The RCC building, a large mansion located on the corner of LeRoy Place and Phelps Place in the Kalorama area of Washington, D.C., was built in 1897, and designed by Thomas Franklin Schneider, perhaps the most famous architect of the period in Washington.
The first residents of the 1825 Phelps Place were Mr. Conrad Miller, celebrated lecturer and publisher and his wife Anna Jennes Miller.
By the turn of the century Thomas Francis Walsh purchased the residence as he moved to Washington, D.C. with his family. He was an Irish-American miner who had discovered in Colorado one of the largest gold mines in the U.S. He was also a strong supporter and friend of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. His daughter Evalyn Walsh McLean was famous for owning the Hope Diamond which she and husband Ned McLean saw at Cartier’s in Paris on the honeymoon, and later purchased. They also owned the Washington Post newspaper.
We called the house, always, “the LeRoy and Phelps Place”. …But in Washington, the magnificence of the carriage neighborhood was strong enough to keep me on the ground. The house was a three-story yellow brick, with a tile roof, and there was no ugliness either outside of it or in it. It had been the home of Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Jenness Miller. Father bought the place “complete”; so that we emerged from our hotel chrysalis to become full-winged Washington householders… now we were possessors of all manners of “things”. – Evalyn Walsh McLean
An early Russian connection took place in 1901, when Evalyn Walsh McLean hosted a party and was shocked to see her friend Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, offer a cigarette to Countess Marguerite Cassini, the daughter of the Russian Ambassador, – taboo at that time. Countess Cassini’s father, Russian Ambassador to the U.S. during McKinley & Roosevelt administrations, was born in Trieste but went to Russia and served in diplomatic post under Czar Nicholas II. Countess Cassini’s son was the famous fashion designer, Oleg Cassini.
The handsome yellow brick mansion, with a green tiled roof and 33 rooms, cost $58,129.91, a small fortune in 1899. The upstairs bedroom was a vision in blue satin. The first-floor salons were richly paneled in oak. Carved pilasters framed the doorways. The most striking feature was a curved, carved oaken staircase in the center hallway, brightened from above by a third-floor domed skylight.
– Washington Post, November 27, 1999
The next owner of the residence was Mr.Aldis Browne who sold the property to Mr. Benjamin Franklin Pilson.
For nearly half a century the 1825 Phelps Place was the home of the Benjamin Franklin Pilson family. Mr.Benjamin Pilson was vice-president of the Ajaz Metal Co. and vice president of the Arm Spear Manufacturing Companies. The three Pilson children are Founders of the Friends of the RCC (FRCC) and Elizabeth Pilson Imirie, a member of the FRCC Board of Governors, was married at 1825 Phelps Place.
The building was purchased by the Russian Government as a school for Embassy children.
From the Washington Evening Star, March 30, 1958:
“Each morning a shiny black Cadillac pulls up before 1825 Phelps Place NW. A chauffeur steps smartly form behind the wheel to open the door for several bright youngsters who bound out to attend classes at what is probably the most unusual school in the United States. The children, about 40 in all, attend an official Russian school, form first grade through fourth, run by the rulebook of the Soviet Ministry of Education. The school enjoys diplomatic immunity because its pupils are the sons and daughters of Iron Curtain officials stationed in Washington. Those who live near enough walk to school. For the others, the Cadillac is the school bus”.
The building later became the Russian Embassy Consulate where Americans, traveling to Russia, would go to receive their visas.
March 1998 – December 1999
Following the signing of a bilateral agreement between the American and Russia governments, in 1990, 1825 Phelps eventually was designated to serve as the Russian Cultural Centre.
Valentina Tereshkova, Head of the RCC’s parent organization and “The First Lady of Space” (the first female to orbit the earth – 1963), cut the ribbon on 1825 Phelps Place to declare the official opening of the Russian Cultural Centre. In her speech she asked Americans to “please consider the new RCC as your home too”.
December 10, 1999
Grand Opening Ceremonies of the Russian Cultural Centre
April 20, 2001
An American tree on Russian soil
Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of Russia (USSR), architect of the Cold War peace and Nobel Prize Winner, plants the Russian and American Tree of Peace on front lawn of the Russian Cultural Centre to symbolize hopes for Russian American peace in the 21st century.
The Friends of The Russian Cultural Centre is the American 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization which provides support to the RCC