The indomitable nonagenarian, Sarah Yerkes, moved to Washington with her first husband, as she describes it, “in the spring of 1945, just before the bomb dropped. We rented a house in Georgetown that belonged to Phil and Millie Watts on 29th Street.” So begins her interview with Cathy Farrell and Betsy Kleeblatt that covers 70 plus years of living in and helping to shape the community that she hold dear.
Sarah is an architect, was partner in the landscape architecture firm Edmunds and Hitchcock, is a painter and sculptor, and has recently taken up writing poetry. Her interview deals with Georgetown life from mid 20th Century onward, the development of the Watergate properties and the Kennedy Center, regular concerts at Dumbarton Oaks where she heard Leontine Price, and much discussion of a group of houses called “Cook’s Row.”
Interview at Sarah’s apartment, Ingleside, 3050 Military Rd NW, Washington, DC 20015
Interviewers: Betsy Kleeblatt and Cathy Farrell
Cathy: Tell us about yourself and your relationship, particularly with Georgetown.
Sarah: Well, my first husband Nicholas Satterlee and I came to Washington in the spring of 1945, just before the bomb dropped. We rented a house in Georgetown that belonged to Phil and Millie Watts on 29th Street, one of a row of little houses on 29th Street between O and P. We liked it very much. During that summer Nick was still in the Navy, and he also got a job in an architect’s office, Berla and Abel. The firm was a starting point for a lot of architects who became important after the war. We were fresh out of the Harvard Architectural School with the war, a baby, and another on the way.
I came from Cleveland and Nick didn’t want to go to Cleveland where he had no connections and he didn’t want to go back to Rochester where he’d come from. Boston was full of Harvard architects, and we didn’t really have the call to go west, so we just decided to stay.
We bought a house over in Cleveland Park when we didn’t really know very much about what we were doing. It was affordable and it seemed like a nice neighborhood. We lived there for two or three years. Then we realized that all of the friends we were making lived in Georgetown, so we sold the house in Cleveland Park and moved to 2903 Q Street. The house was one from the corner of Q, across from the Stoddard Apartment.
Is the Stoddard Apartment still there? I was trying to remember last night. I think so.
Cathy: I think it is.
Sarah: I think it is. Anyway, that’s where we lived. I was absolutely horrified one day talking to Persis Morris. Persis and Steve Morris had lived in Georgetown for a long time and they had a boy who was Cathy’s [Sarah’s daughter] age. Christopher used to come over and play, and I said, “Well, Persis, I’m sorry Christopher doesn’t come over and play much anymore.”
Persis said, “He doesn’t really like to jump from your house to the house next door.” I said, “What do you mean?” Our house had a bay window with a flat top, the way so many of those houses do, and so did the one next door. There’s a space, not huge, but these kids would get up on top of the bay windows and jump out to the bay on the house next door. [laughs]
They knew the girl who lived next door and they’d jump back and forth.
Cathy: [laughs] Oh, they decided they didn’t want to do that anymore?
Sarah: I also heard that during the war, there were groups of little boys who’ve found that they could get from one place to another very quickly by going through the sewers. They would ooze down those rather large rain openings. This is apocryphal. I don’t know whether it’s true but it’s possible.
Cathy: You moved right after the bomb was dropped so that was the conclusion of World War II? An interesting time to be in Washington?
Sarah: It was right at that time. I thought the children would go to the Jackson School because all the wartime children had gone to the Jackson school. But after the war, I found that Sarah, my Cathy’s older sister, who was still kindergarten age, I guess, would trudge up the street to the Jackson School. Would it have been first grade? Maybe it was just kindergarten. Anyway, she had bad colds and tonsils and things like that during the year. Still, she was head of the class. I thought, “Maybe this isn’t going to work.”
We finally decided to send her to Potomac School. Most of the neighborhood kids went to Potomac and it was all very cozy. I was trying to remember whether I ever carpooled the Potomac kids out to Virginia. I don’t really think I did. I don’t guess they ‑‑
Cathy: There was bus service?
