The house was commissioned by Emily Eames MacVeagh as a gift to her husband, Franklin MacVeagh, a Chicago businessman who was then Secretary of the Treasury under President Taft. Emily MacVeagh purchased the land from visionary developer Mary Foote Henderson, who was actively engaged in transforming Meridian Hill into an elite residential and diplomatic community. The MacVeagh house was one of the first results of her plans. After Mrs. MacVeagh’s death, her husband sold the property to the government of Mexico. By then, Meridian Hill was already home to a number of other embassies, including the French, Swiss, Spanish, Cuban, Polish, and Lithuanian.
The Embassy of Mexico was established and operated from this location over the next 69 years, until its headquarters moved downtown and the Mansion was converted into the Embassy’s Cultural Institute in 1990. Today, the Mexican Cultural Institute continues to carry out the Mansion’s diplomatic legacy through ongoing cultural programming aimed at showing the diversity of Mexican creative talent and building bridges of understanding through art and dialogue.
The Mexican government, in a successful attempt to enhance the Mansion's splendor, added a portico to the Italian-style facade. The interior of this magnificent Mansion has aesthetically integrated and combined different styles and shapes, reflecting the dynamics of Mexican culture. The main hall, inspired by late 15th century Italian architecture, is a majestic setting for the mahogany English banister, the 18th century Mexican altarpiece, and a breathtaking three-story mural by Roberto Cueva del Río.
The primary facade of the Embassy of Mexico/MacVeagh House faces west to Sixteenth Street. It is defined by its smooth buff brick walls fenestrated and articulated with elegant yet austere Classical treatment. It is divided into three vertical bays with a porticoed porte-cochere, added in 1921-22, breaking what was originally a planar wall surface. This planar wall features a set of three arched openings on the ground-level first story, a piano nobile immediately above, then a third story followed by a full fourth-story level above a projecting beltcourse.
The property was nominated by the Mexican Cultural Institute.
DC designation: December 20, 2012
National Register: February 13, 2013