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SUB-SERIES — Folder: 7 Identifier: DDO-RB-GAR-001

Dumbarton Oaks Garden, Bowling Green

Scope and Contents

The Bowling Green was first designed by Beatrix Farrand with inspiration gained from 18th-century Colonial period estate gardens, many of which featured sunken ornamental lawns. It is located between the Copse and the Director’s House and Terrace on the Dumbarton Oaks property. The division between the Copse and the Bowling Green is signaled by a significant drop in elevation; a stone retaining wall borders the Bowling Green on the south. The wall, topped with stone piers and swags of bronze chain, is broken in the center by steps set into a French-inspired rocaille fountain.

Farrand’s original Bowling Green was enclosed on four sides. In addition to the stone retaining wall in the south, the other three sides were surrounded by decorative trelliswork. Under Farrand’s direction, Ruth Havey drafted trellis designs in 1928-1929. She presented both Classical and Rococo options. Mildred Bliss chose the Rococo trellis with a niche built into the eastern end to house sculpture. Unfortunately, the right artwork never presented itself. For much of the 1930s, two marble benches occupied the eastern niche. A matching marble bathtub sat on the western end until it was moved northwest of the Terrior Column, where it remains today. For a short time in 1938, Dan Olney’s statue of the Lady and the Unicorn stayed in the Bowling Green, but it was shortly moved to Dumbarton Oaks Park.

When Dumbarton Oaks was given to Harvard University in 1940, many changes came to the Bowling Green. As part of an effort to reduce the difficulty of greenspace upkeep across the entire garden, Farrand recommended that the lawn be replaced with washed river gravel. Low planting beds featuring ferns and hostas remained along the base of the surrounding wall and trellises. However, by the mid-1940s the trellises suffered from severe deterioration and rot. Robert Patterson and John Thacher decided to remove the north trellis wall in 1949-1950.

The Bowling Green is also known as the Bowling alley.


  • 1921-1979

Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English with a few items in Greek, Latin, French, Italian, or Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access

An appointment is required to consult the collection. Please submit appointment requests here: For research queries, contact the staff of Rare Book Collection (


8 linear feet (23 boxes of textual material with approximately 2631 items; 2411 drawings; and 1235 photographs)

Repository Details

Part of the Dumbarton Oaks Repository

Dumbarton Oaks holds archival collections in its Rare Book Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, and the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. The collections include: the papers of noteworthy scholars in the three fields that Dumbarton Oaks supports (Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape); image collections depicting objects or sites of topical interest to scholars in the three fields; Beatrix Farrand’s personal archive of letters and original drawings that document the development of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden; and institutional records and architectural plans and drawings documenting the history of Dumbarton Oaks. For more information about hours and to make an appointment to consult any of the collections listed here, please fill out the request form:

1703 32nd Street, NW
Washington DC 20007 USA