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SUB-SERIES — Folder: 10 Identifier: DDO-RB-GAR-001

Dumbarton Oaks Garden, Superintendent's Cottage

Scope and Contents

Seven black and white photographs of The Superintendent’s Cottage, sometimes called the Gardener’s Cottage at Dumbarton Oaks. It fronts S Street, Washington, D.C. located just west of the Service Court gates.

In 1923, Mildred Bliss suggested to her architects that they build a duplex to house the butler and the head gardener, William Gray and his family. Following her suggestion, they planned the small gabled house to be a part of the Service Court Quadrangle. However, when the Blisses withdrew their request for a stable, Lawrence Grant White was forced to revise the layout of the courtyard. As a result, the construction site for the cottage was moved to its current location on S Street.

The building was originally constructed in the 1920s as a part of the overall Service Court plan crafted by architects, McKim, Mead & White and landscape gardener, Beatrix Farrand. The service buildings were drafted and constructed in 1923–28, and the cottage is the only one that was not designed by Lawrence Grant White. Because White was traveling in Europe for a time, his partner at the firm, William Mitchell Kendall, drew the plans for the cottage.

Beatrix Farrand consulted on the design and layout of the house interiors as well as the surrounding gardens. She suggested the low brick wall topped with an iron fence, which separates the house from the street. In the yard, Farrand planted an evergreen hedge inside the wall. Ivy crept over the wall and up the exterior of the house as well. The central panel was planted to grass, but due to heavy shade thrown by the surrounding elms, in her Plant Book for Dumbarton Oaks she suggested that the lawn be graveled over. The gravel and the elms were both gone by the mid-1960s. The backyard simply housed the cold frames and was a utilitarian rather than designed space.

The cottage has housed many different people over the years. As the Superintentent of the Garden, William Gray, James Bryce, and Matthew Kearney all lived in the gardener’s quarters. The other half of the duplex housed research fellows after the Blisses butler was no longer on staff. During the Harvard University years, the building became office space.


  • 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