Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Belgian ambassador's residence by Horace Trumbauer

Recently I had the pleasure to tour the Belgium ambassador's residence in DC with the Mid-Atlantic ICA. Designed for the Dodge family as a wedding gift for daughter Delphine and her husband Raymond T. Baker  in the early 1930s, the house was purchased in 1945 as the ambassador's residence and has been thoughtfully maintained ever since. This was a precursor to the much more famous Rose Terrace commissioned by Anna Dodge Dillman which was demolished in 1976.
The house sits on exclusive Foxhall Road here in Washington which at the time of its building was mainly lined with large estates such as this. The house is barely visible from the road behind a large gate and bushes.
One would imagine that the Dodges would recognize their house immediately as blessedly nothing appears to have changed.
The gardens are simple and act as a gorgeous setting for this magnificent house designed after the Parisian Hotel Rothelin-Charolais by Lassurance from 1700. I thought of my talented blog friend Andie from Divine Theater immediately upon seeing these urns!
The detail on the house is stunning, restrained, and in immaculate condition thanks to good care and a recent renovation.
The front was in shadow when I arrived but thankfully the rear is a mirror image as these photographs turned out much better. Contrasting the circular entry drive, the expansive rear terrace looks out over a large lawn on a wooded promontory overlooking the Potomac River far below.
The intricate railing was also recently restored and is a work of art. I wish we saw more ironwork this detailed today but it is a rare thing.
 Small wings at either side house a breakfast room and morning room.
 The lamp posts were only recently added but fit in nicely.
 As you can see the view is stunning although somewhat hidden by the trees.
The bronze hardware itself deserves a blog post (or two).  Oddly enough it was different from room to room (I'll have more pictures of those in future posts).
 This cozy corner off the dining and breakfast room would make a great spot for breakfast in good weather.
The ambassador naturally loves living in the house but is sadly leaving the post next month. He says while grand it is a comfortable and ideal home for a family. Successive ambassadors have carried on the tradition of the utmost care for the mansion and hopefully future residents will as well.
 Leaving the house at night was just as beautiful as arriving in the light.
 Join me later this week as I bring you inside for a tour of the principal rooms!
All photographs by myself.


Stephilius said...

Délicieux. I can't wait for the interior.... : )

Divine Theatre said...

I was born in the wrong class. *sigh*



deana sidney said...

You got the most magnificent light for your shots. I am thrilled for your good fortune.

I must say, it would be good to see the orientation of the house before a visit so as to know the right time to be there. Too often my schedule dictates and I get a great back but a lousy front... there's even an ap for the sun with height in the sky etc. Pretty nifty if you are a nerd. When you scout a movie, the DP is always making notes about it.

Can't wait to see the inside!

Ed Pacchetti said...

I also can't wait for the interior!

Karena Albert said...

Hi Stefan,
A beautiful estate. I am always so pleased to see these historic properties well cared for. The inside must be gorgeous!
The Arts by Karena

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Thanks for the tour, Stephan! I especially like those capitals, with their draped garlands, a little detail I'll tuck away for future reference!

The Down East Dilettante said...

Really exquisite place. It practically begs a game of six degrees of Trumbauer. Delphine Dodge was also once married James H.R. Cromwell, who in turn later married Doris Duke, who had three Trumbauer houses of her own, including the sublime Duke mansion on 5th avenue. After Delphine decamped this place, Mrs. Dodge in turn rented it to Jimmy Cromwell's mother, who was downsizing from her vast Whitemarsh Hall, also by Trumbauer.

(Raymond Baker was also once married to Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt's widow, Margaret Emerson McKim, but that's a different architectural thread :-)

Can't wait for the next installment. This is couture architecture at its highest level.

Anonymous said...


Having worked at The Elms in Newport for several years, it pleases me greatly to see this delightful Trumbauer post. This house is historically important because all the other Dodge and Stotesbury mansions (with the exception of half the Stotesbury's Philadelphia townhouse) have been demolished. Of all your posts the ones I love the most are those that feature Washington's historic architecture. Will there be a post on the Willard Hotel anytime soon? Titanic Bill

Mark D. Ruffner said...

My sincere apologies for the "ph," which just slipped out!! I did mean to type "Stefan" - I must have zoned out for a moment!

Greet Lefèvre said...

Beautiful! I am looking forward to see the inside pictures!
Have a great week!

Things That Inspire said...

I saw the interior photos first, and the exterior was even better than I imagined!

I am going to your favorite lighting store today. I am hoping to find a great chandelier!


Henhurst Interiors said...

I really enjoyed this post, as well as the following one, being a fan of this period of architecture. I love visiting these 'palaces' in the states and did not know there was an intact Horace Trumbauer house in DC - as it is a private house I am so glad to have been able to tour it via your blog.
All best,