The first time I ever set foot in an embassy was during Passport DC, the monthlong celebration of Washington's international community that features open embassies on several weekends in a row. I had traveled abroad before, but unknowingly only to places that issued a visa upon arrival, and so until that spring in 2010, I was completely unaware of the vast tapestry of diplomatic properties in Washington.
I would spend the next decade making up for that lack of knowledge.
I became a diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Diplomat and a senior correspondent for Diplomatic Courier, which opened the doors of the magnificent houses along Embassy Row, International Circle, 16th Street meridian, and more. Then, as a foreign correspondent for a wide range of global publications, I was frequently in and out of these buildings in cultural and diplomatic capitals around the world for visas, press briefings, social engagements, and interviews.
As my time in embassies, residences, and diplomatic cultural centers grew greater, so too did my fascination with their histories.
Whether because of their proximity—I lived across Rock Creek Park from the Embassy of the Czech Republic and was often kept awake at night by their parties—or because of their mystery—the Embassy of Indonesia is allegedly haunted by the last owner of the Hope Diamond—each embassy I encountered unveiled a story. Some were well known, others were unknown even to the ambassadors themselves. I wanted to know them all.
This book is the collection of the first ten embassy and ambassador's residence profiles of Diplomatica, a series which began as a newsletter and later grew into a dedicated channel on Diplomatic Courier, where I remain Editor-at-Large. It features profiles of countries large and small, buildings old and new, more than one haunting, and quite a few scandals. These buildings were chosen for their histories, their architecture, and/or their place in the tapestry of Washington. But more than that, each is simply a building our team found fascinating, and hope you will, too.
This series would not be possible without early support from the many people who opened their embassies, their offices, and their homes to Diplomatica. We are grateful to Ambassador Maguy Maccario Doyle of Monaco; former Ambassador Budi Bowoleksono of Indonesia, former Ambassador Martin Dahinden of Switzerland, Representative Stanley Kao of Taiwan, Ambassador Hynek Kmonícek of the Czech Republic, Ambassador Andris Teikmanis of Latvia, Ambassador Fayçal Gouia of Tunisia, Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi of Finland, Ambassador Javlon Vakhabov of Uzbekistan, former Ambassador Hector Posset of Benin, and Stuart Holiday, president of the Meridian Center.
There are more than 175 diplomatic properties in Washington, and thousands more around the world.
Let us begin.