even seen it.

Last week’s destination, on the long walks through the city I take with a friend, was the Flower Mart at National Cathedral. When we came to Lovers' Lane, I stopped.  I now know this is one of three ways to enter the park (also there’s a sign that I’ve seen for years and never noticed). It’s a long steep paved driveway abutting the Dumbarton Oaks estate and Montrose Park. Not particularly inviting, I must say. But why not try it? I knew we could exit somewhere near upper Wisconsin Avenue.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

I could have started this story here describing the enchanting meadows and valleys, the bubbling creeks, fragrant bushes, tall beech trees, and mysterious stone markers etched with names and dates. But I wanted to share my experience from the beginning. Don’t you remember every single detail about falling in love? How fitting that the journey of falling in love with Dumbarton Oaks Park begins at Lovers' Lane.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

I want to do it justice. It’s really three stories:

1.       Mildred Barnes Bliss and Robert Woods Bliss, a most remarkable couple who bought 53 acres in 1920, described by city planner, Carl Feiss as “America’s most civilized square mile.”

2.       The original design of the park by Mildred Bliss and landscape architect Beatrix Farrand (incidentally born to the family from which the expression “keeping up with the Joneses" originated).

3.       What we can do to restore the park and make it accessible to everyone.

In Parts 2 and 3, I’ll tell you about how every single detail of this naturalistic garden was designed to enhance the visitor experience. I’ll tell you about plans underway with the National Park Service to restore it. But I wanted you to take a look at the place I saw for the first time before I had the expert guided tour with Rebecca.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)


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Public Safety, Construction Projects and Upcoming Events Top ANC Agenda

April 30, 2012

ANC Commissioners Ron Lewis, Bill Starrels, Ed Solomon, Jake Stricka, Tom Burch and Jeff Jones (Photo by: Judith Beermann) ANC Commissioners Ron Lewis, Bill Starrels, Ed Solomon, Jake Stricka, Tom Burch and Jeff Jones

Safety was the first order of business Monday at the monthly public meeting of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2E held at Georgetown Visitation School.

Ed Solomon mentioned two armed robberies that took place on Sunday: one at Five Guys and the other near Serendipity 3.  On behalf of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), who assured him that both cases were under investigation, he reminded everyone, “There’s been an uptick on crimes of opportunity. With ‘special guests’ trying doors and windows,” keeping doors locked was paramount. Commending the security staff at Washington Harbour, Bill Starrels reported the recent apprehension of “a suspicious person in the garage” after guards held him until the MPD arrived and made an arrest.

Jake Sticka, Bill Starrels and Ron Lewis mentioned the annual Pothole Palooza, an effective way for the public to report on potholes by calling 311 or using the new DC 311 smartphone downloadable app.  

Jeff Jones reported on progress of O and P Street construction with “August 24th as the substantial completion date.” Planting trees and signage would occur shortly thereafter.  Rails “need to go in properly to last another 150 years.”

DDOT's Paul Hoffman (Photo by: Judith Beermann) DDOT's Paul Hoffman

A report by DDOT’s Paul Hoffman on the progress of upper Wisconsin Avenue street construction project (including new lighting, sidewalks and reducing lanes from six to five) drew comments from several commissioners.  

Ron Lewis reminded Hoffman of an ANC request made in December to conduct baseline testing of the impact of changing traffic patterns, specifically "at 37th Street and Whitehaven” This was not done. Hoffman agreed to review existing data and conduct further analysis before permanently changing traffic patterns.

New business included moving up the Taste of Georgetown to June 2nd, announcing the route for Bike DC on Sunday May 13th, Nations Triatholon September 9th, and the Best Buddies Challenge bike ride, October 20th.

Following these requests (all proved) Tom Burch pointed out “there are beautiful neighborhoods throughout the city. The New York Marathon goes through every borough.” He suggested the city might want to encourage traffic through other neighborhoods as well as Georgeotwn.

Ron Lewis introduces Caroline Pessey (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Ron Lewis introduces Caroline Pessey

A new pre-school co-op at Volta Park for 18 to 29 month-old toddlers was announced by Caroline Pessey, who mentioned that parents can apply June 24th.

“Build it and they will come,” said David Abrams about the reconfiguration of railroad timbers planned for work around the flagpole at Rose Park to improve safetyfor and "enclose the hexagonal bench." He thanked Casey Trees and the Cherry Blossom Festival for the recent planting of nine cherry trees.  No public funds are being used for the project.

Bill Starrels introduces Castleton Hotel speakers (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Bill Starrels introduces Castleton Hotel speakers

Agenda items for Old Georgetown Board meeting this Thursday were introduced by Tom Burch. These included applications for new liquor licenses, one by the new luxury Castelton Hotel on 31st Street, still under construction.

To smiles and laughter, Ron Lewis asked attendees to kindly “treat this room as a wilderness area.” Take bottles and paper out when you leave.


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Splish Splash

April 21, 2012

Splish, splash, we were takin' a bath
Long about a Saturday afternoon, yeah
A rub dub, just relaxin' in the sun
Thinkin' everythin' was alright ...

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

Splish, splash
We jumped back in the bath
Well, how were we to know
There was a party goin' on?

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

There was a-splishin' and a-splashin'
Sailin' with the feelin'
Rowin' and a-groovin'
Watchin' and a-rollin', yeah, yeah

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

Thank you, Bobby Darin, Georgetown Waterfront Park and Washington Harbour!

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: )

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)


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