Fifty years of the US ambassadors’ residence

Fifty years of the US ambassadors’ residence
Fifty years of the US ambassadors’ residence

Chronicles

Between history and architecture: Fifty years of the US ambassadors’ residence

Wednesday May 8, 2024 – 11:53


Hatem Bourial

Like the residences of the ambassadors of France, Belgium or the United Kingdom, the American residence has both historical and architectural importance. A look at a monument now listed on the national heritage register.

Built in 1974, the residence of the American ambassadors is located in Sidi Bou Said. In the heart of the Gulf of Tunis, the land on which this residence was built was entrusted by the American Department of State to Tunisian architects, notably Brahim Taktak and Othman Ben Ghanem.

These two architects and their teams, in consultation with the ancestor of Overseas Buildings Operations, chose to design a building which integrates elements relating to the spirit of the place into the beauty of the site. Inspired by Tunis, Sidi Bou Said and Kairouan, the residence was born after four years of studies and work.

The first head of mission to reside in this residence, which combines large reception rooms with several private spaces, is none other than Ambassador Talcott Seelye, who died in 2006. With his wife Joan Hazeltine, who is now 96 years old, They were therefore the first to live in this house which testifies to the depth of relations between the United States and Tunisia.

In addition to its gardens, the residence includes a passage which leads to the sea, like the “aouama” of yesteryear which one reached by crossing a tunnel. If this passage dates back to the Beylical era, construction work in the early seventies made it possible to discover several layers of historical sediments dating back to the Phoenicians and the Romans.

The site which served as a watchtower will also be used by the Axis forces and then the victorious Allies, during the Second World War, between November 1942 and May 1943. Since then, facing the Cap Bon peninsula, at the foot of the Sidi Bou Said hill, the site will await construction work on the residence initiated in 1970.

Recently listed in the Tunisian heritage register, the residence of the American ambassadors has already lived for fifty years and is preparing to begin a new cycle of another fifty years. Many initiatives, including the project of a small museum testifying to Tunisian-American friendship, are about to see the light of day while the residence underwent major renovation work between May and December 2022.

Occupied today by Ambassador Joey Hood and his wife Anne Lompo, the US residence is now among the remarkable monuments and, like several chancelleries and residences of friendly countries, testifies to the long diplomatic tradition in Tunisia.

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