Dumbarton Oaks Outdoor Assessment

Washington, DC

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (Dumbarton Oaks) is a Harvard University research institute, library, museum, and garden located in Washington, DC. The institution was originally the renovated home and collection of Robert and Mildred Bliss, who were American art collectors and philanthropists in the early to mid 20th century. Upon moving to Dumbarton Oaks full time in 1933, the Blisses began to lay the groundwork for the museum and research institute. The property housed world-class collections of art, along with a lavish outdoor garden designed by Mildred Bliss in close collaboration with renowned landscape designer Beatrix Farrand. In 1940 it was officially endowed and donated to Harvard University. Dumbarton Oaks works to support research into Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, Garden, and Landscape studies, all of which were of great interest to the Blisses.

In 2019, our conservators performed a survey and conditions assessment of outdoor sculpture, landscape elements and architectural ornament throughout the 16.5 acres of grounds. The goal of the survey was to assess the object’s conditions and to establish a treatment priority list along with treatment recommendations and cost estimates that support long-term planning for the conservation of the outdoor objects. The assessment generated a complete objects catalog of the outdoor objects (with the exception of paths and walls), which previously did not exist. EverGreene performed a conditions assessment of 247 objects throughout the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens including arbors; bird baths; benches; commemorative and decorative plaques; sculpture; mosaic walls and pebble floors; urns; decorative ornament; tool sheds; fountains; gates; finials; railings; lanterns; and more. Many of the objects are designed by the landscape gardener and architect Beatrix Farrand (c. 1930s) and her successor Ruth Havey (c. 1960s) but the collection also includes unique pieces dating to the late 17th century, 18th century, and 19th century.

In 2022, EverGreene returned to Dumbarton Oaks to perform a more another assessment on five of the outdoor artworks addressed in the 2019 survey. The project goals were to perform a more detailed conditions assessment and documentation of the condition of works in their current state and provide recommendations and cost estimates for restoration of the historic elements. The survey included the Arbor Terrace Arbor, the Grape Arbor, the Trompe L’Oeil Perspective Lattice, the Star Garden Marble Fountain, and the Horseshoe Step Fountain and Niche Bench.