Sarah: Yeah. I did do a Beauvoir run for two of the children. Sarah went to Beauvoir. She got taken in at the last minute, but by the time she got to the fourth grade, by that time, Cathy had conveniently been in Potomac, so Sarah automatically got into Potomac. [laughs]
Then when Amos came along he automatically got into St. Albans because Sarah had been there. It really does illustrate that certain things have changed a lot.
Sarah: Particularly admissions to schools. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood. They all had friends.
Cathy: Were there a lot of kids in Georgetown who were on that bus that went to Potomac every morning, or were more going to Beauvoir?
Sarah: Yeah. They weren’t teeming hordes but they were enough to keep everybody occupied. It was nice.
Cathy: So they did have friends in the community who they were going to school with?
Cathy: Very nice.
Sarah: Are there no kids in Georgetown anymore?
Cathy: Children in Georgetown are going to independent and to local public school. Addison‑Hyde I believe is the local one. I have several young friends who are sending their children for the elementary years to local schools.
Sarah: Good, so there is still the sound of tiny feet around.
Cathy: Yes, very much so.
Sarah: It’s not just old folk.
Cathy: No it’s not. I guess it was primarily a majority of families after the war?
Sarah: I think Georgetown began to be a place where people liked to live. My mother went to Mount Vernon Seminary  when it was downtown, and the girls were not allowed to go to Georgetown.
Sarah: Anything. It just was off limits. I don’t know whether it was because it was largely black, but apparently it was also rather questionable. I think Georgetown really got established as a desirable neighborhood when Franklin Roosevelt came in and started the New Deal. A lot of young people who were a little older than I at that point, were bright young things who came down to work for the administration and they began to live in those handsome Georgetown houses.
Cathy: That would have been the 30s?
Sarah: In the mid ’30s. Then of course when the war came along it was mobbed.
Cathy: What was your experience with the African‑American community in Georgetown, if any, in the early years that you lived there?
Sarah: I lived at 30th and Q, and I think there were black people who lived down maybe further into town on P Street. There was quite a clutch at 27th where there was the Mt. Zion Church.
Cathy: The area around Rose Park?
Sarah: Yes, but I don’t remember any feelings one-way or the other. Everyone got along. It was not an issue.
I’ve been trying to think of Georgetowny things that I thought that you would be interested in. We used to go to concerts at Dumbarton. There were some nice people, name of Von Schrader, who lived on the corner of R Street and 30th in a red brick Victorian turreted house. They used to go too. We all got dressed up and afterwards we would go for drinks. It was all very exciting.
Cathy: Where these concerts held on a regular basis?
Sarah: Yes. They still are, aren’t they?
Cathy: At Dumbarton Oaks?
Cathy: I’m not aware of concerts at Dumbarton Oaks.
[This concert series does still exist by subscription in the music room.]
Sarah: I don’t know when they stopped. Oh, and they were in the drawing room and chairs would be set up and Mrs. Bliss and the older ladies would come in and sit on the sofa at the back of the room. The audience was all, I guess, in their 30s and 40s, as were we. I remember that I heard Leontyne Price sing “Dido” when she was beginning her career.
And that lovely, young Austrian, I guess he was a baritone, Fischer‑Dieskau, came and oh, he was a youth and you could see him being Siegfried except he didn’t have the right kind of voice. [laughs]
There was a harpsichordist named something or other, [Ralph] Fitzpatrick, who came and did the harpsichord variations. I remember sitting near Steve Morris, the father of Chris, [laughs] who jumped around trying to keep track of what variation we were on.
Cathy: How wonderful. More about the social arrangements or what you did as a community?
Betsy: Besides the concerts, were there other things?
Sarah: Some people were interested in the Georgetown Citizens Association. I remember Grovy Chapman was, and it was Grovy’s wife, Remy, with whom I had a landscape architecture business for a long time.
Then there was something called the “Waltz Group.” Does that still exist?
Betsy: I know a few people who went a bit ago. I don’t know. I’ve never been.
Sarah: That went on forever, and then there was‑‑
Cathy: Where was that waltz group held?
Sarah: At the Sulgrave.
Sarah: There was another one, which was a little older that we were not members of called the “Dancing Class,” and I think that it also used to be held at the Sulgrave Club. That is such a pretty ballroom.
