The Georgetown House tour will be Saturday and Sunday (May 2 and 3). Seven different houses, 14 in all, will be on view each day. Homes on tour Saturday belong to James van Seden (see story at right), Mr. and Mrs. Adrain Sanford Fisher, Mr. and Mrs. Livingston Biddle, Samuel Pardoe, Jack wilson Lydman, Joanne Ellert and William Woodward. On tour Sunday will be the homes of Mrs. Herbert Marks, Mrs. Poe Burling (see story at left), Linda Swartz, Mr. and Mrs. Mahlon Apgar IV, Mr. and Mrs. William Joesph H. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Rodger Pauley, and Mr. and Mrs. Miltion Schneiderman. St. John's Church Chapel of the Carpenter will be open both days.
Tickets are $10 per day, available from the sponsor, St. John's Church, 3240 I St. NW. Tea and free babysitting are offered in St. John's Prish Hall. Call 338-1796.
WHEN Evalyn Walsh McLean gave parties to the handicapped at her grand 1840's Georgetown mansion, she passed around the Hope diamond and her lesser jewels as entertainment.
Ella Poe Burling, who bought the house in upper Georgetown, 20 years ago, remembers those parties. The other afternoon, sitting in the drawing room of the houe, she said, "No, Evalyn doesn't haunt the house. I'm sure she'd be a cheerful red-headed charming ghost. I have a ghost, a nice one, on my farm in the country, but not here. I wish I did. I think a ghost adds a lot to a house."
The house did nothing to life the curse of the Hope Diamond from Evalyn McLean. Her daughter committed suicide, a son died earlier in a car wreck, her husband was in a mental sanatorium. But Mrs. McLean, though not as rich as she once was, entertained in a glorious manner in the house. She often chronicled her parites in her newspaper column. To help the World War I I war effort, it is said she installed a water fountain at the bus stop for the war workers' refreshment.
The house at the turn of the century had marble floors, east and west wings, tennis courts and a swimming pool, among other amenities. The core of the mansion was built at the mid-19th century, Mrs. Burling believes by a man named Evans. At the turn of the century, the Georgetown tennis club owned the house and all its athletic facilities. Later, Ambassador Alexander Kirk bought the house and added Italianate wings and covered the ground floors with marble. When Evalyn McLean bought the huse she moved the sign that said, "Friendship," her name for the estate now called "McLean Gardens," from the estate gate to the Georgetown facade.
After her death, the house was divided into four sections. Ella Burling bought the central section. Architect George Howe remodeled the house for Mrs. Burling, to add more space on the lower two floors. "It's like a lighthouse," she said, after we'd come up the impressive stone steps and entered through the double glass, grilled doors. This year, as many years past, the house will be a prime attraction on the Georgetown House Tour. (See box on Page 1.)
We entered through a pleasant hall, to the right a mirrored powder room, to the left the staircase with the two person elavator tucked into the well. Straight ahead is the drawing room. Walls in both rooms are painted an old green, stippled in brown. "It's a lazy color," sid Mrs. Burling. It never looks dirty and nothing in front of it looks dirty."
Tall French doors (lining up with the front door) open onto a balcony from the drawing room. Louis XVI charis and tapestry covered settes are arranged at one end of the room. Around the fire is a curving modern sofa. A tall screen made of Tibetan paintings, that once belonged to Mrs. Warren Robbins (no kin of the director of the Museum of African Art), stands by the door. "Mrs. Robbins was very attractive as well as being a cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt," Mrs. Burling said. "He gave her the job of decorating our embassies."
On one table is a collection of blue and white china, one large delf piece, the others Chinese, and a large crystal ball. "It was the largest to have come out of China some years back," Ellas Burling said. "No, I can't see the future in it, and I'm glad." A Han dynasty house is mounted on a wood plaque. The walls are full of paintings, some small paintings spill over to the tops of tables where they jostle the large glass vases and lean against the gold leaf columns. The room, like the world in Robert Lousi Stevenson's poem, is so full of a number of things that surely its owner must be happy as kings.
Oriental rugs stretch over the whole house, Turkish and Bessarabian in the drawing room. Of the two Buddhas on another table, the 15th-century Greco Buddha is the older, the other is 19th century. Several French mirrors have pictoral frames. Gold-leaf columns stand in what would be corners if they weren't softly rounded. The ceiling must be 14 or 16 feet high. The chandelier is a large Italian glass globe, brass mounted.
We took our coffee cups and the homemade cookies out to the balcony. You can see miles and miles from there. "But the view improves floor by floor," said Mrs. Burling.
The garden below stretches with an important air to a gazebo, designed, as was the garden, by Perry Wheeler for Mrs. Burling.
In Mrs. McLean's day, a door from the hall led to the library on the west and a sunroom on the east. In Mrs. Burling's arrangement, you go downstairs to the dining room and the kitchen.
The dining room has glass doors opening onto a small recessed terrace with steps up to the garden. Two more gold leaf columns here hold gold leaf cupids. A beautifully inlaid claivichord pretends to be a buffet. Derby china -- "older than Crown Derby," said Mrs. Burling -- stands in the cabinet.
The library is on the third floor, with a small adjacent bedroom. Mrs. Burling has the next floor, and on the top, Sante Vicente, who helps her in the house, has a grand studio room with a view of all the world.
Friendship, though divided, still stands, and keeps its glory firmly in mind.