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Historical Buildings of Washington D.C.: The Franklin MacVeagh House

Historical analysis provided by Kelsey & Associates. Copyright © 1997, Kelsey & Associates.

Mexican Cultural Institute
2829 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.

The imposing structure that serves as the Mexican Cultural Institute today was originally built in 1910-1911 for Franklin MacVeagh, then Secretary of the United States Treasury under President William Howard Taft. It was designed by New York architect Nathan C. Wyeth and constructed by the George A. Fuller Company. Part of the land that housed the new mansion had been purchased from Foote Henderson, the notorious developer of 16th Street, by a trust with an anonymous owner. Much speculation and mystery surrounded the construction and the potential owner at the time, as documented in numerous social writings.

Mexican Cultural Institute

The original cost of the new residence was an impressive $120,000. It was thought to have the largest dining room in the city at the time, and its drawing room walls featured 14-karat gold leaf. The house featured 26 rooms in total.

Franklin MacVeagh's wife Emily died in 1916, and he returned to his hometown Chicago. Before eventually selling it to the Government of Mexico in 1921, MacVeagh rented the house to notable persons of the time, including Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, and Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium during their visit in 1919.

The Mexican government purchased the property in 1921 for the consideration of $330,000. At that time, they constructed the overscaled Tuscan porte-cochere at the entrance. It was utilized as the Mexican Embassy and residence of the Mexican Ambassador. Later, in 1934, the outstanding second floor mural by Cuevo Del Rio was added, depicting the solidarity of Western Hemisphere nations. After the Ambassador moved out in the late 1980s, the house had continued to be associated with the Embassy, and has served since then as the Mexican Cultural Institute.

 

Mexican Cultural Institute

Mexican Cultural Institute