Georgetown Safe House

Joe Alsop’s controversial design irritated the neighbors but ensured a comfortable retreat for President John F. Kennedy and other high-placed friends. Senior Editor Kevin Chaffee reports that recent owners John and Irene Danilovich both appreciate and share its beauty, spaciousness, and light.

By Kevin Chaffee
Photography Len Depas

Irene and John Danilovich in their garden, where a Haddonstone obelisk is centered at the rear wall between a pergola-like gardening shed and a lap pool.

Irene Danilovich lounges on her terrace with her beloved dogs: Gabriel the dachshund, Holly the cocker spaniel and Aphrodite the French poodle.
The cinderblock and brick pile at 2720 Dumbarton Street, N.W., can hardly be considered an “historic home,” although many historical figures have gathered there throughout the years. President John F. Kennedy considered it a “safe house” where he could mingle freely with friends, confident that his words (and perhaps even a few deeds) would never be leaked. Prime ministers, presidents, Congressional leaders, diplomats, journalists, and the crème de la crème of international society knew it well — and many still do. “If only the walls could talk!” as they say.

Now its most recent occupants are leaving. John Danilovich, a former ambassador to Brazil and Costa Rica who currently dispenses billions in global aid as head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, will take leave of his post when the Bush Administration ends. He and his wife, Irene, daughter of the late Baron Charles Forte, the British hotel magnate, have recently sold their residence and will re-locate to rented quarters before their January return to London. While packing, they graciously grant Washington Life a first-and-last tour of one of the city’s most fascinating houses.

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