Washington’s Kalorama area is home to some of world’s most powerful people
Thursday - 02/03/2017 16:13
SO WHERE is Barack Obama these days?
Look no further than Washington D.C.’s swanky Kalorama neighbourhood.
You’ll find Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her family there too. Oh, and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos. But despite an influx of celebrity residents, the luxurious and stately enclave in the capital of the United States is keeping its cool. It’s used to it.
“It’s a neighbourhood that’s hidden away, with people of higher means, and it’s very quiet, very pleasant and very attractive,” said retiree Joan Ludlow, a retired administrator in higher education who has lived in Kalorama since 1979.
On a recent unusually mild winter afternoon, Ms Ludlow was reading a book in a sunny public garden. She said that like many of her neighbours, she was happy to hear Mr Obama had chosen to live nearby, even though Secret Service agents had blocked access to the street when his family moved in.
Parking in the neighbourhood has become a “big issue,” she said. Mr Obama and his wife Michelle are leasing an 800-square-metre house for at least two years to allow their younger daughter Sasha to finish high school.
Other former tenants of the White House, located less than three kilometres away, have lived in Kalorama over the years — notably, presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover.
The posh neighbourhood has a long history as the home of government ministers, Supreme Court justices, treasury secretaries, and other powerful figures in government and business.
Tucked into the northwest corner of the capital, it is full of large mansions and homes with impeccably groomed yards, where millionaires, senior diplomats and others enjoy an exclusive world of privilege.
Agnes O’Hare, the wife of the European Union’s ambassador to the United States, lives on the same street as the Obamas.
“I am sure they hate prying eyes of neighbours, but — who knows — maybe some day when they are out walking the dogs, we’ll see them,” she said with a smile.
“From time to time, you’ll catch a glimpse of someone you recognise and you’re trying to say, ‘Why do I think I know them?’ And then you realise it’s because you’ve seen them on television,” O’Hare said.
IVANKA AND NOW, TILLERSON
The latest VIP known to have succumbed to the charms of Kalorama is Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s new Secretary of State and the former head of ExxonMobil. The wealthy Texas oilman reportedly paid $US7.32 million for his house on February 10.
Among his neighbours is Mr Trump’s high-profile daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser.
The New York transplants, who have three children, chose a $US7.19 million property to live in that is now is ringed by security vehicles.
Their neighbours seemed a tad concerned about the presence of potentially rambunctious children. Jeannie O’Donnell said she was passing by the garden of the couple’s home one morning when she spotted the President’s daughter through the hedge pushing her three-year-old son on a swing.
“He was singing at the top of his lungs — ‘God Bless America,’” she said.
When the French-born American architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant designed the layout of Washington’s streets in 1791, what is now known as Kalorama was in a rural area northwest of the city.
In the early 19th century, a poet and diplomat named Joel Barlow bought a mansion in the idyllic landscape and called it Kalorama, which means “fine view” in Greek.
It has none of the exuberance of New York’s Park Avenue and lacks the glamour of Beverly Hills in California, but it is a major draw in the seat of US power for the mega-wealthy.
In October Mr Bezos, the head of online retail giant Amazon and one of the planet’s richest men, snapped up the mansion that was formerly the Textile Museum to turn it into Washington’s largest home. He paid $30 million for it.
Mr Bezos, who also lives on the West Coast, intends to use the 2,500 square metre property as a pied-à-terre on the East Coast. He is now the owner of The Washington Post.
France recently shook up the real estate market by putting up for sale a portion of the land at the residence of the French ambassador to the United States, currently occupied by Gerard Araud.
The imposing Tudor-style official residence, with its glittering chandeliers and treasures from the Mobilier National, France’s cultural furnishings agency, has long been a magnet for Washington social life and scene of many elegant soirees.
France is selling unused grounds, roughly 2,300 square meter, on the residence’s property for $7.32 million.
Given the rarity of land becoming available for construction in Kalorama, the real estate agency selling it presents the offering as “historic.”