Ever since my mother worked in the press office for Lady Bird Johnson, she’s been good friends with Bess Abell, the Johnsons’ social secretary, and her husband, Tyler. So I’ve known them my entire life, and it’s hard to find a more delightful couple.
I found myself at their home in Potomac recently, which sits on a cliff overlooking the Potomac River, and the view just takes your breath away.
You’re probably thinking that the Abells’ house is some ginormous mansion that is in keeping with the enormity of this view. But this is what I love the most — it’s SO not. Their house has been in Tyler’s family since the 1930’s, when his stepfather, the famous Washington Merry Go Round columnist Drew Pearson, built it as a country house.
I spent the morning with Tyler last month as he told me stories about growing up and coming out to this house on the weekends. During World War II, Pearson built a farm and started raising dairy cows to help the war effort. Tyler remembers milking the cows.
Eventually, a retired DC transit trolley car would be moved to the property for children to play in, and when a horseback riding rink was built, the Abells used fill dirt from the excavation for the Russian embassy downtown.
The farm buildings are still on the property, where they are at the center of the Merry-Go-Round Farm community, which Tyler developed as a destination for distinctive architecture in Potomac, much of which has turned into a McMansion wasteland.
He let me take pictures of his living room — one of the most comfortable, beautiful, lived-in spaces I’ve been in.
I’ll leave you with a picture that sits on a window ledge in the Abells’ kitchen, as a family photo would in any of our own homes, but this family photo is a bit different: