Embassy Row

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Coordinates: 38°54′57″N77°04′15″W / 38.9157204°N 77.0708922°W / 38.9157204; -77.0708922


Private residences and embassies located on Massachusetts Avenue between 22nd Street and Sheridan Circle 2201-2209 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.JPG
Private residences and embassies located on Massachusetts Avenue between 22nd Street and Sheridan Circle
The Indian Embassy building with the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in the foreground. Embassy of India, Washington, D.C..jpg
The Indian Embassy building with the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in the foreground.

Embassy Row is the informal name for a section of Northwest Washington, D.C., with a high concentration of embassies, diplomatic missions, and diplomatic residences. [1] It spans Massachusetts Avenue N.W. between 18th and 35th street, bounded by Scott Circle to the south and the United States Naval Observatory to the north; the term is often applied to nearby streets and neighborhoods that also host diplomatic buildings, such as Kalorama. [2]

Of the 177 diplomatic missions in the city, the majority are located on or near Embassy Row, including those of Italy, Australia, India, Greece, Egypt, Ireland, Japan, and the United Kingdom. [1] Due to the large number of well-preserved Gilded Age estates and townhouses, many of which house diplomatic missions or dignitaries, Embassy Row has been protected as part of the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District. Its historic and multicultural character has also made the area a center of tourism and local cultural life.


Considered Washington's premier residential address in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Massachusetts Avenue became known for its numerous mansions housing the city's social and political elites. Consequently, the segment between Scott Circle and Sheridan Circle gained the nickname "Millionaires' Row".

The Great Depression of 1929 led many to sell their homes; the often illustrious and expansive estates were well-suited for housing diplomatic missions as well as lodges of social clubs, giving Embassy Row its present name and identity. The relocation to Embassy Row of diplomatic representations, many of which had been established in Meridian Hill in previous decades, was further catalyzed by the construction of the British Embassy, commissioned in 1925 and completed in 1930, and the Japanese Embassy, built in 1931. The greatest number of embassies and chanceries moved to Embassy Row and the neighboring Kalorama neighborhood in the 1940s and early 1950s. [3]

On the southeastern section of the row, between Scott Circle and Dupont Circle, many individual houses and mansions were replaced by larger office or apartment buildings between the 1930s and the 1970s. More recently, several prominent think tanks have clustered in that area, which has occasionally been referred to as Think Tank Row.

Many of Embassy Row's diplomatic buildings open to the public once a year in May, an initiative nicknamed Passport DC. This event was started in 2007 by the embassies of member states of the European Union, and extended in 2008 to other countries around the world under coordination by Cultural Tourism DC. [4] Within this program, the EU embassies still open on a separate day, labelled EU Open House. A separate program, the Embassy Series, started in 1994 and coordinates concerts organized in the embassy buildings. [5]

Embassy Row is protected as the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District, created in 1974 following controversy about the demolition of historic townhouses on 1722-28 Massachusetts Ave NW. [6] Many of its notable buildings are listed in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. [7] Because few historic buildings remain on Scott Circle, the eastern boundary of the Historic District was set on 17th Street NW, but, since three embassies are located there and none farther east, Scott Circle is included in this article's definition of Embassy Row. The Western boundary used here is identical to that of the Historic District, namely Observatory Circle. However, some (e.g. real estate professionals) describe Embassy Row as extending as far west as Wisconsin Avenue NW.

From Scott Circle to Sheridan Circle

This section of Massachusetts Avenue was the one known as the "Millionaires' Row" of Washington, D.C., in the late 19th and early 20th century.

North Side

South Side

From Sheridan Circle to Observatory Circle

North Side

South Side


The monumental setting of the Row has favored the erection of many memorials and statues. They are erected either on private grounds, many of them by the embassies to showcase a prominent national figure, or on public (federal) land following an Act of Congress, including the successive Circles and several triangular parks created by the intersections between the diagonal avenue and the L'Enfant Plan grid. A special case is the statue of Winston Churchill, which has one foot on the grounds of the British Embassy and the other on federal land to symbolize the UK-US alliance. [35]

Other embassies in Washington, D.C.

In the immediate vicinity of Embassy Row, many other embassies and diplomatic residences are located within one or two blocks of Massachusetts Avenue on cross streets, particularly R, S, and 22nd Streets NW near Sheridan Circle, and in the Kalorama neighborhood north of Embassy Row. The section of New Hampshire Avenue NW north of Dupont Circle alone is home to the embassies of Argentina, Belarus, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Eswatini, Grenada, Jamaica, Montenegro, Mozambique, Embassy of Namibia in Washington, D.C., Nicaragua, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.

In the early days of Washington, D.C., most diplomats and ambassadors lived on or around Lafayette Square. The first purpose-designed embassy building in Washington was the embassy of the United Kingdom on 1300 Connecticut Avenue, immediately south of Embassy Row, built in 1872 by Sir Edward Thornton on John Fraser's design, and demolished in 1931. Thornton's choice of location, at a time when Dupont Circle was still almost entirely undeveloped, may be considered the origin of Embassy Row as a diplomatic neighborhood.

In the first three decades of the 20th century, several European legations gathered farther northeast, on a section of 16th Street near Meridian Hill Park. This area was specifically developed by local resident Mary Foote Henderson to attract embassies, and she even aimed at having the residences of the U.S. president and vice-president relocated there. However, the neighborhood was hit hard by the Great Depression, and Embassy Row became a comparatively more attractive location for diplomats in the following decade. Former embassy buildings in the Meridian Hill area include those of France (arch. George Oakley Totten Jr., 1907, now the Council for Professional Recognition); Mexico (arch. Nathan C. Wyeth, 1911, now the Mexican Cultural Institute); the Netherlands (arch. George Oakley Totten Jr., 1922, now the Embassy of Ecuador); Spain (arch. George Oakley Totten Jr., 1923 and addition by Jules Henri de Sibour, 1927; now the Spain-USA Foundation); Egypt (arch. George Oakley Totten, Jr., 1924, now Meridian Hall); Italy (arch. Warren and Wetmore, 1925, currently under redevelopment); and Brazil (arch. George Oakley Totten Jr., 1927, later embassy of Hungary and now the Josephine Butler Parks Center). The embassies of Cuba (arch. Macneil & Macneil, 1918), Lithuania (arch. George Oakley Totten Jr., 1909), and Poland (arch. George Oakley Totten Jr., 1910) are still located in the Meridian Hill neighborhood. A bit further up 16th Street, the Embassy Building No. 10, built in the late 1920s, never actually served as an embassy despite being designed as one.

A high-security enclave in Van Ness, one mile north of the Naval Observatory on the federally owned former grounds of the National Bureau of Standards in Cleveland Park, was developed from 1968 as the International Chancery Center. It is home to the embassies of Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Monaco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, Slovakia, and the United Arab Emirates. [42]

A number of other embassies are scattered south of Massachusetts Avenue and closer to the National Mall, notably those of Canada, Mexico, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and the European Union. Still others are located in or around Georgetown, such as those of France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela. The Caribbean Chancery on 3216 New Mexico Avenue NW hosts the embassies of four English-speaking Caribbean nations.

See also

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