About the 28th Street House

After gifting Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University in 1940, Robert and Mildred Bliss moved to a house at 1537 28th Street Northwest. Their new home was only about a ten minute walk from Dumbarton Oaks. Mildred Bliss decorated the interiors of the house herself, prompting Beatrix Farrand to remark how personal and warm the new residence looked upon her first visit in 1943. The outdoor space was given over to Beatrix Farrand, with the expectation that she would create a sense of privacy and seclusion from the busy intersection of Q and 28th Streets. Farrand recommended the construction of brick walls no higher than 6 feet around the perimeter of the backyard. In the front, she recommended low brick walls just tall enough to keep the Blisses’ pet dogs from scampering away.

In the yard, Farrand modified a pre-existing design by Rose Greely. Her new plan for the garden included an open space for entertaining, for which she chose gravel instead of grass. In the 1940s, Mildred Bliss and Beatrix Farrand wrote a number of letters discussing projects for the backyard, including a gazebo, an arbor, and potential spaces for Ping-Pong and lawn tennis. After Farrand’s retirement, Ruth Havey consulted on projects at the Bliss residence.

Most designs that Farrand carried out in the garden at 28th Street no longer exist. At some point, a garage and adjoining building were erected along the south wall of the house, filling in the space where Farrand planted low borders of meticulously pruned box around a sinuous pattern of brick paths. The house remained the Bliss residence until Mildred Bliss died in 1969. It continues as a private residence today, and appears to retain no garden elements of the Bliss-Farrand era, other than the brick walls that front Q Street.