Sarah: Even prettier than that is the one at the Cosmos Club. I remembered that Nick Satterlee was a youngish member, and we were toying with the idea that when Sarah got in her teens, if we ever wanted to and could afford to, we would like to have a dance at the Cosmos Club, and then waft down into the garden, which wasn’t used as parking lot in those years.
The powers that be at the Cosmos Club said, “We don’t do that sort of thing at the Cosmos Club.”
Sarah: Too frivolous for those scientists…too much starch there!
Cathy: How about career relationships? You are an architect as well as a landscape architect, correct?
Sarah: I started out going to architectural school, but I never got registered and passed my boards because I worked for a while, while having children, with four various architects…two of them being my husbands.
One of them I was married to at the moment, and the other one I worked for, and he took 20 or 30 years to get around to marrying me, but he did.
I realized when working for Chloethiel Woodard Smith, I just didn’t want to work as hard as she did. I knew I didn’t have the gumption and I didn’t have the dedication, and I sort of thought I wanted to run a more social life. So I never really got registered as an architect, but funnily enough ‑‑
Cathy: You did the all of the study, and the course work and that kind of…?
Sarah: Yes, and I went to school in Cambridge to a girl’s school called the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. It was taken over before the war by Smith College and offered a graduate degree. Then when the war came along and my husband went overseas, I took my baby under my arm and went back, because by that time Harvard would take anyone, even girls and they had taken over the school.
Cathy: Really? I did not realize that.
Sarah: They took women during the war and have ever since. So I finished the requirements.
Cathy: You got a degree rather than an associate degree.
Sarah: I understand the first year that Smith awarded degrees, women came out of the woodwork. It was very touching to get a degree. Anyway, it was the wartime and they needed anybody, and so Harvard said yes, I could go, because the work I had done at the Smith School was enough to apply to Harvard. I was accepted at Harvard and so I finished the work I had to do.
I got a bachelor’s degree, and then…I’ve told this so many times.
Sarah: Seven years later, I had a letter from Harvard and they said, “Well, we decided that this really is a graduate degree because the degree used to be called the bachelor of architecture, but really it was a graduate degree that you did after college. If you will send us $15, we will send you a new diploma and you can be a Master’s.”
Sarah: So I have a master’s degree from Harvard.
Cathy: That’s quite wonderful.
Sarah: After having been fired several times and deciding I really didn’t want to be an architect anyway, I joined the New Scotland Garden Club, which Remy Chapman and some friends had started. I wasn’t an original but I was an early member, and they used to do flower shows up at the Uhline Arena.
Cathy: Where is the Uhline Arena?
Sarah: What it is called now? It’s an old arena east of the Capital. It’s still there.
Cathy: The Armory?
Sarah: Yes, that’s the place.
Betsy: No. There is a skating rink that’s been redone. It’s where lot of those kids play hockey.
Sarah: That’s something else. That was a skating club that happened at the Uline Arena that a lot of Georgetown people started. They used to go and skate on Sunday morning. The flower show was at the Armory. People put it little gardens. When I joined the New Scotland Garden Club, Remy and Grovy had done a little garden for the garden club. Grovy said he didn’t want to do it anymore, and Remy said she was sort of tired of it all and everybody. I’ve forgotten who was supposed to do it the year I joined the garden club, but she got sick or something.
Everybody said, “Well, now Sally,” I was known as Sally then. “You can design a nice little garden.” And I said, “I don’t really know how to do this,” because this miniature, the technical business, I didn’t know about. Remy said she’d help, so we designed a garden and it was very pretty and we got a first prize.
Betsy: How big were these gardens?
Sarah: Let’s see, a normal bathroom is five by seven, or was back when you could squinch it. Maybe they were eight by 10.
Cathy: Eight feet by 10 feet?
Sarah: That’s probably eight feet, that wall.
Cathy: Pretty good-sized little display garden. You did it all in miniature?
Sarah: You had to miniaturize things a little bit, like trees. I could look it up some place, and I had some pictures. We did a garden and it was very successful and our friends kept saying, “Oh, will you come and help us with our gardens.” I knew that if we didn’t charge money, nobody would pay any attention, and there were no registrations or rules or anything, so we went into business.
We sent out little cards. We called ourselves Edmond and Hitchcock because both of our husbands were architects and we didn’t want to use their names, and they certainly didn’t want us to use their names.
