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Embassy Row Tour Self Guided

Updated: 22 diciembre 2023

Welcome to Dupont Circle, where we'll start our tour of Embassy Row. Originally called Millionaires' Row, it was mansions and large homes built by the newly wealthy.

Today, the section of Massachusetts Ave NW north of Dupont Circle is the home to many of the embassies in Washington, DC. Who else but an embassy needed a 60 room house with a grand ballroom?

This tour will explore the neighborhood's history and outside of embassies along the way, finishing up near the North entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro Station on the red line.

If you want to continue further up Embassy Row than Sheridan Circle, you can take our Embassy Row extension self guided walking tour. This will end at Observatory Circle where you can catch a bus back or continue up to the National Cathedral.

Either tour option is about 1.5 mile and 2 hours.

You can also take these tours as Audio Tours. 

Listen to a sample of our Embassy Row Audio Tour

For more information on Embassy Row or to take our guided tour, visit our Embassy Row page.

Embassy Row Tour Video

Enjoy your self guided tour? Make a donation to help support the guides. You can Venmo @canden-ftbf or Buy Me A Coffee:

Embassy Row Walking Tour

Start at Dupont Circle Fountain. Easily accessible from either South or North exits of the Dupont Circle Metro Station.

A. Dupont Circle Fountain

When Pierre L'Enfant designed Washington, D.C. in the late 18th century, he created a grid system with boulevards named after U.S. states that overlaid this grid, such as you have here.  This created many circles and squares were these boulevards and streets intersected.

Originally called Pacific Circle, due to its location then on the northwestern border of the City of Washington, it was renamed in 1882 when the U.S. Congress honored Mexican-American War veteran, Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Dupont, with a statue in the middle of the circle.

The statue of Dupont was considered poorly done and the fountain found here today replaced the statue in 1921.  Designed by Daniel Chester French, who also sculpted the Abraham Lincoln Memorial statue, kept true to the seafaring life of the admiral - the fountain is adorned with two female allegorical figures (Sea and Stars) + 1 male (wind) - familiar figures for any sailor.

Look for the white mansion on the corner of P St NW on the east side of the circle. This is the Patterson Mansion (B.)

This beautiful white classical mansion, the only mansion left on the circle, was built in 1903 and designed by the famed architect Samford White, of the firm McKim, Mead, and White. 

It was built as a winter social home for Robert William Patterson, editor, publisher, and heir to the Chicago Tribune fortune. 

The home is mostly associated with his daughter, Cissy Patterson, the 1st woman in the U.S. to head a newspaper (Times-Herald), who spent many winters here. 

The mansion had a total floor area of 36,000 sq. ft. (3,400 sq. m), 16 bedrooms, a ballroom, a library, an auditorium, 2 elevators, and 10 parking spaces when it was finished.

President Calvin Coolidge used the home for 6 months in 1927 while the White House was under renovation when the president hosted Charles Lindberg and presented him with his first Distinguished Flying Cross.

Cissy bequeathed her home to the Red Cross in 1949, who then sold it to the Washington Club, a now-defunct exclusive, female-only social club, who sold the building in 2014 to a property developer for $20 million, a record for a non-commercial real estate transaction in DC.  

On the other side of the circle, look for the PNC Bank. This was the site of Stewart's Castle. (C)

Today, this location is home to a subdued structure housing a bank.  However, in 1872, a beautiful mansion occupied this plot. 

Designed by Adolf Cluss, who also designed the Franklin School, Sumner School, Arts and Industry, Eastern Market, and many more buildings in D.C., this building was a great example of French 2nd Empire Design.

The building was built for the wealthy gold miner and Republican Senator from Nevada, William Morris Stewart, who is credited for authoring the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed voting rights regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude (formerly enslaved people). 

Stewart would be dogged by charges of corruption throughout his political career.

Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain), who was briefly the senator's personal assistant, and who accused the Senator of cheating him out of stocks, created a character, the corrupt Senator Dillworthy, in his book, the Gilded Age, that had a strong resemblance to his former boss.

As you walk to the next stop, cross the street at Massachusetts Ave NW. You'll end up at a small park with a historic brick building and a covered entryway underground, this is Dupont Underground. Before the metro, these curved tunnels under the circle were used for trolleys until the DC streetcar system shut down in the 1960s. It has been re-purposed as a unique art space and can be toured at certain dates and times.

The next stop is the red brick building on the left at the corner of 20th and Mass. Ave NW.

D. Blaine Mansion

Today, this building houses law offices and a pizzeria but it is the only Victorian mansion around the circle still standing.

It was built in 1881 by James Blaine, Congressman from Maine and Secretary of State under Presidents Harrison, Garfield, and Arthur

In 1901 it was purchased by George Westinghouse, where he lived until he died in 1914. 

Westinghouse's name isn't as familiar as his main competitor, Thomas Edison, though, in the War of Currents, he may have been the winner.

Westinghouse and Edison had competing forms of electricity, both aiming to discredit the other in a vicious battle of public opinion and media.

