For the last 81 years, Georgetown residents and visitors have gathered every spring to attend what many believe is the oldest house tour in the country. This year, 1200 to 1800 people are expected to tour some of D.C.'s most beautiful and historic houses.
If you're thinking of going and are expecting MTV Cribs, think again. Flashy is not Georgetown's style.
"Our houses aren’t necessarily as grand as those in other tours around the country, but they have some of the best stories," said urban planner and landscape architect Stephanie Bothwell, who is co-chairing this year's tour. "It’s really the whole experience that makes our tour so unique...walking between the houses is almost as much fun as being in the houses."
Bothwell, who graduated from Harvard University with a masters in Landscape Architecture is nationally recognized for her work developing sustainable communities. With a focus on making communities livable and cultivating civic spaces such as parks and walkways, she has drawn much inspiration from Georgetown's historic layout and is happy to call the neighborhood home.
"We're not going to solve our energy crisis with green gadgets...the best thing we can do is live efficiently on the land, and in this neighborhood, we're living a green technique," said Bothwell. "One of the greenest things you can do is to live densely in smaller houses that work efficiently...It’s not the number of sod roofs that matter, and we don’t have a lot of those here because we live closer together, nor do we have many solar collectors because we're very conscious of the outside appearance of our houses...we also frankly don’t have the space for many of these technologies here. What we have is a different kind of efficiency, which to me is much more sustainable."
That being said, many of the houses on the tour have an interesting blend of modern technology with historic design that Bothwell said shows how spaces can be adapted to meet new needs over time.
This year, nine houses will be open to the public on April 28, including those of internationally known architect Hugh Jacobsen and Ward 2 councilmember Jack Evans. Tour guests are invited to afternoon tea at Saint John's Blake Hall from 2 to 5 p.m.
Looking forward, Bothwell hopes to incorporate a larger focus on community development into the tour.
"Houses will always be the tour's focus, but in the future I would like to see more opportunities for people to understand what they’re looking at here, and to examine why this neighborhood works. To think about what makes it fun, and how things here might be applicable to their communities."
Tickets are available online and cost $40 if purchased before April 20. Proceeds from the event support the St. John Church and other local organizations such as Bright Beginnings and Georgetown Ministry.
Read the and parts of the series on the 2012 Georgetown House Tour.