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The Swimming Pool

Posted On September 27, 2017 | 09:35 am | by jamesc | Permalink
James N. Carder (August 2015)


Mildred Bliss and Friend at the Dumbarton Oaks Swimming Pool. Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.PH.Misc.028).

On hot Washington summer days, the swimming pool offers welcome relief for Fellows and staff. It is not surprising, therefore, that in oral history interviews conducted by the Dumbarton Oaks Archives, many fondly reminisce about swimming in the pool. An early staff member, Margaret Dawson, referred back to the summer of 1956:

And then, of course, we found the swimming pool! Often we worked in the afternoon or maybe sometimes in the early evening and then we would swim. Or maybe on a day off we would just come and swim. It was pretty dreamy. It was very nice.

Michael McCormick, Francis Goelet Professor of Medieval History at Harvard, remembered his summers as a research associate at Dumbarton Oaks:

I stayed in the Fellows Building. You know, there was no air conditioning. There was a giant fan, about the size of an airplane propeller. This is August, and it’s like 104 degrees. But there was the pool, so that was great. On two days a year, two days a summer, the gardens were closed—the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, right, maybe Labor Day too. So, we started having all-day parties, pool parties. It was fantastic! It was wonderful! You know what it’s like—physically, it’s so beautiful, the pool is so great; and those were carefree days.

Before Dumbarton Oaks became a research institute, its founders, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, also enjoyed the swimming pool and entertained guests there. Home movies (now in the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives) were made of swimming parties and photographs (now in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives) were taken of the Blisses and their friends at the pool. Then, as now, the swimming pool proved an excellent means of beating the summer heat.

Watch Mildred Bliss, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, swim the length of the Dumbarton Oaks pool.

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens: Winter and Summer Scenes from Dumbarton Oaks Videos on Vimeo.