Tangier American Legation Museum – Tangier, Morocco - Atlas Obscura
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Tangier American Legation Museum

This stucco building in North Africa was the first American-owned property on foreign soil. 

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The Tangier American Legation is an attractive Moorish style building, built of stuccoed masonry, in Tangier, Morocco. The building is in the, walled medina section of the city and was the first American public property outside the United States.

The Legation commemorates the historic relationship between the two countries, which dates back to when the Kingdom of Morocco became the first to recognize the United States as a nation. It is also symbolic of the 1786 Moroccan–American Treaty of Friendship, which is still in force today.

The Legation was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1981, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982—the only such designation of a property outside the U.S. The building has also been listed on the Register of Culturally Significant Property a register of State Department properties around the world that have particular cultural or historical significance.

The legation is an elaborate building of stuccoed masonry. It is a complex structure which contains the original two-story mud and stone building presented to the United States in 1821 by Sultan Moulay Suliman. It was the first property acquired abroad by the United States government and housed the United States Legation and Consulate for 140 years.

This is the most extensive period of time that any building abroad has been occupied as a United States diplomatic post. The complex of buildings expanded over the years as the surrounding buildings were purchased. During the Second World War it was used as a headquarters for United States intelligence agents.

After the diplomatic capital of Morocco moved to Rabat in 1956, when the country regained its independence from France and Spain, the Legation’s time as a diplomatic building ended. Over the years the U.S. government used it for a variety of roles including consulate and Peace Corps offices, but it became neglected and was at one time threatened with demolition.

In 1976 a group of American citizens established a public, not-for profit organization to save the building. Today the site is a museum and cultural center, officially known as the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies. There is a research library and conference space, and the center offers community outreach programs including Arabic literacy courses.

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