The same view, 100 years ago.
Since 1838, the Embassy of Argentina has been located in several buildings throughout Washington, D.C. The corner building at 1600 New Hampshire Avenue, NW in Dupont Circle has been the embassy’s home for the past 95 years. Originally known as the Huff House, the Beaux Arts structure is one of four buildings on the 1800 block of Q and Corcoran Streets, NW now owned by Argentina in addition to the four attaché offices in other areas of Washington. The current value of 1600 New Hampshire is $11,543,740. Including 1600 NH, the four Argentine buildings on the 1800 block are worth approximately $22,000,000 and are contributing properties to the Dupont Circle Historic District.
After gaining independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina’s first minister plenipotentiary (ambassador’s title before a country’s legation was upgraded to embassy status) was sent to the U.S. in 1824. Carlos Maria de Alvear, an Argentine soldier and statesman, was received by the State Department on October 9th, but retired from his post only thirteen days later. Alvear returned on October 11, 1838 and held the diplomatic title once again until his death in 1852.
I haven’t been able to find where the Argentine legation was located from 1838 to 1904, but some of the diplomats who resided in Washington during this time included Domingo F. Sarmiento (became the 7th President of Argentina after leaving this post), Bartolome Mitre y Vedia (son of the 6th President of Argentina; managed La Nacion for many years), Manuel Rafael Garcia Aguirre (Argentine diplomat for 27 years to the U.S., Spain, England, and Austro-Hungarian Empire), Carlos Carranza (Secretary of Legation; lived at 1709 H Street, NW), Roque Saenz Pena (17th President of Argentina), Estanislao S. Zeballos, Rafael Garcia Mansilla (son of Manuel Rafael Garcia Aguirre; born in the Argentine legation while his father was in office), Martin Garcia Meron, and Antonio del Viso (Secretary of Legation; governor of Cordoba; senator).
I found some Washington Post articles that mention a few of the names listed above. On April 4, 1894, the death of Mansilla was announced. He was thrown from his horse while riding at the US Soldiers’ Home, and suffered a fatal brain injury. Mansilla’s funeral took place at St. Matthew’s and attendees included the Vice President, Cabinet members, and diplomats from other embassies. His body was interred at Mount Olivet Cemetery for 50 years until it was finally returned to Argentina. On March 4, 1895, the wedding announcement of Mary Leiter took place during a dinner party at the Argentine legation. On March 7th of that same year, Zeballos had one of his legation employees arrested for forgery and embezzlement. Manuel Almagro, a bookkeeper who had worked for the legation since 1893, stole over $3,000.
In 1904, the Argentine legation was located at 1032 Connecticut Avenue, NW. (now demolished; the New Balance store near the Farragut North metro station is approximately in the same spot) From 1905 to 1910, the legation was located at 2108 16th Street, NW and Dr. Epifanio Portela served as minister plenipotentiary. The building is still used for diplomatic purposes as the Embassy of Angola. In 1910, John Wingate Weeks (Secretary of War for President Warren G. Harding) sold his house at 1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW to the Argentine government. The legation was located there until 1913.
Now we come to the history of the current embassy. On February 15, 1907, building permits were issued for the construction of 1600 New Hampshire Avenue and the costs of construction was estimated at $100,000. The planned move-in date was listed as December 1st of that same year. Congressman George Franklin Huff of Pennsylvania chose Julian Abele and Horace Trumbauer to design his new home. Huff was impressed by Trumbauer’s design for the Perry Belmont Mansion that was being constructed just one block north of 1600 NH. Trumbauer was a prominent architect of the Gilded Age and his designs include the chapel at Duke University, Widener Library at Harvard University, Grey Towers, The Elms, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (more buildings by Trumbauer are listed in his Wikipedia article) Abele became Trumbauer’s assistant in 1906 and is considered one of the most prominent African-American architects in our nation’s history. Abele was promoted to chief designer for Trumbauer’s firm and his contributions or designs include over 250 buildings. A few examples are Duke University’s West Campus, Free Library of Philadelphia, Wilson Hall at Monmouth University, and “Marly” in Washington, D.C. Marly is a 30-room mansion on Foxhall Road that was sold to the Belgian government in 1945. It currently serves as the Belgian ambassador’s residence.
