There are around 175 embassies in Washington, DC. 50 of them are concentrated on Massachusetts Avenue NW, which is nicknamed “Embassy Row”. This street is historic because it’s where wealthy DC elite previously built big elaborate mansions. Before they were embassies in DC these were mostly private homes.
Unfortunately, the habit of building these big beautiful mansions came to an end in 1929. The great depression caused the owners of many homes to sell. The buyers that were there to scoop up these properties were mostly other countries.
Embassy of the United Kingdom
This is both the oldest and the largest of the embassies in DC. There are over 400 staff members who work in the British Embassy. The embassy is located just south of the Naval Observatory (the Vice President’s home) along Massachusetts Avenue NW.
The British Embassy is visible from the outside. Look for the statue of Winston Churchill doing his V for Victory symbol. He looks like he is about take a step across the street because he has one foot on British soil and one foot on American soil. Churchill was actually half British and half American.
Embassy of Canada
Canada has one of the only embassies in DC on Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1989, it was built on the site of an old car dealership. However, some countries were upset that Canada got prime real estate so close to the Capitol building. However, the justification was that they are our neighbors to the north.
As you’re walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, you’ll notice a ring of columns on the outside of the building. If you go up the stairs, stand in the very center of the ring and make a noise and you’ll hear a perfect echo of your voice. They also have an excellent Christmas tree around the holidays.
Embassy of Indonesia
This was the most expensive building when it was constructed over a hundred years ago. The Indonesian Embassy was originally built by an Irish immigrant named Thomas Walsh. The mansion is famous because of his daughter, Evelyn Walsh McLean. She was a rich DC socialite and was the last private owner of the Hope Diamond, the largest blue diamond in the world. You can see it today in the Museum of Natural History.
Embassy of Cuba
The Embassy of Cuba is on 16th Street NW. This is both one of the newest and one of the oldest embassies in DC. It was built in 1917. However, it closed in 1961 during the Cold War. The building was maintained by Switzerland from 1961 to 2015. In 2015, the U.S. reopened diplomatic relations with Cuba and the embassy opened once again.
The Embassy of Cuba was the subject of violence in 1979. A terrorist group attempted to bomb the Embassy of Cuba. Unfortunately, they read their maps wrong and instead damaged the Embassy of Lithuania. In addition to Lithuania, the embassies of Spain and Poland are nearby neighbors.
Turkish Ambassador’s Residence
The Turkish Ambassador’s Residence was built in 1915. Businessman Edward Everett built this beautiful Beaux-Arts style mansion to house he and his growing family. After he passed away, his five daughters decided to sell the house and split the profits.
Turkey purchased the building in 1936. The first ambassador to move in was Munir Ertegun. He had two sons who became enamored with jazz music. They would sneak out of the house late at night to go hear of Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and Louis Armstrong. They actually held the very first integrated concerts in the U.S. right inside the Turkish Embassy. Most impressively, these two sons went on to be the founders of Atlantic Records, one of the biggest record labels in the entire world.
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