Fourth of July seems an ideal day to remember for America’s 35th President; the youngest President ever elected, and the first and only Roman Catholic: John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963).
For the first time ever, this year the JFK Georgetown home, which he and his glamorous patrician wife Jacqueline lived in just before he assumed the presidency in 1961, was included on the annual public tour of Georgetown gardens in Washington.
The JFK home near 35th and N streets was debuted to the public as one of eight selected private gardens in the historic upscale Georgetown neighborhood. The popular tour is sponsored annually since 1928 by the Georgetown Garden Club. Open to anyone who buys a ticket, the tour’s profits fund local public parks and libraries.
JFK or “Jack,” the charming, witty, handsome Harvard grad and Pulitzer-prize winning war hero, was of “my era,” so I felt a particular joy mixed with nostalgia as I strode quickly toward the home along the red brick streets — in May — ironically the month JFK was born.
The modest home is quite small. Brochures said JFK used to hold press conferences standing on the front step.
Cameron Knight, the friendly present owner, greeted each of us personally in the narrow garden patio where Knight had graciously opened the French doors wide so we could walk up and see inside too. Although most or all of the JFK furnishings are gone, and the garden plants are different, Knight filled in the gaps by volunteering insights about JFK and how close-knit the JFK era in Georgetown was.
Although searing unseasonable heat sapped energy early, I walked to five other small urban gardens, each elegant and unique. Nearby was another debut garden, Prospect House, built in 1788 and designed by William Thornton, architect of the Capitol. Many gardens were centered around swimming pools, and outdoor rooms.
In an interview for a local publication, Susan Pillsbury, a tour patron, explained how her father inspired her interest when he gave her a small garden of her own when she was a child. Her happiest times are in her garden, she said, echoing the sentiments of gardeners everywhere.