Built in 1888, Washington, D.C.’s “Sherman House,” which today is home to the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United States, is a spacious, brick, Richardsonian-style house, featuring a massive hip roof, prominent chimneys and a distinctive round corner tower. The house was designed and built by Charles and Samuel Edmonston for Susan Shields, the widow of a wealthy newspaper publisher. The Edmonston’s familiar design style is reflected in many of the Dupont Circle neighborhood’s most enduring apartments and homes.
Known to many as “Sunny Jim,” Sherman’s family line boasts Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman who served decisively in the U.S. Civil War as well as Roger Sherman -- one of the original signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Over the years, the house has had some notable tenants, but none more notable than American Vice President James S. Sherman, the 27th Vice President of the United States. Born on October 24th, 1855 in Utica, New York, Sherman served as President William Howard Taft’s vice president and remains the only vice president ever to have died in office.
In part for its proximity to the White House and Capitol Hill, Vice President Sherman moved in to 1401 16th Street, NW in 1910. The residence quickly became an important access point to the White House and administration, as many politicians and diplomats were welcomed and entertained in the richly appointed home. Sherman’s most famous quote, was that “acting as messenger boy was not part of the duties of Vice President.” So instead of simply relaying messages, he would frequently use the house as a venue to bring together Members of Congress and President Taft to discuss policy in a less formal setting than the White House.In 1884, “Sunny Jim” began his political career by breaking away from his Democrat father and serving as the Republican Mayor of Utica, New York. Soon thereafter, in 1887, Sherman was elected to the House of Representatives to represent the 23rd District of New York. In Congress, Sherman quickly rose to become the body’s most powerful and influential Member. Despite never becoming Speaker, he sat on many committees during his time on Capitol Hill, including serving as Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. Known as a charming consensus-builder, Sherman left Congress to become Chairman of the Republican Party and, in 1908, was selected as President William Howard Taft’s Vice Presidential nominee. Taft won election that November, and the two took office in March of 1909.
When Taft ran for reelection in 1912, Sherman was again selected to run by his side, but “Sunny Jim’s” health was fading. Sherman delivered his acceptance speech at his party’s convention - against the orders of his doctors – but died just days before the election in the house he loved. Without his congenial running mate, President Taft lost his reelection bid to Woodrow Wilson. Sherman’s widow, Carrie, remained in the home until 1914.
To honor the Sherman tradition of open-door hospitality, diplomats fromKazakhstan go to great lengths welcome and entertain official visitors as well as the general public, who are always welcome to tour the inside of the house. Not only is the exterior of the Embassy wonderful, but the inside is well-appointed with rich, dark woodwork, high ceilings and ornate staircases. The Embassy is much like the country itself in that it welcomes anyone through its door and visitors can view the Kazakh artwork, jewelry, statues, and cultural attire on display inside, including a room designed to resemble the interior of a traditional Kazakh yurt, or nomadic tent.
The “Sherman House” is a small slice of American history. Since its construction, the house has served as a place of fellowship, dialogue and the open exchange of ideas. Appropriately, Kazakhstan’s modern day diplomats have embraced Sherman’s open-door policy to and used it to strengthen relations between Kazakhstan and the United States.
For a tour of the Sherman House, please schedule your visit by sending a tweet to @kazakhembassy or posting to the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington, D.C.’s Facebook page.