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About the Acorn House

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The Acorn House as it exists today is located west of the Research Library, in the wooded knoll between the Service Court and the Gardeners’ Court. The building constructed in this location first served as the Kennels. Built in 1932, the Kennels housed the Doberman Pinschers that patrolled the estate at night, providing security. The Blisses liked dogs, and other breeds were kept at the Kennels, where the Superintendent cared for them. Beatrix Farrand even designed a bench for this area.

The Kennels were discontinued when Robert and Mildred Bliss gave Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard in 1940. A year later, the building was refurbished and repurposed into a residence. Ethel B. Clark occupied the building. Mrs. Clark, as she was called, worked on the library staff at Dumbarton Oaks. In the early 1950s, Superintendent Don Smith moved into the house. A series of additions made in 1951 and 1963 extended the building to the north and south. G. Morris Steinbraker and Sons, the firm that designed and built these additions, also worked on the Director’s House, plans for the Garden Center, and much of the North Vista redesign. Don Smith and his family lived in the house until 1992, when Donald Pumphrey took up residence. The building, which was by this time called the Acorn House, continued to house staff until 2012, when it became housing for fellows and visiting researchers.