When you visit the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens in Washington, D.C., you’re drawn to the airy, light-filled Orangery, a wonderful room decked with vines of ivy across doorways and windows opening on gardens in three directions and a fourth wide entrance to another room.
The gardens were the project of Mildred Bliss. She and her husband, Robert Woods Bliss, owned Dumbarton Oaks, now a Research Library and Collection, a century ago. (The mansion of Dumbarton Oaks, where the library and collection are, is somewhat removed from the gardens, a couple of blocks away.)
Art collectors, philanthropists and involved in diplomatic life, the Blisses were world travelers, and arranged for a series of important diplomatic meetings to take place at Dumbarton Oaks in 1944. These meetings, known as the Dumbarton Oaks Conference, hosted delegations from China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Here the participants considered ideas for an organization “to maintain peace and security in the world.” Not long afterwards, their proposals made up the United Nations Charter adopted in San Francisco in 1945. The goal was to shape the future for a better world, something which can only be carried out with the cooperation of multiple nations sharing a sense of a greater good.
Amidst the chaos and uncharted territory of our times, it’s a bit of an escape to visit these grounds near where the United Nations began. Beyond the inviting Orangery are winding paths, terraces, urns, benches, fountains, a pebble walk, sculptures, gates, and lots of trees and flowers.