Meridian House, at 1630 Crescent Place, was built by Ambassador Irwin Boyle Laughlin. He purchased the land in 1912, two years after his friend Henry White bought the adjacent site. After a long and distinguished career with the US Foreign Service, Mr. Laughlin retired in 1919 and filled his house with his collections of 18th-century French drawings and Oriental porcelains and screens. Although he later returned to the diplomatic corps, serving as Ambassador to Greece and Spain in the 1920s and 1930s, Mr. Laughlin also played an active role in Washington’s artistic and historical communities.
Meridian House was built in the 1920s by renowned architect John Russell Pope. Pope was well-known in the DC architectural scene for designing the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art (West Building) and the National Archives. In 1929, Meridian House was described by Architectural Forum as:
Renovated in 1994, Meridian House's principal rooms retain their original architectural detail including the 18th century European overdoor paintings, antique brass hardware, and lighting fixtures. The classical symmetry of the Louis XVI style is reflected throughout the house.
The dining room features a beautiful Mortlake tapestry, which dates to the late 17th century. Purchased by the Laughlin family in England, the tapestry depicts the legendary reception given to Alexander the Great by the Greek philosopher Diogenes. An almost identical tapestry hangs in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The reception gallery remains much as it was at the time the Laughlin family occupied the house. The wrought-iron and marble-topped side tables, the four Waterford crystal torcheres in the corners, the blue Chinese temple jars, and the antique clock and barometer on the mirrored walls are all part of the original furnishings. The loggia, which links the major reception rooms and rear garden, includes four marble busts sculpted in France, representing the four seasons. The dining room also features two portraits one of Ambassador Laughlin and one of his daughter, Gertrude Laughlin Chanler, as a child. A portrait of Mrs. Laughlin hangs nearby in the Chairmen's Study. All three were painted by Philippe de Laszlo, a renowned portrait artist of the early 20th century.
The rear and side gardens largely retain their original design. The pebbled courtyard has 40 linden trees, imported from Europe when the house was built. The statues throughout the garden are original to the house, as are the statues at the four roof-line corners.
Meridian House is located at 1630 Crescent Place, NW. Open Hours – 8:00am to 6:00pm, Monday through Friday, with additional open hours when an exhibition is on view in the Cafritz Galleries. The house is available for special event rentals. Call 202-667-6800 for further information or visit the website www.meridian.org. Metro stop: Dupont Circle or U Street.