...We are closely associated and are allies, because it helps to protect the interest of our country and because it protects the interests of freedom around the world. I do not believe that there is any Embassy in the world more important to the United States than the Embassy in Paris, because the influence of this city and country goes far beyond its borders”
President John F. Kennedy’s in remarks at the U.S. Embassy Paris, June 1, 1961
The Chancery of the Embassy of the United States in Paris was the first building constructed by the U.S. Government to consolidate its foreign affairs agencies abroad. It was, however, the last building to be constructed on the historic Place de la Concorde in the heart of Paris. In order to build the Chancery, the Foreign Service Buildings Commission, established by an act of Congress in 1926, purchased the property on the northwest corner in 1928. Soon after, the Commission appointed the New York architectural firm of Delano and Aldrich to design a building in harmony with the architectural style originally conceived for this square by the architect of Louis XV, Jacques-Ange Gabriel.
In the mid-eighteenth century, when Gabriel was asked to design the original royal square, the neighbohood was more rural than urban. In 1757, the City of Paris legally authorized the creation of the Place Louis XV and the rue Royale. The same law decreed that all buildings on the Place should be designed in architectural symmetry. The Ministry of the Navy was built between 1762 and 1772. At the same time, two sumptuous private residences, the Hotel d'Aumont (now the Hotel de Crillon) and the Hotel Coslin, were constructed on the Place.
A wealthy landowner, Grimod de la Reyniere, purchased the property where the chancery now stands from the City of Paris in 1769. There he built a mansion which would be known for its magnificent receptions and opulent banquets, but which never conformed to the architectural requirements decreed by law. In the 19th century, the mansion was sold, briefly became the provisional headquarters of the Duke of Wellington (1816), and later was bequeathed to the French government. In 1850, the mansion became the Residence of the Turkish Ambassador and later, from 1877 until 1928, it housed the Cercle de l'Union Artistique, an artists' professional association.
On the staircase walls beneath the medallion seal of the United States hang two Gilbert Stuart oils, a large full figure portrait of George Washington and a smaller portrait of James Monroe, Minister to France in 1794. The large atrium lobby behind the staircase, a room originally used for consular affairs, is now sometimes used for special gatherings when the President, Vice President or Secretary of State visits the Embassy.
Eight elegant chandeliers, presented as a gift to the Embassy form the Cercle de l'Union Artistique, adorn the executive offices and reception areas on the first floor. Two of the chandeliers grace the Ambassador's office, with its oak floors laid in the special design known as parquet Versailles. The oak comes from beams originally set in the Louvre Museum.
The sculptured oak cornices in the first floor Wallace Library and the Protocol Office display friezes of the interwoven letters "U.S.A." The Wallace collection of 2,437 volumes dealing with Franco-American relations was formally presented to the United States Government as a gift in 1930 by Ambassador Hugh C.Wallace. Another valuable collection in the Library is Duvergier's French Laws and Decrees, dating from the first publication in 1786. The library is often used by the Ambassador for large meetings. Many preparations for the 1994 Presidential visit in Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day were completed in the Wallace Library by White House and Embassy employees involved in that historic occasion.
The United States of America sent representatives to France for a century and a half before construction of the Embassy Chancery was begun in 1931. These included famous Americans such as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe. These first Ministers or Ambassadors, and those who followed them, occupied many different premises. The first American legation (1777-1785), established by Benjamin Franklin at 66, rue Raynouard in Passy in the 16th arrondissement, no longer stands, but a trace of the history lives on in the name of the rue Franklin.
Toward the end of his stay in Paris in 1789, Thomas Jefferson occupied an apartment near the Champs Elysées at 2, rue de Berri in the 8th arrondissement. His residence was frequented by French military officers, such as the Marquis de Lafayette, who had fought with the Americans in the War of Independence. In 1870 the legation relocated to 75, avenue Foch and remained there throughout the Franco-Prussian War.
The Place des Etats-Unis received its name when the American legation occupied the premises facing it in 1882. Perhaps presaging the mobility of American society in the 20th century, the legation moved from 59, rue Galilée (1887-1897), to 18, avenue Kleber (1898-1913) and then to 5, rue de Chaillot (1914-1933). During World War I, the Hotel de Crillon was an annex of the Embassy.
As America's role in the world expanded, and the American delegation in Paris grew, various services and offices were scattered across the city. A building was needed to bring all the American agencies under one roof, and in 1925 the search for the site of the present chancery began.
Listen to this radio program
- Emission France Inter - "Si l'Amérique m'était contée" Episode 24 : 2, avenue Gabriel, 75008, Paris Visite de l’Ambassade des Etats-Unis en France, 15 février 2014 with Charge d'Affaires ad interim Mark A. Taplin.
A Guide to Portraits in the Chancery
The Cultural Heritage Program (CHP) in the General Services Office
(GSO) is tasked with maintaining the Heritage Collection of fine
objects including historic finishes and furnishings of the Embassy
Tri-Mission. The CHP also manages the Art in Embassies Program as
well as the Docent Tour Program. The portraits in the Chancery are part of the Heritage Collection. The collection of portraits ranges from the American
Forefathers and the first envoys to France to the succeeding Ministers
Plenipotentiary and Ambassadors. The collection also includes two
Enjoy our Portraits Gallery online ! (PDF, 1 MB)
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