By Nancy McKeon
IT’S THOUGHT to be one of the oldest and is surely one of the most prestigious house tours in America. That’s why design and history enthusiasts from all over flock to the Georgetown House Tour. And on Saturday, April 23, the 89th edition springs back to life after a two-year Covid absence, presenting eight historic properties. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the local and international charities of St. John’s Episcopal Church on O Street in Georgetown.
Though the houses themselves are often historic and traditional on the outside, the interiors hold many a contemporary surprise. Even among the more traditional, none of them is a museum set-piece; rather they feature new looks set amid historical millwork and historical details.
A prime example of this kind of juxtaposition is the R Street row house of interior designer Skip Sroka. Outside is all brick and dark shutters; inside is airy and open, with lush contemporary upholstery comfortably sharing the space with classical urns. Where row houses often have dark interiors, this one sparkles in the southern light that streams in from pairs of tall French doors.
Another opportunity will be a chance to visit the little yellow house where Julia Child practiced the art of French cooking while she lived in Washington.
The East Village clapboard dwelling is hardly the same humble 19th-century home the “French chef” lived in in the 1950s. Like most old houses, it required, and received, many renovations over the years—and at times was left to deteriorate.
Child would certainly not recognize the current, very modern iteration of her kitchen, with its sweeping counters and sleek lighting. But the current owner was able to repurpose one of the original windows from the old structure, using it to create a large “shadowbox” museum of Childiana, including photos of Child; a copy of her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (written with her original collaborators, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle); tins of her favorite Wendell tea from Massachusetts, even the original mail slot from the front door. And the current owners want to assure the public that when they entertain friends they make sure to cook from Child’s masterwork.
Other points of interest on the tour include houses from the 1840s, 1880s, 1890s and a stately 1818 Federal, plus one of the oldest houses in Washington, now housing the private City Tavern Club, the last remaining Federal-style tavern in the city, constructed in 1796.
Georgetown House Tour, Saturday, April 23, 2022. Advance tickets are $55 per person and are available for purchase here. Tickets may also be purchased at St. John’s Episcopal Church on the day of the tour at 3240 O Street NW, Washington DC 20007 for $60 per person. Ticket price includes entry to the houses, the tour magazine and The Parish Tea, which will be held in Blake Hall at historic St. John’s Church, from 1:30 to 4:30pm. In addition to tea, coffee, and lemonade, guests may enjoy tea sandwiches and desserts made by St. John’s members and generous community partners.