The block-long beaux arts facade of the historic Perry Belmont Mansion could easily be mistaken for a European palace or a Gilded Age library. And given its location in the embassy-dense Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C., most people assume it houses some wealthy diplomatic office, perhaps hailing from Switzerland, or the court of King Louis XIV. The truth about its past is far more unexpected.
The house was built as a second residence by wealthy congressman Perry Belmont in 1909 for a cool $500,000 (more than $12 million in 2016 dollars). Contemporary reporters noted the 55,000-square-foot structure made the White House look tiny. But Belmont lost much of his wealth in the stock market crash of 1929 and was forced to sell his palatial D.C. abode at a ruinous loss and retire from the gilded social scene.
The Order of the Eastern Star is the Ladies origination of Freemasonry. They purchased the monumental house during the Great Depression for a bargain of $100,000. The Perry Belmont House is now the International Headquarters of the OES. It is open to the public but they request you call first.
The OES once counted 500,000 worldwide members, but fraternal orders diminished in popularity decades ago. Now, the group has fewer than 15,000 members.
Know Before You Go
You can tour the International Headquarters/Perry Belmont House. However, please call in advance and they will try to accommodate. The tour number is 202-667-4737.