Category Rock Creek Park

The Myths of the British Embassy I: the Location before Lutyens

There persists the unfortunate belief in some publications that in the 1920s the government of the United Kingdom chose a remote site with “little civilization nearby” for their new Washington Embassy. While the British with their previous diplomatic building pioneered the countryside around Connecticut Avenue—with livestock pens and crumbling Civil War barracks for neighbors—that is […]

Plan of the Embassy Gardens and Maps of the Area

For reference to earlier and future posts, here is a master plan of the entire grounds of the Ambassador’s Residence: And for the points of interest in the story of the landscape of the British Embassy, including Normanstone Park and Normanstone Drive, Oak Hill Cemetery, Dumbarton Oaks, the Naval Observatory, Rock Creek Park: At the […]

Lutyens in Washington

Nine perspective drawings by long-time Lutyens’s collaborator Cyril A. Farey for the proposed new British Embassy were exhibited on 5 February 1927 to the United States Commission of Fine Arts. Meeting in the New York office of architect William Delano, the established American professionals comprising or acting as consultants to this committee (Cass Gilbert, Charles […]

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 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, […]