Monthly Archives: October 2013

What Remains of the Nineteenth Century

Not much remains of the earlier pastoral landscape. Located most likely where Lutyens’s complex, along with Eric Bedford’s New Chancery (1955-1962), now dominates, all traces of Normanstone’s buildings are gone, surviving only in photographs, maps and the family records. However there are echoes of Normanstone’s sloping terrain, streams, farm roads, orchards and that gardening was […]

The Beginnings of the Embassy

While the Massachusetts Heights area was filling in with private residences at the turn into the 20th century, there were no embassies; foreign missions were concentrated along 16th Street and the vicinity of Meridian Hill Park and Dupont Circle. The British Government continued its history of setting precedent with its buildings in Washington: the first […]

The Development of “Massachusetts Avenue Extended”

Robert Barnard’s original property, the site of the British Embassy, remained intact for almost eighty years; its breakup began with rapidly rising land values and the expansion of the United States Government’s domain in the post-Civil War era. The story is simply told in a series of maps, surveys and real estate plat books. The […]

Ambassador Bryce

Another participant, if now a seemingly unlikely one, in the area’s landscape was Ambassador James Bryce of Great Britain. Serving from 1907 to 1913, he was an articulate, energetic and persuasive proponent of what made and would make Washington unique in the world. At a Board of Trade meeting in 1912, he warned that the […]

Wine and Computers: The Surprising Washington Origins of Two Industries

Normanstone’s near neighbor came to be the seventy-six acres of Northview, purchased by Cornelius and Margaret Barber in 1834, located where the Naval Observatory complex now spreads. Margaret was the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran, land surveyor and horticulturist John Adlum, the author of the first book on indigenous American viticulture (1823). Adlum’s own estate, […]

The Landscape Before the Embassy

Around 1820, an immigrant from England, Robert Barnard, purchased twenty-four acres in the original ‘Pretty Prospects’ Maryland land grant, part of the older (surveyed in 1702), much larger property, ‘The Rock of Dumbarton.’ The tract, ‘Normanstone’, desirable land on beautiful and high ground overlooking the heights of Georgetown towards the Potomac River, was big enough […]

Welcome to the Blog

The gardens of the British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington are central in the extended narrative of the place. The setting, grounds and structures, planned by the architect of the complex, the eminent Sir Edwin Lutyens, were meant to be seen and work as a whole. The significance of the particular location within Washington and what […]