Had we been younger and more used to having women really work, we probably really would have worked harder, but as it was we had a couple of shops sort of simmering on the back of the stove for almost 20 years. Then Grovy retired, and all of our friends were cutting down by that time. People who were building things were our children’s age and they didn’t want to play gardens with us. They wanted to play with their own friends.
They didn’t want Aunt Sal and Aunt Remy telling them what to do.
So we retired and at that point. Nic and I split tacks and Remy and Grovy decided to just retire. In a few years David and I married each other, which was divine.
We were living at the Watergate, because I bought an apartment in the Watergate early on, being inspired by Bobby Cushing. I guess she didn’t live in Georgetown. The Cushings lived in Kalorama over by the Shoreham?
Sarah: She said she was going to buy an apartment in the Watergate, which was just being built, because she thought it was a good investment and it was a place they could retire to when the time came and all their children moved out. I thought that was a pretty smart idea, so I did the same thing. So when Nick and I split, he said he would like the house in Georgetown. By that time we had left 2903 and moved to 3021, which is one of those of big yellow double houses on Q Street.
Betsy: That’s what I remember you living in.
Sarah: Yeah. Nick sold it to some people… Kenney, and I think they have had it all of these years ever since. I understand they just recently sold it.
Cathy: Did you have to do much restoration on this house when you bought it and lived in it?
Sarah: No. We were not as responsible housekeepers as we should have been, and there was a lot of needed painting and loose windows and things like that we never got to attending to, I’m embarrassed to say.
I used to like to sew, and I had a sewing room up on the third floor in the front of that big house.
There was bathroom which I used to use, and there was a crack in the wall, and as I sat and the years went by, the crack got bigger and bigger. I finally said “Nick dear, do you think you should look at this?” He said maybe he should, and then he talked to a contractor friend, and it turns out those houses are all built with double walls, those big Victorian numbers. There’s a course of brick and another course of brick, and then there are ties every once in a while that hold the two walls together for installation and cooling.
Cathy: They’re how?
Cathy: With ties between so that the…
Sarah: So that they’d stay together. It’s the same principal as a cinder block. It has pockets. Our friendly contractor, whose name I can’t think of right now but did everything in Georgetown, came and looked at it and he said, “Well this is pulling away,” and the corner was pulling apart.
We were away for the summer, but some neighbor or other said it was perfectly awful because they had to take down the whole outside course, and there was the house looking as though it was falling apart.
Betsy: And you did this while we were away? That’s a brave woman.
Cathy: A very brave woman.
Sarah: I think maybe Nick was home, I don’t know.
Cathy: Was this the area called Cooke’s Row?
Cathy: There were a series of houses there?
Sarah: Four of them, I think. We were the second, going west. The first two were the Bolton‑Smith’s and the senior Train’s. The next was ours, thenBenjamin Hill’s, and then there was another pair. That was Mrs. Jordan’s who had a dress shop and was a devoted Gray Lady at the Walter Reed Hospital. I think her neighbor was a priest. We were 3021, I remember.
Cathy: Were they all built by the same builder?
Sarah: The building at the corner of 30th and Q Street is now the apartment called Downing & Vaux. Downing & Vaux were the architects of the original houses. I’ve forgotten whether they were all built for Mr. Cook, but I think so. Then you go two blocks and there’s what we always called “Mrs. Eustace’s” house, which somebody sort of modernized and colonialized. It has big columns. You can tell if you look carefully at the windows it was also a Downing and Vaux though it has been remodeled over the years. The arrangement of windows makes it similar to the house at the corner of 30th and Q. 29th Street was just a lane between those big lots. There were 6 or 8 Dodge houses built in Georgetown; Mrs. Eustace’s on 28th and Q, one I think at 30th and Q, one more at 28th and O and another Dodge house at 32nd and Q which has been taken down. I think the architect of all the Dodge Houses was Downing and Vaux. But if you look carefully you can see that the remodeled one is the same house as the apartment. I think there were two more down two blocks south, which would have been on the ridge looking down over the river. I think ‑‑ you could look this up if you want ‑‑ who owned the building on M Street that is now the Dean & DeLuca, that used to be his house.
