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About the Orangery

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Located on the eastern end of the house, the Orangery is a rectangular building defined by its high, arched, sash windows. Robert Beverly, a previous owner, built it between 1805 and 1812. In the 1860s, Edward M. Linthicum updated the building by adding a monitor roof and an enclosed walkway to the house. He also planted a Ficus pumila in one corner of the Orangery, which continues to grow to this day, draping over the interior of the entire space.

When Robert and Mildred Bliss purchased the property, Frederick Brooke renovated the Orangery and Beatrix Farrand integrated it with her garden design. In the Plant Book, she called the building “charming,” and she chose climbing plants like wisteria and ivy that emphasized the windows. The Blisses outfitted the Orangery with lead furniture and used it as an entertaining space, hosting luncheons and teas under the spreading branches of the fig.

After the Blisses gave Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard, the Orangery began to serve as an entry point for visitors into the gardens. Visitors who entered through the 32nd Street gate were greeting by views of the Orangery’s south façade and the pre-Bliss-era magnolia growing on the hillside. Garden tours began in the Orangery, and Anne Sweeney hosted her garden talks there. To ease the building’s transition from private to public space, Farrand recommended trimming the unruly fig, replacing the lead furniture with sturdy rattan, and paving the exterior walkways to improve visitor circulation.

The Orangery continues to serve as a distribution point into the gardens. In the winter, it becomes a greenhouse for potted gardenias, citrus, and oleander. In 2009, the Orangery hosted a part of “Landscape/Body/Dwelling,” a series of clay sculptures by Charles Simonds.