1703 32nd St. NW
HOURS: Gardens Mar. 15-Oct. 31 Tues.-Sun. 2-6 p.m.,
Nov. 1-Mar. 14 Tues.-Sun. 2-5 p.m.;
museum year-round Tues.-Sun. 2-5 p.m.;
closed national holidays and Christmas Eve
COST: Garden Mar. 15-Oct. 31 $8 adults,
$5 seniors and under age 13;
free Nov.-Mar. 14; museum free
This landmark is known mainly for its captivating formal gardens, but the home at the site also holds a vast collection of Byzantine and pre-Columbian art and is a work of art in itself—an 1801 manor home featuring a painted beam ceiling and mural of El Greco’s The Visitation.
The house museum is free, an indication that the real treasure here for visitors is the garden, straight out of the pages of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Awash in the spring and summer with color and fragrance, the garden features numerous “rooms,” each with a theme or surprise.
The grounds’ landscape architects intended the visitor to discover various themes on beauty, from the vast rose garden and wisteria vines dripping with blooms to towering Southern magnolias and a warm inviting orangery filled with tropical plants.
In addition to the museum and gardens, the facility is also a research center for Harvard University, devoted to the exploration of early civilizations as well as landscape and garden studies. Harvard’s center was built on a foundation of art collected by onetime homeowners Robert and Mildred Bliss, who donated the home and its collection to the university in 1940.
Robert Woods Bliss was a foreign-service officer and U.S. ambassador to Argentina; he married Mildred Barnes, heiress to the Fletcher’s Castoria fortune, whom he met when his father wedded her mother.