Georgetown Safe House

by Editorial
Syndicated columnist Joseph W. Alsop’s cinderblock and brick house was considered an abomination by his Georgetown neighbors when it was built in 1949. He preferred spending his money on the interior and garden.

Syndicated columnist Joseph W. Alsop’s cinderblock and brick house was considered an abomination by his Georgetown neighbors when it was built in 1949. He preferred spending his money on the interior and garden.

The enchanting garden beckons visitors from three sides. Its magnetic draw derives as much from its shade and seclusion as the sense of old-world charm that permeates the space. Carefully pruned boxwoods compete for attention with an ancient wisteria — its vines as thick as an Olympian shot-putter’s arm — along with a Haddonstone obelisk centered at the rear wall between a pergola-like gardening shed and cool lap pool. Narrow pathways twist around the boxwoods to form a focal point where the owners have installed a bronze statue of a graceful garden goddess extending her arms in welcome. “We call it ‘The Spirit of Dumbarton Street,’ ” Irene Danilovich says, noting that, unlike the heavy obelisk, the work, by Brazilian sculptor Sonia Ebling, will accompany them to London.

John Danilovich says he soon came to admire the “outstanding design and flow” of his home and its “beauty, access, light, color and feeling.” Many people ask him about its history as well, of course, especially during the early hours of January, 21, 1963, when JFK dropped by to celebrate with close friends after attending his five inaugural balls. Persistent rumors that the president had a liaison with Marilyn Monroe or another woman in a downstairs bedroom (his wife, Jacqueline, was tired and had returned to the White House) are largely unfounded, he says. Two guests who were there told him that such a liaison was highly unlikely, mostly because the group was rather small, and the president’s lengthy absence during a 90-minute visit would not have gone unnoticed.

Such stories only make the “Garage Palladian” on Dumbarton Street all the more special, of course — and all the harder to leave. “Of all the houses we have lived in,” he says, “we have loved none more.”

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