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The North Vista

Providing a lofty vantage point at the top of the gardens, the North Vista solidifies the stately presence of the house itself and then looks out to the woodland landscape, a quintessential American view. Farrand designed the garden room drawing on the human experience of perspective, with walls that narrow and terrace downward (ever so slightly) in three parts giving the illusion of a much longer expanse of land shooting out into the distant greenery.

Apart from the elongated, sweeping green view that makes the North Vista arguably the grandest garden room at Dumbarton Oaks, it also features a plethora of carved stone ornaments. Limestone balustrades, finials, and marble branches all add to the regality of this spacious garden room.

The year 1921 marked Farrand’s start on the evolving project of designing and maintaining the North Vista. Indeed, it would remain one of her most personally fascinating projects throughout her tenure at Dumbarton Oaks. In one of Farrand’s first correspondences to Mildred Bliss, dated June 24–25, 1922, discussing the design of the gardens, she writes: “The north front of the house with its vista, cedar edged, may be developed in so many different attractive ways that it is difficult not to be distracted.”

The North Vista is also the setting of an image of one of the most historically significant events in the history of the Dumbarton Oaks property. At the height of the Second World War, in 1944, with the whole world under threat, Dumbarton Oaks played host to the “Conversations on International Peace and Security Organization,” also known as the Dumbarton Oaks Conversations. Representatives from the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, China, and the United States met to discuss terms that would eventually develop into the United Nations Charter the following year.

With Farrand’s retirement in 1948, responsibility for the continuing garden designs transferred to her former employee and colleague Ruth Havey. Havey continued to consult with Farrand quite regularly. It was Havey who oversaw the design and construction of the numerous finials, the iron rail and other ornaments flattering the terminus, as well as implementing the wisteria-laden iron chains that flank the narrowest terrace. This is the North Vista we know today.

 

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