On New Hampshire Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., sits the magnificent International Headquarters building, one of the pride and joy possessions of the members of the Order of the Eastern Star. The Headquarters building has a rich and exciting history that began at the turn of the century in Washington, D.C.
Formerly the Perry Belmont Mansion, it was started in 1906 and completed in 1909, at the then-extravagant cost of $1.5 million. Perry and Jessie Belmont built the mansion for the specific purpose of entertaining not only notables of Washington, but also dignitaries from all over the world. The building was only used during the Washington party season (about two months each year) and special events. It was designed by Eugene Sanson, a famous French architect who had designed many grand homes and chateaus in Europe. He was renowned for his use of light and space, and for his beautiful staircases.
Long before the acquisition of the building by the General Grand Chapter in 1935, it was a site of elegance, gracious and grand hospitality, of distinguished diplomats, world-renowned guests and romance. The Belmonts entertained lavishly and had a staff of approximately 34 servants. They used the house from 1909 to 1925. It was then closed and put on the market for sale with the stipulation that it could not be altered for 20 years after the purchase. The mansion stood empty and unused until 1935, when the General Grand Chapter purchased it.
Mr. Belmont being a Mason and happy to be selling it to someone who would take care of it, sold it to The General Grand Chapter for $100,000. As part of our agreement with Mr. Belmont, The General Grand Chapter law states that the Right Worthy Grand Secretary must live in the building. So the building is still a working private residence as well as our Headquarters.
Many furnishings, including several Tiffany vases, 37 oil paintings, Louis the 14th and 15th furniture, china and oriental rugs were included with the purchase of the Temple and are still on display for our members and their guests to enjoy on tours.
Chandeliers throughout are gold gilt and hung with hand-carved rock crystal drops – some with amethyst as well. There are eleven fireplaces, most with hand-carved marble mantles. All the marble in the house was brought from Italy, all of the wood from Germany and all the metal fixtures from France.
On May 6, 2015, the District of Columbia Preservation League awarded the General Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star an “Award of Excellence in Historic Preservation” in the Stewardship category. With the recommendation of two of our major contractors, Wagner Roofing and Collins Elevator, an application was submitted in late October 2014 by Alma Lynn Bane, Right Worthy Grand Secretary. She was notified on January 7, 2015, that the General Grand Chapter, OES, had been selected as the 2015 Recipient of the Stewardship Award. Present to accept the Award were the following GGC Officers, Committee Chairmen and Appointees from 2012-15: John Grobler, Most Worthy Grand Patron; Alma Lynn Bane, Right Worthy Grand Secretary; Paula Argus, Right Worthy Grand Trustee, Chairman; Betty Briggs, Right Worthy Grand Trustee, Co-Chairman and Right Worthy Grand Secretary emeritus; Dennis Jordan, Right Worthy Grand Trustee, Secretary; Bill Bane, International Headquarters Administrator; Ann Merryman, International Headquarters GGC Committee Chairman; and Leonard Merryman, Webmaster. The Award Certificate is on display with pride in the accomplishments of the entire membership of the General Grand Chapter, OES, world-wide in their donations and continued support of our beautiful International Headquarters, the Belmont Mansion of the District of Columbia.