Then and Now: The former Italian embassy
History: The story of the Italian embassy on 16th street starts in January of 1924, when it was announced that plans for the new embassy had been completed and sent to Rome for approval. It was believed this would happen since the project had already been ratified both by the Italian government and the parliament and the Italian Ambassador Don Gelasic Caetani had been given a free hand in the matter.
Before moving to the 16th Street and Fuller location, the Italian legation had moved no fewer than 13 times between 1881 and 1925. Finding a long term location was a high priority for Ambassador Caetani.
The new embassy was estimated to cost $500,000 to build, all the marble and decorations coming from Italy. The whole building was planned to be faced with marble and have a colonnaded court that would include a fountain. This court was to have statuary along its sides and connect the embassy with the chancery.
In 1971, it was reported that the Italian Government had acquired a million dollar, five acre property at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Whitehaven on which they intended to build a new embassy residence and chancery. Part of the driving force behind relocating was crime in the City. By 1971, Ambassador Ortona had been mugged in Meridian Park, and this initiated the search for a less crime-ridden area with greater security.
Despite finding a new location for the embassy in 1971, the embassy did not move permanently to the new location until the summer of 2000.
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