Florida holds the distinction of being the only state to have its own embassy in the nation’s capital.
Rhea Chiles, the late wife of Florida’s former Governor Lawton Chiles, had the idea for a Florida embassy in the late 1960s when she and her elementary school-age children were visiting Washington, DC. They got lost and found themselves on Embassy Row when one of the kids remarked, “Let’s go to Florida’s embassy, and they will tell us where we are.”
A few years later when her husband became the U.S. Senator from Florida, Mrs. Chiles remembered those words and became determined to open a place where residents of the Sunshine State could find hospitality, information and a glass of orange juice when visiting DC.
She set her sights on an old 1891 row house located on Capitol Hill behind the Supreme Court building that had fallen into disrepair and was being lived in by vagrants. With $5,000 from her own pocket and $120,000 raised from Floridians, Chiles purchased the property, had the house restored, changed the formal entrance to Second Street, and opened the building to the public in 1973.
Today, Florida House is a not-for-profit, non-partisan “goodwill embassy” that hosts 10,000 people a year. It proudly showcases donated art and antiques from Floridians and provides cultural and educational programs which enable visitors to expand their knowledge about the federal government.
Florida House has become an essential first stop for Floridians visiting the nation’s capital. It is open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm and closed weekends as well as federal holidays.