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Georgetown ready to show off its homes and gardens

By Deirdre Bannon Current Staff Writer

For home and garden enthusiasts, spring can be a favorite time of year — homes are aired out and spruced up after a long winter, and the warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours encourage new growth in cultivated outdoor spaces.

It’s also the start of the home and garden tour season, and in Georgetown, two upcoming annual events are as indelible a mark of springtime as the season’s first blossoms. Georgetown House Tour

On Saturday, April 28, the Georgetown House Tour will offer the public a peek inside nine of the neighborhood’s historic homes. The tour, organized by volunteers, is said to be the oldest continuously running house tour in the country. Proceeds benefit St. John’s Episcopal Church on O Street and several of its charitable outreach programs. This year, the tour celebrates its 81st year and features the homes of two architects and one interior designer.

One of the highlights is the home of Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans and his wife, Michele Evans, who live on the 3100 block of P Street.

The property is a Second Empire-style brick row house built in the 1870s. The house has been extensively renovated and expanded over the years, including by Evans, who purchased it in 1996. He and his wife completed a yearlong renovation in November 2011 that aimed to accommodate all eight members of their newly blended family.

The first floor was converted into an open floor plan, and it incorporates décor that is both elegant and relaxed.

“It could be the most unique home on the tour,” said tour co-chair Frank Babb Randolph, a renowned interior designer who decorated the vice president’s mansion while Dick Cheney held that office.

Walking into the Evans’ home, the feature that steals the show is the set of floor-to-ceiling windows and doors at the rear of the house, looking out onto the back patio.

Courtesy of the Georgetown House Tour
Courtesy of the Georgetown House Tour

Michele, who has been an interior designer for 10 years, said that space is her favorite part of the house.

“We love to be outside, and it’s a gathering place for the whole family,” she said.

On the patio, vines and potted plants surround a long dining table, with a large fireplace at the rear of the space providing a focal point. Two outdoor space heaters help keep the area warm, and string lights hung over the table cast a warm glow at night. Over the fireplace a cabinet houses a flat-screen television ready for an outdoor screening party. The family was even able to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner outside this year.

A relatively new aspect of the Georgetown House Tour is the patrons’ party — a formal cocktail party honoring those who opened their homes for the tour — and it’s beginning to rival the tour itself for popularity. It was launched 10 years ago by Frida Burling, and the 96-year-old Georgetown resident is once again hosting the party at her home this year. The event has become another fundraising avenue for St. John’s, and tickets are available to the public.

Co-chair Stephanie Bothwell, a city planner and landscape architect who has participated in the tour for more than 12 years, says the event isn’t just about the houses.

“It’s an excuse to walk through an example of great urbanism,” she said. “It’s not just the individual homes but how they work together with the shops and the streetscape — it’s very European, very walkable, and as a result, it’s a very sustainable community.”

The self-guided tour runs between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Ticket holders are invited to stop by St. John’s Church at 3240 O St. for a Parish Tea in Blake Hall. Parish volunteers will serve homemade tea sandwiches and sweets between 2 and 5 p.m. on the day of the tour.

Tickets cost $40 when purchased before April 20, and $45 thereafter, with discounted rates for groups. For more information or to purchase tickets, go Georgetown Garden Tour

On Saturday, May 5, the Georgetown Garden Tour will celebrate its 84th year by showcasing eight unique and creative private outdoor spaces, ranging from intimate home gardens to more formal spaces of the neighborhood’s grand estates. Organized by the Georgetown Garden Club, this year’s tour includes the Bowie-Sevier Home on Q Street. The historic mansion was built around 1800 by Washington Bowie, the godson of George Washington. Robert Allbritton, the owner and founder of Politico, now owns the home.

Another featured garden is that of Anna Fuhrman and Joe Kerr, who are showing their property in the 3200 block of P Street for the first time. Fuhrman, who owns the hat and gift shop Proper Topper, said her garden inspired the design of the home’s recent renovation.

“When people come through the front door, I wanted them to be able to see right though to the garden — that was our focus as we designed the layout,” said Fuhrman.

She and Kerr accomplished that goal. The open floor plan leads to French doors that span the entire back wall of the house, allowing the garden to take center stage. Walking through the kitchen, filled with potted plants and dried flowers, it feels as though the space is part interior and part exterior by design.

“It’s been a dream of mine to make the kitchen area feel like a greenhouse that you walk through before entering the garden,” Fuhrman said.

Outside the kitchen is an imaginative and creative garden built almost entirely by the couple, which includes a wall made of repurposed fieldstone from the home’s original basement and a menagerie of familiar as well as uncommon plants and flowers.

“Our bedroom window looks out onto the garden, so I wanted to design a space that I thought was pretty,” Fuhrman said. “I planted flowers that I would want to cut and bring into the house.”

Fuhrman says she continues to assess her work in the garden. “I’m a big re-arranger, so if I don’t like something when I look out from my window, I might move it.”

Currently, the garden features a mix of purple, white and yellow flowers, and includes vegetables and herbs. One of its most unusual plants is a chocolate mimosa, which will soon yield purple leaves with small white blossoms that give off a subtle chocolate scent.

Walking through the garden, a stone path leads to a historic “shed,” common among properties in the neighborhood. Fuhrman’s now houses an outdoor kitchen and dining area.

Barbara Downs, who has been a garden club member for 10 years and whose own outdoor space has been featured on the tour in past years, said she loves learning about how other Georgetown gardens came to life.

“Everyone has an interesting story about how they created their gardens,” said Downs. “While it’s fun to see the grand ones, the smaller gardens are beautifully designed as well — and people can come away with lots of ideas about how to maximize and design their own space.”

The self-guided garden tour runs between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. May 5. Ticket holders are invited to stop by Christ Episcopal Church at 31st and O streets between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. for an afternoon tea that includes sandwiches and sweets handmade by Georgetown Garden Club members. The church will also host the Garden Boutique, where topiaries, herbs, porcelain containers and various gardening tools will be on sale.

And it’s all for a good cause: Proceeds will help fund the maintenance of parks and the creation of green spaces in Georgetown — activities carried out by the all-volunteer garden club.

Tickets cost $30 before May 2, and $35 through the day of the event, with discounted group rates. For more information or for tickets, go to

This article appears in the April 18 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.