Congressman Huff served in the House of Representatives for ten years, but made his fortune through banking, coal, railroads, and natural gas. He was a member of the infamous South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, a wealthy men’s club who were chiefly responsible for the Johnstown Flood that killed over 2,200 people. While living in Washington, Huff served as a director of the American Security & Trust Company located at 15th and New York Avenue, NW. He died in 1912 and his wife, Henrietta Burrell Huff, continued to live at 1600 NH until the following year.
In October 1913, the Washington Post reported the transfer of ownership property for 1600 NH between Henrietta and the Argentine government. It was the second largest property transfer that year, although I haven’t been able to find the amount paid. (Josh isn’t paying to view the full stories on the Post’s archive search. I only see the article’s first paragraph.) Romulo S. Naon, who served as minister plenipotentiary from 1910 to 1918, became the first of many Argentine diplomats to reside at 1600 NH. On February 26, 1914, Argentina’s representation was raised to embassy status. This made Naon the first Argentine ambassador to the United States.
Since Naon’s retirement, Argentine ambassadors who called Dupont Circle home included (in order) Tomas A. LeBrenton, Felipe A. Espil, Honorio Pueyrredon, Conrad Traverso, Espil (2nd term), Julian Encisco, Manuel E. Malbran, Encisco (2nd term), Malbran (2nd term), Espil (3rd term), Adrian C. Escobar, Rodolfo Garcia Arias, Oscar Ibarra Garcia, Luis S. Luti, Oscar Ivanissevich, Martin Luis Drago, Jeronimo Remorino, Hipolito J. Paz, Adolfo A. Vicchi, Mauricio L. Yadarola, Cosar Barros Hurtado, Emilio Donato del Carril, Roberto T. Alemann, Norberto Miguel Barrenechea, Alvardo Carlos Alsogaray, Eduardo Alejandro Roca, Pedro Eduardo Real, Robert H. Tiscornia, Carlos Manuel Muniz, Diego Felipe Medus, Alejandro Jose Luis Orfila, Rafael Maximiano Vazquez, Arnaldo T. Musich, Gaston de Prat Gay, Jorge Antonio Aja Espil, Roberto E. Dalton, Esteban Arpad Takacs, L.ucio Garcia del Solar, Enrique Jose Alejandro Candioti, Guido Jose Maria Di Telia, Carlos Ortiz de Rozas, Raul Granillo Ocampo, Diego Ramiro Guelar, Guillermo Enrique Gonzalez, Diego Ramiro Guelar, Eduardo Amadeo, and Jose Octavio Bordon. (Looking at the long list of names, I’m curious as to why there’s so much turnover for the ambassador’s position.) The current ambassador is Hector Marcos Timerman, son of Jacobo Timerman who was beaten and tortured by the Argentine government in the 1970s. Hector and his wife live next door to the chancery at 1815 Q Street, NW. (a picture of that building is coming soon, along with the two other buildings that make up the embassy complex in Dupont)
There was a time when diplomatic relations were severed between Argentina and the United States. Between February 22, 1944 and April 9, 1945, there was no one living at 1600 NH. Because of the pro-Nazi sentiment held by Argentina’s government (including leftist Juan Peron), President Roosevelt refused to grant diplomatic recognition to the country. When Argentina finally declared war on Germany and Japan in March of 1945 (only after it was obvious Germany would lose), relations were resumed the next month. You can read more about this incident here.
In addition to the embassy complex in Dupont, Argentina operates attache offices at 2405 I Street, NW (Air), 1901 L Street, NW (Financial – Suite 606), 1810 Connecticut Avenue, NW (Military), and 630 Indiana Avenue, NW (Naval).
- Señor Josh, el hombre homosexual en Dupont