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About the House Interiors

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When Robert and Mildred Bliss purchased Dumbarton Oaks, the century-old mansion was in need of repair and renovation. Beyond the necessary cosmetic changes, the Blisses’ plans for the estate required major construction work. They hired architects and artists to help build, beautify, and furnish their home.

First Frederick Brooke and then later McKim, Mead & White were responsible for building additions to the mansion. Armand Albert Rateau, Allyn Cox, and Samuel Yellin contributed to beautiful interior spaces. Beatrix Farrand also provided plans for interior ornaments and furniture. Although the mansion was not a garden area, Mildred Bliss so trusted and valued Farrand’s artistic vision that she commissioned her landscape architect to create items for the house.

Farrand continued to advise even after the building became a Harvard University institution. After 1940, Farrand consulted on the storage of books, the layout and furnishing of office space, and the possible conversion of the Orangery into a visitors’ center. Because of her involvement in the Blisses’ interior decorating as well as the functioning of the house after 1940, the Garden Archives contain drawings, photographs, and correspondence that pertain to interior, non-garden spaces. In general, the history of the house can be found in the Dumbarton Oaks House Collection. Researchers interested in more information are encouraged to visit the House Collection after exploring what the Garden Archives contains.