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Dumbarton Oaks Garden Archives

Scope and Contents

The Dumbarton Oaks Garden Archives is a collection of over 6278 individual items of textual materials, drawings, and photographs that document the creation and development of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden, Washington, D.C. between 1920-1979. Robert Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss purchased the 53 acre property in 1920 known as "The Oaks" and later as Dumbarton Oaks, and within a year they hired Beatrix Farrand, a landscape gardener, to design a garden for the property that combined French, English and Italian elements. For over a 20 year period, Beatrix Farrand designed the initial garden in close collaboration with Mildred Bliss which occurred mostly through correspondence as Mildred Bliss was often away to fulfill her role as a spouse of a foreign service officer. The design was based on creating formal garden rooms and informal garden spaces. The two of them paid meticulous detail to aspects of the design. In 1940, the Blisses donated Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University to be used as a research institute for humanities. Beatrix Farrand remained actively involved with the garden until 1946 when she resigned that role, but filled another role assisting Mildred Bliss with acquiring a collection of garden books for the Garden Library. While Beatrix Farrand contributed significantly to the design, there were other landscape architects who were credited with design changes to the garden and property. Those include: Ruth Havey, Robert Patterson, Alden Hopkins, Ralph Griswold, George Burnap, Anne Baker, and Margaret Bailie. Architects who worked on the property were: Frederick H. Brooke, architect, Ralph S. Bubb, architect, Lawrence Grant White, architect (McKim, Mead, and White architectural firm), William Mitchell Kendall, architect (McKim, Mead, and White architectural firm), William H. Lutton Co. greenhouse architect, Armand Albert Rateau, Thomas T. Waterman, Frederick Rhinelander King, Wyeth & King architectural firm. Other surveyors and contractors were William P. Lipscomb Co., general contractor, Herbert I. Stanley, general contractor, John W. Davis, master builder, G. Morris Steinbraker & Son, general contractors, Frederick Coles, stonecutter, and McLeod, Romberg Stone Company, stonemasons. Artisans included Allyn Cox, painter.


  • Creation: 1921 - 2014


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 for access to these papers. To request an appointment, fill out the online form:

For research queries, contact the staff of Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (


8 linear feet (23 boxes of textual material with approximately 2631 items; 2411 drawings; and 1235 photographs)
Dumbarton Oaks Garden Archives, 1921-2014 (DDO-RB-GAR-001): Finding Aid
Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Harvard University.
November 19, 2019
Description rules
Language of description

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