Historic Structures

Clarence Moore House (Canadian Chancery), Washington DC

Date added: November 4, 2010 Categories: House

Clarence Moore perished on the Titanic, which sank April 15, 1912 after colliding with an iceberg. Moore, who was born in Clarksburg. West Virginia March 1, 1865, had been interested in developing West Virginia coal mining, oil and timber properties. In 1890 he came to Washington where he became associated with W B Hibbs & Co., which became one of Washington's more successful banking and brokerage firms. Through Hibbs & Co., Moore engaged in many large real estate transactions.

Moore's first wife. Alice McLaughlin, daughter of Frank McLaughlin who was once the owner of the Philadelphia Times, died in 1897. In 1900 Moore married the former Mabelle Swift of Chicago. Six years after their marriage, the Moores began building their residence at 1746 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

A newspaper article at the time of the Titanic disaster reported:
"Mr. Clarence Moore has been identified with smart Washington circles for the last fifteen years. He was a noted horseman and he exhibited both in this country and in Europe. He was for some years master of the hounds of the Chevy Chase Club. [1888-1911]. His residence, 1748 Massachusetts Avenue, [now 1746] completed about three years ago, is one of the handsomest in the city, and is a constant scene of hospitality." (The Washington Post, 4-16-12)

Moore left Washington on March 16, 1912 to vacation in England and to purchase foxhounds. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord mentions that "Clarence Moore of Washington...had been dog-shopping, but the 50 pairs of English foxhounds he bought for the Loudoun Hunt weren't making the trip." Clarence Moore was lost with 1513 others on the Titanic.

Mabelle Swift Moore Wichfeld, Clarence Moore's second wife, was born March 28, 1878 and died February 1, 1933. Mabelle Swift was daughter of Edwin Carlton Swift of the Chicago meat packing family and therefore an heiress to the Swift fortune when her father died in 1901.

After her first husband's death, Mrs. Moore married Aksel C. P. Wichfeld in 1915. Aksel Wichfeld had come to the United States from his native Denmark in 1910. He engaged in banking and the operation of taxicab companies in New York City before being appointed as an attach of the Danish Legation in 1916. At the time of his marriage to Mrs. Moore, Wichfeld was a guest of his uncle, the Danish Minister Constantin Brun, in Washington, D.C.

The Wichfelds maintained residences in New York, Paris, Washington, D.C, and Swiftmoor at Prides Crossing, Massachusetts. The Sunday Star, April 17, 1927, when reporting the sale of the Wichfeld's Washington residence to the Canadian government, indicated that "while the Wichfelds have lived abroad chiefly for some years, their home here in recent times was the scene of many fashionable gatherings of diplomatic and social circles."

Mr. and Mrs. Wichfeld were divorced in 1932. Mr. Wichfeld later married Josephine (Fifi) Widener, daughter of Joseph E. Widener, art collector and capitalist. Mrs. Wichfeld died in 1933 while visiting friends in England, leaving three sons: Jaspar, Clarence and Lloyd Moore.

Canada's first diplomatic post in the United States was established when Vincent Massey presented his credentials as Minister Plentipotentiary to President Coolidge on February 18, 1927. Before this time, Canada's representation in America and other foreign countries was controlled by the British government. In 1943 the legation was raised to Embassy status, and Leighton McCarthy was appointed Ambassador.

On May 28, 1927 Canada bought the residence at 1746 Massachusetts Avenue from Mabelle Wichfeld for $375,000. A portion of its furnishings were also acquired for an additional $100,000.

The Assistant Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works of Canada reported to the Privy Council in 1927:
"The whole building is of the very best and most expensive type of construction, and is at present in very excellent state of repair. The interior finish, while most elaborate and expensive, is in good taste, dignified and in keeping with the interior requirements of any embassy... [From] what could be ascertained, backed by the opinion of one of the prominent architects of Washington, the building is considered one of the best built residences in the City."

From 1927 until 1946, the building served as combined chancery and residence for the Minister and later the Ambassador. Since 1946, when the original Wichfeld furnishings were moved to the present embassy residence at 2825 Rock Creek Drive, it has been used solely for offices.

The four-and-one-half-story-plus-basement structure is 79'-6" from sidewalk to roof ridge. The elevations measure 59'-0" along the three-bay north elevation (Massachusetts Avenue), 101'-0" along the composite four-bay east elevation (the last two bays broken back 4"), 58'-8" along the three-bay south elevation, and 101'-0" along the composite four-bay west elevation, which has an 18'-6" south bay followed by a 31'-5" service bay broken forward 11'-0" from the building wall.

Floor plans: On axis with the north central entrance is a ground floor vestibule, a five bay entrance hall and a stair hall. The entrance hall is flanked by an east library and two west reception rooms divided by a lavatory. The stair hall gives access to south service rooms, and a west elevator and service stair; the main stair ascends at the east, having a lavatory and east elevation entrance beneath its first landing.

South of the first floor stair hall is the south dining room (Ambassador's office) and a southwest breakfast room. To the west are the elevator and service rooms and stair. North of the stair hall the reception corridor is flanked by east and west parlors, all three opening into the drawing room running the width of the Massachusetts Avenue elevation.

South of the second floor living hall are three bedrooms and two baths. The service area is to the west and the major bedroom suites to the north flanking the hall. Ascending north within the master suite corridor is a secondary straight-run stair to the upper floors.

Arranged around the north to south central hall, the third floor has bedroom suites and a southeast play room. The fourth floor has additional bedrooms and servants' quarters.