Cathy: Wasn’t that building a saddlery.
Cathy: Dean & DeLuca was a saddlery, wasn’t it?
Betsy: What was Dean & DeLuca?
Cathy: It had a horse out in front in the 60’s.
Sarah: No, I don’t remember that.
Cathy: There was that large, stuffed life‑sized horse.
Sarah: I was told once it was a slave market to begin with.
Cathy: There was a slave market on Wisconsin Avenue, I believe, lower below M Street.
Betsy: Hard to imagine.
Cathy: When I moved to Georgetown in 1968, I do really remember that there was a leather goods and saddlery‑type place, where one would go to buy a saddle or riding boots at the bottom of Potomac Street on M and I think they sold horse supplies.
[The building on M street which is currently Dean and Deluca was W. H. Stombock Saddle Shop from1895 to 1960s. See link that follows. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1990/06/01/stombocks-rides-into-sunset/e8074c88-957f-473a-8df8-0412183c5804/]
Interestingly, the building was originally a market and “in 1966 Congress passed legislation directing the District of Columbia to preserve the market as a historic landmark, to operate and maintain it as a market.” https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/wash/dc18.htm]
Sarah: We lived on Cooke’s Row. I think he was a crony of Boss Shepherd who was the mayor of Washington during the Grant Administration.
Sarah: It wasn’t Shepherd himself but Cooke was part of that group, and he built those Cooke’s Row houses for his children.
Sarah: That is what I was told … for daughters or investment or something. They were built in the middle of the Civil War. Here the country’s at war and he was cheerfully building these elaborate houses, which one wonders about.
Cathy: We can look it up and we’ll let you know what we find out.
[According to legend, Henry Cooke built Cooke’s Row to establish residences for his twelve children. www.historic-structures.com/washington_dc/dc/cookes_row_3.php]
Cathy: You have wonderful memories, Sarah.
Sarah: So, what else is interesting?
Cathy: Catherine suggested that I might ask you about during the cold war years. Were you still living in Washington?
Sarah: Yes. I’ve lived there ever since.
Cathy: Any connections with the State Department or the CIA or covert operatives?
Sarah: All our friends were…
Cathy: Tell us a little bit about this group.
Sarah: We of course were architects, and we had few architect friends, but most of our friends who we’d known in the world outside our field, fetched up from school or someplace. Turned out there they were in the State Department or [whispers] the CIA.
I remember going to a party at the Janney’s. Do you remember Mr. Janney? And in my architectural way I was awfully naive about all of this, but somebody said, “Well, if a bomb dropped right now, it would erase the entire government of the United States.” [laughs]
Cathy: [laughs] Because they were all at the party?
Sarah: We were having a cozy little office party. And everybody was there.
Sarah: I went to boarding school with the oldest Acheson child, though she was a couple of years below me and we weren’t really pals. I remember the Dean Achesons were always very dashing as parents who came to visit their daughter. I sat next to, in study hall, to a girl named Anne Hollister. Her father was a Congressman from Ohio and so she knew things like who was important .The Dean Achesons lived on P Street near 28th. But of course, I was still a girl from Cleveland and I didn’t know about these racy Eastern Seaboard important types.
Betsy: I have a question.
Betsy: You said you were from Cleveland earlier on.
Betsy: And you said your mother went to Mt. Vernon Seminary as a boarder?
Betsy: Was your mother from Cleveland?
Sarah: No. She came from Cincinnati and I’ve forgotten. She and Daddy met each other, I think, on Lake George where people used to go in the summer.
Sarah: They were married and she moved to Cleveland.
Betsy: And then you were sent to boarding school where?
Sarah: I went to Miss Hall’s school in Pittsfield. I had a true friend and she ended up going to Milton, but her sister was two years older than we were and seemed very glamorous, and she and a lot of friends went to Miss Hall’s and adored it. They had a very special class, and there were lots of Cleveland girls who went, and a lot of nice girls from other places. They had a wonderful time. By the time my stay came along, the big cohort came from the Rye Country Day School, and I didn’t really have any pals particularly. There was the sister of a friend of mine in Cleveland, but she was sort of off on her own and I never knew her particularly well. I thought it was dreary.