It was Westinghouse's alternating current (AC) that would light the 1893 Chicago World Fair, proving it safe once and for all.

Continue up the street to the statue of the Hindu goddess, Saraswati.

E. Indonesian Embassy

As we make our way up Embassy Row, many diplomatic missions have installed statues in front. This is the Indonesian Embassy and the statue is of Saraswati.

The story was that the Indonesian ambassador in 2013 wanted to "jazz up" Mass Ave.

Note the children at the base of the goddess. They represent the different races in Indonesia.

The statue of a Hindu goddess in front of the embassy of a Muslim-majority country was meant to mark Indonesia's dedication to religious freedom.

The building was originally built by Thomas Walsh. He was an Irish immigrant who struck it rich in the gold rush and used his new money to build this mansion in 1901.

Legend says he hid a gold nugget in the doorframe - but no one has found, or admitted to finding it. It had 60 rooms, a theater, a ballroom, a French salon, a grand staircase, and $2 million in furnishings

After her father's death, Evalyn Walsh and her husband Ned McLean lived here for a few years before their own sprawling estate north of Georgetown.

Around this time, Evalyn became the last private owner of the Hope Diamond. You can find the Hope Diamond at the Natural History Museum on the National Mall.

Evalyn Walsh was part of a crew that could be considered the Mean Girls of the 1920s.

These socialites had money, influence, and sass. Across the street, just to the right of the Embassy Row Hotel, was the home of Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

She was the eldest daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt and a rebellious soul.

When her father told her to stop smoking in the White House, she climbed onto the roof to smoke ON the White House.

She lived in that house later in life, where you'd find her favorite saying cross-stitched on a throw pillow.

"If you don't have anything nice to say... come sit down next to me"

As you cross 21st NW, note the Fairfax Hotel on the corner. This is where Al Gore lived while his father served in Congress. Cross Mass Ave here and head to the small park with the statue of Ghandi.

F. Indian Embassy

Behind this park in an unassuming building, is the Indian Embassy. The Indian Embassy gave us this statue of Mahatma Gandhi in 2000. It depicts Gandhi on his famous 1930 Salt March to the sea.

Made of red granite from India, both the aesthetic of the stone and his clothing remind us of his dedication to a simple, grounded life. His peaceful non-violent resistance would be the heart of Indian independence from the British Empire.

If you have some time to spare or want to come back, we highly suggest visiting the Phillips Collection, which is just around the corner on 21st NW.

It is the first contemporary art gallery in the US and still retains the original feel of exploring a family’s art collection in their home. The Phillips Collection began in 1921 and is run as a private art museum. For more information visit their website.

Continue up Mass. Ave. Note the palatial building across the street with the small statue of George Washington out front.

G. Society of the Cincinnati

Not every building on Embassy Row is an embassy, but most used to be private homes. This house was built by the Andersons with the intention that it would become the headquarters of the Society of the Cincinnati upon his death.

Knowing this, Lars Anderson had the crest of the society built into the building above the door. You'll see the American flag, the French flag, and the Society's flag flying underneath it.

The Society of the Cincinnati was founded in 1793.  It is a hereditary fraternity whose members trace their lineage all the way back to officers in the Continental Army, both American and French, during the Revolutionary War.

The society is named after the idea that George Washington was like the ideal Roman dictator, Cincinnatus, who was twice called out of retirement to lead Roman armies against invaders. At the end of the crisis both times, he immediately gave up his immense power and returned to his farm, and is often mentioned as the ideal statesman.

Washington famously followed this example and returned his military commission  to the Continental Congress at the end of the War, something completely unheard of in his day.  Today, the Society serves as steward to a vast collection of Revolutionary ephemera and an incredible research library, which can be utilized by anyone with permission.  

On this side of the street is the Cosmos Club. This is a private club so don't head up the driveway!

H. Cosmos Club

Somewhere deep within the architecture of this house is the original 1875 structure. In the early 1900s, the Townsends purchased the house. A soothsayer had told Mrs. Townsend that she would "die under a new roof" so rather than building a new house, she bought an older house and expanded it.

The Cosmos Club today a social club for those distinguished in science and arts. The member list is private but they advertise three Presidents, two Vice Presidents, a dozen Supreme Court justices, 36 Nobel Prize winners, 61 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 55 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.... so keep an eye out who may be coming and going as you walk by.

Cross Mass. Ave here and head to the small triangle park across the street with the statue in the far corner.

I. Thomas Masaryk | Boundary Road

The statue is Tomas Masaryk, founder and first President of Czechoslovakia in 1918, serving until 1935. The plaster mold of this statue was made from life before his death in 1937, but the bronze statue was not placed here until 2002. The statue had been stored during the Nazi invasion and subsequent Communist rule.

President Woodrow Wilson was an ally of Masaryk, advocating for a free and democratic Czechoslovakia. It was here in Washington DC that Masaryk would be declared President of the newly formed republic, now independent from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Standing in this small park, you are now at the very outer edge of Washington, the federal city. When you cross Florida Avenue you will be outside the original city limits. In fact, Florida Avenue’s original name was Boundary Road.

