Residence of the U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco
A Long Franco-American History
Close by the Presidential Elysée Palace, the Champs Elysées and the Place de la Concorde,41 rue du Faubourg St. Honoré and its famous occupants have been at the center of Parisian life for three centuries. Joseph Antoine d’Aguesseau brother of the Royal Chancellor Henri d’Aguesseau purchased the property in 1710 to build a grand home there. It later passed through a succession of prominent owners before being reborn at the hands of a remarkable American woman of our early history, Micaela Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba. A talented real estate developer and indefatigable New Orleanian, the Baroness hired noted Italian-born French architect Louis Visconti to create the grand Hôtel de Pontalba. Completed in 1852, the mansion, its lavish contents, and the English garden she commissioned became the talk of Paris.
After the Baroness died, the property was purchased in 1876 by Edmond de Rothschild of the famous banking family. His French architect, Félix Langlais, extensively remodeled and extended Pontalba’s hôtel particulier. Tragedy struck the next generation of Rothschilds, who were forced to flee Paris as the Nazis moved in. Hermann Göring requisitioned the house to serve as his Luftwaffe officers’ club. After the war, the Allies rented it for three years, and in 1948 the United States purchased it for use as offices for The US Information Services during the Marshall Plan. Restoration work from 1966 to 1972 reclaimed the building’s grand residential purpose, preparing it for public service as the U.S. Ambassador’s home. A new era in the centuries-old saga of 41 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré was about to begin.
A Crown Jewel in America’s Diplomatic Crown
Ambassador Arthur K. Watson was the first envoy to move in. Over the following fifty years, fifteen U.S. ambassadors put America’s best foot forward in France from one of Paris’s most magnificent homes on one of its most storied streets. The residence serves as a Franco-American gathering place for thousands of French and American guests each year. Its elegant salons have hosted high-level diplomacy at historic moments such as the end of the Vietnam conflict and the Cold War, the effort to rally the world to respond to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the push to bring the Paris Climate Accords into being. Visiting U.S. presidents stay there; French presidents come from the nearby Elysée Palace to attend diplomatic events. Whether guests are statesmen or students, artists or entrepreneurs, all are inspired by the elegance of its French interiors, the peacefulness of its emerald green gardens, and the grand sweep of its long Franco-American story.
After Five Decades of Continual Diplomatic Use—
and over 130 years since Edmond de Rothschild’s reconstruction of the original Hôtel de Pontalba––the 19th Century mansion and gardens require extensive repairs and restoration. Improvements necessary to prepare the residence for its next half-century of service include:
- Mechanical System Upgrades Every major system, from electrical to plumbing to accessibility and more, needs to be updated or replaced, not least to make the residence more energy efficient.There is currently little climate control to protect the artwork and other heritage items in the residence.
- Historic Restorations To return the building and gardens to their 19th Century splendor, complex and costly restorations are in order, from reconstructing the historic front portico and rear terrace railing to replacing each window to stabilize the interior environment and better conserve the 18th and 19th century decor.
- Climate Sustainability Paris’ rising water table necessitates extensive new waterproofing. Eco-friendly innovations such as heat exchangers and solar panels must be explored.