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House Book at Casa Dorinda

Posted On December 14, 2017 | 14:25 pm | by jamesc | Permalink
James N. Carder (December 2017)

Frontispiece of the House Book at Casa Dorinda (AR.OB.Misc.013).

Recently, the Dumbarton Oaks Archives contributed images for an article on Casa Dorinda, the 80-room, Spanish-style home in Montecito, California, that Anna Dorinda Blaksley Bliss had built in 1916 and that her daughter, Mildred Barnes Bliss, inherited in 1935 and later sold in 1946. The Archives holds 96 photographs of the exterior and interiors of Casa Dorinda, some including images of Anna Bliss.


Anna Dorinda Blaksley Bliss at Casa Dorinda (AR.PH.Misc.112).

The Archives also holds the House Book at Casa Dorinda, a large (19 x 13 in.) pigskin-bound volume with the names and offerings of guests who were invited to the house between 1919 and 1935. Some composed poems in the book honoring the house and its hostess; several musicians inscribed bars of musical notation; and one visitor painted a view of the house in watercolor.

Casa Dorinda.jpg

Hart Watercolor Drawing of Casa Dorinda in the House Book, December 20, 1920.

Many famous guests signed the House Book, including King Albert and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium; the musicians Pablo Casals, Ignace Jan Paderewski, Jascha Heifetz, and Myra Hess; and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, the founder of the Friends of Music in the Library of Congress. But perhaps the book’s most interesting aspect is its frontispiece spread over two pages. Hand-painted on animal vellum is the text of the ancient Gaelic “Rune of Hospitality,” framed by a rinceau inhabited by men and women in medieval attire. The verse begins:

We saw a stranger yestereen.

We put food in the eating place,

Drink in the drinking place,

Music in the listening place.

The Dumbarton Oaks Museum’s House Collection also holds two engravings of Casa Dorinda by the artist and book illustrator Loren Roberta Barton (1893–1975).


Loren Roberta Barton, Casa Dorinda (HC.PR.xxxx.02.[En]).


Loren Roberta Barton, Casa Dorinda (HC.PR.xxxx.03.[En]).