But I understand now I’m in touch with the school. It still is all girls, and it is quite a good school. I’m interested to see that they have a lot of Asian and exotic people who I think would like to have their girls come to the United States to be educated but don’t want them to be with boys, and this is I guess a very cozy spot for the likes of them.
I did go back to my 50th anniversary, which was quite a long time ago but I haven’t been back since. But I of course, I get publications.
Cathy: Catherine mentioned that her father helped to organize a group called “Don’t Tear It Down.”
Sarah: Oh, yeah.
Betsy: I remember it very well.
Cathy: It was active in early historic preservation?
Sarah: I think others thought that was too sly a name, and it’s now something like “The Washington…
Betsy: …Preservation Society?
Sarah: Something dull like that.
Betsy: Nancy Hanks was…You saved the Post Office Pavilion. That was the first that I could remember during…
Sarah: That Nick was involved in?
Betsy: The “Don’t Tear It Down”, they were going to tear down the old Post Office Pavilion.
Sarah: Oh. I’d forgotten that. I remember when we had moved to 3021 to the big house, and I guess Nick was 50 and he was fretting about the Kennedy Center or the Watergate, but I think it was the Kennedy Center, and I did a beautiful birthday cake for him that was rectangular like the Kennedy Center. And I used gum-drop spearmint leaves as planting around the roof.
Cathy: You put those all around the cake?
Cathy: Are you familiar with before the Kennedy Center was built? What was it? What was down on that area along the river?
Cathy: There was a restaurant called “The Watergate”, wasn’t there?
Sarah: And the Arena Stage started down there in what had been a brewery.
Betsy: The Heurich Brewery?
Sarah: Yes. It was called the Old Vat.
Betsy: I think there was a concert shell.
Sarah: That’s the Watergate. I mean those steps that you…
Cathy: Even when I was young, when I first moved to Washington in the late 60s, we would go to concerts on those steps.
Sarah: And there was a shell on a barge in the water. That was lovely until the National Airport got so busy. People used to paddle down from Georgetown and listen to the music.
Cathy: Horribly busy today. What changes have you seen? Are there any changes that trouble you? Or any changes you are positive about as you look back over your years in Washington?
Sarah: I remember that a lot of the architectural types were upset about changes to the East side of the Capital. That was a cause that everybody was very exercised about. There was also the business about trying to get the Cultural Center ‑‑ as it was then called, which eventually became the Kennedy Center‑‑ because there had been a move afoot to have a performing arts center.
Mrs. Eugene Meyer, Kay Graham’s mother and the wife of the owner of the Washington Post, was very active in this. I remember we were out in Cleveland when Kennedy was shot, and we’re flying on our way back and Nick says, “Now it will be a monument to Kennedy and there will be no fuss, no bus. Of course it will get built.”
But a lot of people felt it shouldn’t be there by the river where nobody could get to it, and that it would be much better if there were a cultural center downtown near where the District Building now is, and across from the Treasury in that big complex.
Cathy: So that was the original intent for the location of this cultural center?
Sarah: Well, I don’t know because I think that Mrs. Meyer and Ed Stone, it was said, we’re having lunch one day and Ed Stone, on a napkin,drew out this pod kind of plan.
Sarah: Then along came the Watergate, and the reason the Watergate was so curvy was to blend with the possibility of the curvy Kennedy Center. You see, so the whole waterfront would have curved.
Cathy: Then they built something that looked like an aircraft carrier instead.
Betsy: You know why? It was too expensive to do the curvilinear. They had to re‑design it.
Cathy: It was the expense?
Sarah: The actual law that established it was passed in ’58 for this cultural center not named “The Kennedy Center” obviously yet. So it was just going to be a cultural center.
Betsy: Yes. So that’s when the funding was established in ’58, but the original plan was much more round and obviously much more expensive to build than a shoebox.
Sarah: Yeah, I guess. So there was a Watergate curling around with all its teeth. [laughs] and plunked down was the shoebox next to it. So, of course, if the original plan for the Kennedy Center had not been as it was designed, goodness knows what the Watergate would have been because they wouldn’t have curved around like that.
Cathy: Yeah but the Watergate was built first. Correct?
