Historic Preservation

From painter’s home to art museum to foreign embassy

The Embassy of the Republic of Latvia is a home with a rich story to tell. Alice Pike Barney, an American painter born in 1857, lived in the house from 1903 to 1926. She passed away in 1931, although there are many reports that she still walks the halls, and the house’s ownership was turned over to her two daughters. In 1961, Alice’s daughters donated the home, located at 2306 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., on Sheridan Circle outside of Washington, D.C., to the Smithsonian. In 1976, the house was opened as part of the National Museum of American Art, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In April 1995, the Alice Pike Barney Studio House was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The house remained in the possession of the Smithsonian until 1999.

Stinson later purchased the house. It was maintained in good condition by Joshua Taylor, director of the National Museum of American Art, but not restored, for as the Washington Post reported, “even the Smithsonian couldn’t afford all that amount of red and gold brocade for the walls, and the tapestries which were such a feature of the decoration would dissolve in a proof of dust if they were hung one more time.” Stinson made several updates and improvements to the interior, and sold the home to the Embassy of Latvia by which it is currently owned.

Developer and Architect – S.R. Stinson