Mrs. Robert Low Bacon, 88, who, like her red-brick federal-style mansion, was a Washington landmark, a link between generations and a monument to style and accomplishment, died of congestive heart failure Sunday at the Washington Hospital Center.

A transplanted New Yorker and the widow of a New York Congressman, Mrs, Bacon, who sprang from an old Virginia family, came here first in the Coolidge administration and learned to love her adopted city.

"Washington," she once said, "combines the coziness of a small town with being the center of the world."

Over the decades, during which she served as a leader in civic enterprises, brought back ideas and information from her frequent foreign travels and conducted one of the city's great salons, Mrs. Bacon helped assure that Washington provided the best of both the worlds it epitomized to her.

Preserving her mansion at 1801 F St. NW as an island of elegant amenity against the encroachments of bland glass and concrete, Mrs. Bacon filled it with memorabilia from her travels and with party guests from the many worlds that interested her -- politics and government, music and education.

A member of the board of more than two-dozen charitable, educational and cultural organizations, Mrs. Baconplayed chess and the piano, was a close friend of symphony conductors, and always made her home available to pianist Arthur Rubinstein and his wife when they visited the city. Rubinstein practiced on her piano.

Great as was her reputation as patron and connoisseur of music and the arts, many considered her of even greater renown as a political hostess -- one of the capital's most prominent of the Republican persuasion.

For many years one of the city's institutions was the party Mrs. Bacon, a former vice president of the Women's National Republican Club, gave at the beginning of each new session of Congress in honor of the newly-elected Republicans.

An effervescent woman who valued conversation more than music and dancing at her parties, Mrs. Bacon was known for the knack of bringing the right guests together at the politically propitious moment, a skill that earned her recognition as a significant catalyst in Washington's public life.

Although the specific contributions of her salons to political and diplomatic history might, by their nature, be difficult to enumerate, her interests and abilites were recognized by appointments to many posts of responsibility on the domestic and international scene.

Mrs. Bacon, who had attended every Republican national convention for almost 50 years, was sent as a U.S. representative to the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethopia and to the coronation of the King of Napal. She headed the British War Relief in Washington during World War II. During the Eisenhower administration, she was named as part of a 21-member commission assigned to plan what eventually became the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Among the other posts, formal and informal, that she held and that demonstrated both her energy and her interests, were the chairmanship of a committee to welcome the Vienna Philharmonic on its first visit to the United States: leadership of the campaign to reserve the often-threatened West Front of the Capitol; and membership on the advisory board of the National Trust For Historic Preservation.

It was to the trust that Mrs. Bacon donated an easement to her fabled property. The trust is to have responsibility, but use of the property is to be governed by another organization, set up for the purpose, and named Bacon House.

Mrs. Bacon dedicated the house to the memory of her late husband as "an informal meeting place where statemen and those who, like [Mr. Bacon], devote their lives to civic service can gather together and exchange views on world problems."

Mrs. Bacon was a member of the Committee of One Hundred of the Federal City. She was chairman of the Washington Chapter of the American Committee to Save Venice. She was cochairman of Washington's first Symphony Ball.

Her relief work during World War II won her decorations from the French, British and Italian governments among others.

Mrs. Bacon was descended from John Murray, the Earl of Dunmore, who was the last British colonial governor of Virginia.

As the first daughter in the Murray line since the earl's own daughter, she too was named Virginia. But Mrs. Bacon grew up in New York, where she attended a rigorous private school and was raised in a luxury that instilled in her a taste for quality that friends said she never lost. Atlantic crossings in the age of steam became a routine.

Thus apparently was born the interest in foreign policy and foreign travel that remained with her throughout her life. She indulged this interest as a hostess here, and in a long series of overseas trips on which she faithfully reported in her role as international affairs chairman of the Women's National Republican Club.

She and Robert Low Bacon, descendant of a family itself prominent in public affairs, were married in 1913. He was elected to Congress in 1922, and until his death in 1938 represented a New York district that included much of Long Island.

A Washington institution whose roots in the city's political, social and cultrual life grew increasingly deep, Mrs. Bacon retained many ties with New York, even after her husband's death.

Before it, it was a tradition, that they go back to vote on election day to Long Island, where they had a home at Old Westbury.

After Rep. Bacon's death, she continued for many years to maintain that tradition. Although her gleaming Rolls Royce, with its original hood ornament exchanged for the image of a beloved dog, was a familiar sight in Washington, it bore New York license plates.

Finally, in 1972, with the city moving close to home rule, Mrs. Bacon recognized formally what had long been true in fact: she was a Washingtonian in every sense, and she would vote here.

Mrs. Bacon's survivors include two daughters, Virginia Thomas, of Woodstock, Vt., and Martha Farley, of Cornish, N.H.; six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to Bacon House, 1801 F St. NW, Washington, D.C.