Cathy: And then the Kennedy Center came later.
Sarah: Well, the first part of the Watergate.
Cathy: The first part of the Watergate, which was…
Sarah: The Building that was the one closest to Virginia Avenue.
Betsy: The Kennedy Center opened in ’71. I went to the opening.
Sarah: You did?
Betsy: Leonard Bernstein’s Mass.
Sarah: And when did the Watergate?
Betsy: Well, my friend Susan Schaeffer Stalberg was living there in the early ’70s, so I don’t know what year.
Cathy: We can find that out and add that. I have your permission to put that date into the interview?
[Watergate Complex was built between 1963 and 1971]
Sarah: The apartment that I bought was always rented, and when Nick and I split I rented the Q Street house ‑‑ he said I could stay there for a year and pay rent ‑‑ and then I rented an apartment at the Watergate because I was going to move into the apartment there, but it had tenants. So I had a little apartment in the Watergate in the West Building. And then by the time I got straightened out and it came time to move into the original apartment I owned…I guess maybe it was in the South Building.
Anyway, it was getting to be time to move into the apartment I owned. David had decided he would join me, so that was very nice. When we decided to get married, we wondered where to live because both of us had lived in Georgetown forever with different spouses. We thought it would be sort of creepy. [laughs] So we had a honeymoon cottage at the Watergate. [laughs]
Betsy: What year did you get married?
Cathy: Did you ever move back to Georgetown with David?
Cathy: Oh, yes. That was…
Sarah: We were up in New Hampshire one summer at Point Fisher. Debbie Howe who eventually ended up here, their daughter got married in near Plymouth, Massachusetts, and a lot of people made a great effort to go and we all had a lovely time. We looked at each other and said, “What are we doing at the Watergate when everybody we know and are fond of lives in Georgetown?”
By that time we’d been married nine years, I guess, and decided it would be [laughs] respectful because people were used to the idea. We decided it would be OK to move back to Georgetown. David was on the Georgetown Fine Arts Committee, and he’d been having a great deal to do with the remodeling of that building at the corner of 30th and Q, which was being done over into condominiums because before they had been rental units and they all needed fussing about.
I wandered by one day ‑‑ I’ve forgotten why I was over there ‑‑ and looked at one and thought this was pretty neat. The Watergate was getting more and more expensive to live in. We were away all summer and didn’t need all the swimming pools and things we were paying for. So we moved back to Georgetown and bought the apartment that we lived in for 20 years at the corner of 30th and Q, which we just loved.
Betsy: He was a wonderful man. I remember seeing you together and you always looked like you were having the best time.
Betsy: I mean that is a very specific memory. I was a kid, but I remember thinking, “That’s a cool couple.”
Sarah: But you couldn’t have been such a kid, Betsy because I knew you when you were younger than you are now, but you were grown up.
Betsy: When I first met you, I was 24.
Sarah: Where was that?
Betsy: At the Corcoran.
Sarah: Well, you were grown up.
Betsy: I called everybody Missus.
Sarah: Oh, you did? Oh, I’m glad.
Betsy: I mean all the women in the Women’s Committee were Mrs. So‑and‑So, and Mrs. So‑and‑So.
Sarah: I wasn’t in the Women’s Committee but I was a trustee.
I certainly spent many happy years there, because I was a student and a trustee at the same time which was rather fun. It was fascinating because I would go to school in my school clothes, take my board lady clothes in a bag, you know, and change.
Cathy: A double identity.
Sarah: Yeah. I would stop, walk out of the dressing room and go upstairs and nobody would speak to me.
Betsy: Student outfit.
Sarah: Frequently, I was upstairs in my school clothes and board ladies would walk by and never speak to me, because I was a student
Betsy: What year was that?
Sarah: I started going…David and I were married in ’72, and maybe ’74, perhaps.
Betsy: I was a student there, too.
Sarah: You were? I’d had an operation and I was feeling sort of punk. A woman that I really didn’t know very well who lived at the Watergate said, “Well, Bill Christenberry is going to be teaching sculpture this summer and you ought to go.” And so obediently, I went. Thus began happy years involved in the art life of Washington. That’s another story.
Cathy: Thank you, Sarah.
Transcription by CastingWords