L'Enfant's original plans for our nation’s capital called for a perfectly square district, 10 miles by 10 miles. This would come to be called the District of Columbia, and tucked away within that district would be the federal city, later named Washington.

Today, the city of Washington and the District are one in the same, but up until the late 1800s, the city ended at Boundary Road, and beyond here, you would be in Washington County.  It’s hard to imagine today as you venture through the far reaches of Washington, but these were mostly farmlands and forests until just before the 20th century  

Cross of Florida Avenue and listen to the next stop as you walk along this stretch of embassies.

J. What is an Embassy?

Here you start to see more embassies, though some of the buildings are still private residences. You passed the Luxembourg Embassy on the corner. Notice how it has two flags - one is the state flag, the other is the EU flag. All members of the European Union fly this blue flag with the circle of gold stars representing member nations.

Along this row, you'll see smaller rowhouses, Embassies of Togo, Bahamas, Turkmenistan across the street. Note the building with the American flag. This isn't an American Embassy! It is the home of the Daughters of American-Colonists.

You'll also see here the Embassy of Sudan. In 2011, the Republic of South Sudan declared independence from Sudan. New country, new embassy and South Sudan's diplomatic mission can be found in Georgetown.

Some key terms to know about Embassy Row and the buildings you'll see:

  • Embassy: this catchall term refers to a permanent diplomatic mission. Countries with which we have diplomatic relations have permanent representation (and buildings) in DC. The head of the embassy is the ambassador. There are over 170 missions in DC. However, countries that we don't have diplomatic relations with won't have an embassy. The Iranian Embassy was shuttered after the fall of the Shah. Most recently, under President Obama, the Cuban Embassy was reopened after diplomatic relations resumed.
  • Consulate: Some countries have representatives in other cities than the capital, such as NYC or LA.
  • Chancery: The office building where the diplomatic staff has their offices.
  • Residence: The building where the ambassador lives.
    • Sometimes a country only has one building, where the ambassador both lives and works.

We'll pass many buildings as we go along. You can tell by their flag out front and if you don't recognize the flag, there are usually plaques by the front door.

As you make your way to the circle in front of you, stay on the south side of Mass Ave. Just in front of the Irish Embassy; you'll see a small section of the sidewalk raised up with a plaque on top.

K. Assassination of Letelier

Sheridan Circle was the site of a terrorist attack in 1976. Orlando Letelier was the Chilean ambassador to the United States under Salvador Allende, and then served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Interior Minister and later Defense Minister until Augusto Pinochet came to power.

As part of the opposition, Letelier was imprisoned and tortured for more than a year. He was released on the condition that he leave Chile but was warned that Pinochet did not tolerate activities against his government - a clear warning.

The warning didn't work and after moving to DC, Letelier was an outspoken critic of Pinochet. On a drive into the city for work, he was giving a ride to his assistant Ronni Moffit and her husband.

As they rounded the corner here, a bomb exploded under the car - Michael Moffit only suffered a head wound, Letelier was alive but his lower body was nearly completely severed and Ronni would drown in her own blood shortly after stumbling from the car.

This was the third assassination attempt, second successful of Chilean exiles. Carried out by a former CIA agent turned Chilean secret police who had hired anti-Castro Cuban exiles - three were indicted with murder, the other two, Pinochet refused the extradition request. The CIA agent/police were released under Witness Protection in exchange for information.

The Chilean Embassy today is located on the other side of the circle.

Cross 23rd street and stop at the statue on the corner.

L. Turkish Ambassador's Residence

If your family ever purchased a bottle that used a fluted bottle cap, you helped pay for this building. The inventor of this small but useful item, Edward Everett, built this house in 1915. In a twist of fate, it was built by George Oakley Totten, Jr. who was the official architect in Turkey for Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. It is now the official residence of the Turkish Ambassador.

The ambassador in the 1930s, Mehmet Ertegun, lived here with his family. His two sons fell in love with American music and Ahmet Ertegun would go on to found Atlantic Records, a pioneering record label specializing in jazz, R&B and soul and still a player in today's music world. They helped form the music careers of John Coltrane, Ray Charles, Roberta Flack and Led Zeppelin.

When the ambassador and his family were hosting musical events at this house, the doors were opened to all, regardless of race. This was during a time of segregation in America and the ambassador received a notice from the State Department asking that any black-American attendees enter through the back door.

The ambassador ignored the request but replied to the State Department that all were welcome through his front door unless they wanted to attend and then they should enter in the back. As lovers of Jazz, the Ertegan's hosted performances by Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and native DC resident, Duke Ellington.

The statue on the corner is a life-size bronze of Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern-day Turkey, whose aim was to bring a secular democratic system of governance to the new Republic of Turkey in 1923.

Continue along the circle and you'll see a unique building on the left just past the statue with building blue stained mosaics.

M. Latvian Embassy | Alice Pike Barney

This arts and crafts style building was the former home of Alice Pike Barney. It is now the Latvian Embassy.

If you're interested in more about Alice Pike Barney, listen to our podcast (Tour Guide Tell All) episode all about her: