Julia Child Slept Here: ‘Big Garland’ was key addition at on Olive Street home


The 150-year-old wooden house on Olive Street was the third Georgetown residence for Julia and her husband, Paul. They bought the house in May 1948. (Nathaniel Grann/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
December 27, 2012

While @Work Advice is dark for the holidays (keep letters coming!), we’ll tell you about where some prominent Washingtonians call, or called, home.

This was the first house Julia Child owned, and a part of what made it special to her still lives in the nation’s capital — and collective memory.

The 150-year-old wooden house on Olive Street was the third Georgetown residence for Julia and her husband, Paul, who had met as employees of Office of Strategic Services (a precursor to the CIA). Soon after they married in 1946, the couple moved into a house on Wisconsin Avenue, which was destroyed in a fire in early 1948. The Childs then briefly lived on 35th Street before buying what Julia called “our little jewel of a house” on Olive Street in May 1948. Days later, they rented out the house because Paul was assigned to Paris, where he would work for the U.S. Information Agency and Julia would discover her love of French cooking.

It wasn’t until the couple returned from France in 1956 that they really lived in the three-story Olive Street property. One of Julia’s first projects was to renovate the kitchen, installing a dishwasher and an “electric pig” (garbage disposal). Then, as she wrote in her memoir, “I decided I needed a new stove.”

One day, Julia spotted the stove of her dreams at the home of her “gourmand” friend Sherman Kent, who is better known for his contributions to the CIA. The stove, a Garland model 182, was a commercial gas range with six burners and a steel griddle. Julia paid Kent about $400 for it. “I loved it so much I vowed to take it to my grave!” she wrote in the memoir.


A1978 photograph of Julia Child in the kitchen of her vacation home in Grasse, southern France. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

After the Olive Street kitchen remodeling was complete, Julia began teaching French cooking to a group of women in her home, as she had done in Paris with fellow French cuisine experts Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. She also used the stove to test recipes for the cookbook the three friends were writing, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which was published in 1961.

Julia and Paul Child left Washington in 1959 and, after Paul’s retirement, settled in Cambridge, Mass., near Boston, where, in 1963, public station WGBH would start regularly producing one of the first television cooking shows, “The French Chef,” starring Julia.

Though Julia took the stove to Cambridge, she didn’t take it to her grave. In 2001, she sent “Big Garland” back to Washington, along with the rest of her historic kitchen, down to the refrigerator magnets. The stove now occupies a special place in the “nation’s attic,” the Smithsonian.

Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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