Georgetown’s 18th century houses and its reputation for housing Washington's movers and shakers have made it a must-see destination for many visiting D.C.
But for visitors, and even Washington residents that live outside the neighborhood, accessing the old Georgetown community is difficult. The annual Georgetown house tour, scheduled for Saturday April 28th, is one of the best opportunities for outsiders to get a glimpse of the neighborhood’s history, as told by residents that have lived there for decades.
“The story is that two women started the tour in 1931 to raise money during the Great Depression,” said Frida Burling, who has lived in Georgetown for decades and is described by many as the heart and soul of the tour. “They charged less than a dollar for showing people where the big shots in the neighborhood lived.”
At 96 years old, Burling knows an incredible amount about the community and has taken an active role in organizing the annual tour for over 20 years.
“Georgetown was here before Washington, it was a bustling port town and was part of the reason that George Washington decided to put the capital where he did,” said Burling. “When my husband bought this house in 1936, I think he paid $13,000 for three lots, but it was a very different neighborhood then. I remember there was an alley to the rear courtyard of the house and we had the only privy for the entire block.”
According to Burling, the neighborhood has gotten much more exciting.
“I remember it used to be rundown and full of dowdy old people, but as couples moved here it changed to a young, fun and exciting community where Washington’s best and brightest live…I’ve been in almost every house in the neighborhood and we have dinner parties or cocktails at each others houses quite often.”
The lot her husband purchased is now a spacious, lovely home on 29th Street that Burling has resided in for over 50 years. It also happens to be the location of this year’s Patron’s party, a splashy soirée thrown for sponsors who support the event.
Events and historic houses are a huge part of the annual tour, but for Burling, the driving factor behind her long-term dedication is raising money for the local organizations she cares deeply about, such as the and Bright Beginnings.
“When I started helping with the tour, we used to raise around $15,000…then it was $30,000, then $50,000…this year we’re hoping to raise over $100,000 for local organizations…we’re a community here and we help each other. I couldn’t live anywhere else,” said Burling.
This year marks the 81st tour and features nine houses belonging to public figures such as architect Hugh Jacobsen, who is one of only four architects to have worked on the U.S. Capitol and Ward 2 councilmember Jack Evans.
Advanced tickets for this year's tour can be purchased online, but if you want to get the behind the scenes scoop before this year's tour, join us this week as we profile the organizers and homeowners that are making this year's tour happen!