This former embassy is among the finest of nearly a dozen Meridian Hill mansions built by Mary Foote Henderson (1841-1931), in collaboration with her favorite architect, George Oakley Totten Jr. (1866-1939). Built in 1907, the project was her first successful enticement of a foreign mission to Sixteenth Street, in keeping with her great ambition to create an “Avenue of Presidents” lined with lavish embassies and memorials.
The building is a superb example of Beaux Arts residential architecture, ranking among Totten’s finest work. The embassy was planned and built under French ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand, who served from 1902 to 1925 as one of the most influential and admired foreign diplomats ever assigned to the DC corps. The Old French Embassy was the site of critical political conferences during and after World War I, and served as Jusserand’s residence until his retirement. When he retired, the estate was turned back over to Henderson as the embassy planned to move their offices in the following decade.
Following Henderson’s death, the Old French Embassy became a boarding house/hotel, with a church renting out some of the space. Eventually, the newly formed government of Ghana headquartered their embassy in the building, before moving to a newer building in 1990s. Today, the Council for Professional Recognition occupies the building, keeping the building properly preserved.
DC Inventory: August 28, 1997