During the early twentieth century, the British government procured a large tract of land off of Massachusetts Avenue in order to establish their new embassy. The area was underdeveloped compared to other neighborhoods in the Washington DC area.
Wall exam surveys, survey papers, subdivision books in the District Government’s Office of the Surveyor, reveal the progression of the combining and slicing up of lots that ended with such a site that so significantly influenced the architectural design of the Embassy. One dated 16 March 1925 has a side extension from W Street with 100-foot frontage but none from Observatory Circle. In addition to lot 1, fifty feet each were taken from adjoining lots to provide the eventual 200 feet for the entrance. By May of that year, the W Street entrance had been cut down to 50 feet while parcels of 50 feet each from the plots of Massachusetts Avenue were added to the already designated 200 feet length. By June the service entrance was 30 feet and the main frontage back to 200 with surrounding individual lots articulated.
The embassy is situated in a compound that is home to the ambassador's residence and the old and new chanceries. The residence was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to resemble an English country manor, with the old chancery facing the street. By the 1950s, the old chancery was deemed too cramped, and the new chancery, designed by chief architect Eric Bedford was constructed from 1955–1961, with Queen Elizabeth II laying the foundation stone on 19 October 1957. Part of the old chancery was converted into staff quarters, and the rest is currently occupied by the offices of the British Council. The British government was the first nation to build an embassy in the area that would later become known as Embassy Row.
US Historic District Contributing Property: November 26, 1973