Dumbarton Oaks – Photoshoot Central

Courtesy of Kat Kaderabek

By Kat Kaderabek

One would never know Dumbarton Oaks existed in the middle of a traffic-filled, horn-blaring city like D.C. This hidden treasure is located in Georgetown and only a $13 to $16 Uber from CUA’s campus. Filled with hundred-year-old trees and dozens of statues, flowers, benches, and fountains, Dumbarton Oaks is a country-side paradise placed in central D.C. 

Dumbarton Oaks is partly a museum and partly a garden utopia. The entire massive plot of land is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland; it is a place to wander and explore. Hidden pathways lead to secluded garden fountains and gazebos lined with flowers that provide the perfect place for a picnic. There is a new surprise around every turn, enough to get lost in for hours. 

A large, English style house rests on a hill where the museum is located. Inside the house is a garden conservatory that is filled to the brim with several diverse plant species. Outside, there are many sections to the garden that have been added over several decades worth of Dumbarton’s existence. 

One specific section of the garden includes a pool and colonnade for the owners to lounge beside while indulging in the scenic views of the flowers and trees that line the perimeter. Inside the colonnade is a beautifully crafted mosaic of Dionysus, the god of the grape-harvest,  and his maidens that looks as if it should belong on an island in Greece. Overall, sections like this in Dumbarton Oaks makes the viewers feel transported to a faraway place, easily forgetting that their location is in the middle of an international city. 

A large mosaic walkway with a fountain at its center is another prime section of Dumbarton Oaks. The scene itself looks like it belongs at an estate in the French countryside, let alone Washington D.C. Areas like these attest to the patchwork of styles, fauna, and fountains found throughout all of Dumbarton Oaks. There is so much variety present across the acres of land that the picture opportunities are endless.  

Recently, the School of Architecture 201 Studio class at the Catholic University took a trip to Dumbarton Oaks to practice sketching techniques. 

“Dumbarton Oaks is a hidden gem within the city limits of D.C.,” said Julia Schlottmann, a sophomore Architecture-Civil-Engineering dual-degree. “It’s a maze-like garden that will let you escape from the stresses of school, remind you of beauty even in the dead of winter, and allow you to see the positives of unpredictability and spontaneity through casual organization. The estate is a powerful expression of the natural environment in the dense urban area of Washington.”

The students meandered through the site for a little over two hours, sketching and taking photographs wherever they could. Clare de Marco, another sophomore architecture major echoed Schlottmann’s earlier sentiments of Dumbarton being a very peaceful place, despite its location in an urban context. 

Similarly, Carmen Saca loved the privacy of the garden and was swept in a feeling of nostalgia, since her senior prom was held at the garden. 

“I relived all the memories of my senior prom while we were there. The beauty of the garden is just the same now as it was then,” Saca said. 

The beauty and calming presence of the garden is unmatched; evidently high schools even have their senior proms there. It is a great destination for a seasonal photoshoot and is currently free to enter as it is the “off-season” until March of 2020. During prime blooming season, admission for students is only $5, making Dumbarton Oaks a photoshoot haven year-round. 

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