The Georgetown House Tour took place Saturday, April 26.
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WOULD LOVE to live in Georgetown, and there are those who wouldn’t dream of it. But almost all of us are just a little bit curious about the living quarters that lie behind those 19th-century brick walls.
How do people navigate those narrow rowhouses? Where do they park their cars? And why on earth are their garbage cans the size of the typical Georgetown powder room?
The last question is easy to answer: The District government is giving its homeowners brand-new waste and recycling bins, nice ones with wheels. Most Georgetowners came home at some point last week to find big bins blocking their elegant cast-iron steps. Lots of them are still there, blocking the sidewalks. With any luck, the owners will find a place to stow them.
As for parking, the word in real-estate-agent circles is that only 25 to 30 percent of Georgetown homes enjoy off-street parking. This fact doesn’t necessarily lead to more car-free homes, just a sharpened sense for spotting prey (“Look! She’s got her keys out!”).
And as to the first question–how do Georgetowners navigate their narrow rowhouses–well, that’s where the 2014 Georgetown House Tour, taking place this Saturday, April 26, plays a happy role. To perpetuate the oldest tour of its kind in the country, every year volunteers from St. John’s Episcopal on O Street, which sponsors the tour, cajole and plead with more than half a dozen homeowners to vacate their premises for a day so hundreds of curious, usually admiring, visitors can tramp through their houses.
The tours are generally limited to the main level, for reasons of safety and practicality if nothing else (a lot of those creaky old banisters might not tolerate all that traffic in one afternoon). And the really tiny places simply can’t handle a tour. Nonetheless, there are nine fine houses open to the ticket-holding public this year.
Not every house is historic. One of the newest is 3141 O Street NW, built in the late 1950s on the site of an old livery stable. The current owner, designer Linda Battalia, has tried “to take the 1960s out of the house… and to create the ambience of a Paris apartment.”
Another, owned by Claire and Tony Florence, has been renovated and then renovated again. The results are in the spring issue of Capitol File. The serene living room is also used as a kind of showroom by Claire Florence to show her line of silk-screened scarves and other accessories.
Other residences include an 1852 carriage house, a four-story 1850 mansion, a house built on and around a frame house constructed between 1844 and 1865, and a grand house filled with art by the current owner’s forebears and topped off with a lush private garden.
All the splendor notwithstanding, it’s great fun to see the juxtaposition of venerable masonry and millwork with a well-used basketball hoop and other signs of real life.
The tour runs from 11 am to 5 pm. Tickets are $55, to be purchased at St. John’s, 3240 O Street NW. The ticket price includes down-home refreshments at St. John’s Parish Hall, being served from 2 to 5 pm.