Embassy of the United States in London: Wikis

  
  

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Embassy of the United States in London
Location: Westminster, London
Address: Grosvenor Square
Ambassador: Louis Susman

The Embassy of the United States of America to the Court of St James's is at the American Embassy London Chancery Building, in Grosvenor Square, Westminster, London. The London embassy is the largest American embassy in Western Europe, and is said to be one of London's most recognisable buildings,[1] having been granted Grade II listed status in October 2009 for its Modernist architecture.[2] The building is the focal point for events relating to the United States held in the United Kingdom.

Contents

History

The statue of General Eisenhower, in front of the embassy

The first American Embassy in London was situated in Great Cumberland Place, later moving to Piccadilly, Portland Place and Grosvenor Gardens. In 1938, the embassy was moved to 1 Grosvenor Square (which now hosts part of the Canadian High Commission). During this time, Grosvenor Square began to accommodate many U.S. government offices, including the headquarters of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the European headquarters of the United States Navy. Following World War II, the Duke of Westminster donated land for a memorial to wartime President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The current U.S. Embassy building was constructed in the late 1950s, opening in 1960; it was designed by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen. It is a nine-storey building, of which three are below ground. A large gilded aluminum Bald Eagle with a wingspan of over 11 metres (35 feet) is situated on the roof of the chancery building, making it a recognizable London landmark.

This embassy, as with many U.S. embassies in the world, is situated on land that is not owned by the U.S. government. The land is leased from the Duke of Westminster who, when asked if he would sell the land outright, responded that he would if the U.S. Government would return the land that belonged to his family in the U.S. before it was confiscated during the Revolutionary War. The Duke refused to grant a freehold because, from the Duke's perspective, the U.S. Government had stolen some of his ancestor's estates in Virginia.[3]

Security concerns

Security barriers outside the Embassy, 2006

Security at the embassy was further tightened in the 1980s and '90s following successive attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. However, it was after the September 11 attacks in 2001 that security was significantly increased. A massive security operation at the embassy has seen one side of Grosvenor Square closed to public access by car, and armed roadblocks are stationed outside the building. On August 29, 2002, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian descent was arrested at the Stockholm-Västerås Airport trying to board a Ryanair Flight 685 destined for London Stansted Airport with a loaded gun in his luggage. Anonymous intelligence sources cited in the media claimed that the man was planning to hijack the aircraft and crash it into the United States embassy in London, using the rooftop eagle to identify it from the air. Sweden's Security Service, Säpo, denied the claims and called the reports "false information".[4] The man was subsequently cleared of all terrorism-related charges.[5]

The security threat against the embassy has prompted the U.S. government to consider moving the embassy. Several British media outlets reported that the U.S government had wished to use Kensington Palace as their embassy. This was apparently vetoed by Queen Elizabeth II, as several members of the British Royal Family, including Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, have their residences there. The embassy "strenuously denied" the reports, and a spokesman for Buckingham Palace reported that no formal request had been made.[6]

Future

On 2 October 2008, the Embassy announced a conditional agreement with the real estate developer Ballymore to construct a new site for the Embassy in the Nine Elms area of the London Borough of Wandsworth, south of the River Thames.[7] The plan will only go forward if approved by the United States Congress and local planning authorities in London.[8] The United States Department of State announced in January 2009 that it was choosing among nine architectural firms, all "modern" and "upmarket," to replace the aging embassy headquarters.[7] In March 2009 the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations announced that four architectural firms have been selected for the final phase of the design competition for the new United States Embassy in London [7]. By law, the architect for a U.S. embassy must be an American firm with "numerous security clearances."[7] Construction of the new embassy is expected to begin in 2012 or 2013, with relocation completed by 2016 or 2017.[9]

In November 2009, the American government conditionally agreed to sell the Chancery Building to Qatari real-estate investment firm Qatari Diar, which in 2007 purchased the Chelsea Barracks.[10] Though the price was undisclosed, the building's worth was estimated at £500 million in July 2007, however property values have since dropped by 45%.[11] Additionally, the development value of the property was reduced when the building was given Grade II listed status,[11] requiring developers to maintain its current design.[12]

Embassy sections

  • Consular Section
    • American Citizen Services
    • Visa Services
  • United States Commercial Service
    • Liaison Office to European Bank for Reconstruction & Development
  • Defense Attaché
  • Foreign Agricultural Service
  • Customs and Border Protection
  • Public Affairs
  • Office of Defense Cooperation
  • Department of Homeland Security (Immigration)
  • Internal Revenue Service

There are also American consulates general in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Edinburgh, Scotland and a Welsh Affairs Office in Cardiff, Wales as well as a contact centre based in Glasgow.

Opening times

The American Embassy in London is open from 8am to 5pm for visitors with appointments to the Visa and most American Citizen services sections who must make an appointment. However, visitors for the Federal Benefits Unit are welcome without needing to book an appointment from Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:30am and 1pm. Visitors for the Internal Revenue Service may also visit for walk-in enquiries on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9am to 4pm only. The Embassy is closed on Saturdays and Sundays as well as all U.K. and U.S. public holidays. American citizens in distress can always reach an American Duty Officer via +44 (0)20-7499-9000.

Staff

Louis B. Susman was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's on July 29, 2009 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He took up his duties in London on August 17, 2009. The Deputy Chief of Mission is Richard LeBaron.

See also

  • Winfield House - the official residence of the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom

References

  1. ^ "US embassy moving to south London". BBC News. 2008-10-02. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7649184.stm. Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  2. ^ Sherwin, Adam (2009-10-23). "US sale plan spoilt as its London embassy is listed". The Times (London). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6886348.ece. Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  3. ^ Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press,2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
  4. ^ "Hijack suspect had flight training in US". The Independent (London). 2002-09-01. http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article175451.ece. Retrieved 2006-12-27.  
  5. ^ "Sweden drops hijack inquiry". BBC News. 2002-10-30. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2377641.stm. Retrieved 2006-12-27.  
  6. ^ "US 'eyed royal palace'". BBC News. 2003-08-17. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3157759.stm. Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  7. ^ a b c d Lee, Matthew (2009-01-02). "US looks upscale for London embassy design". Associated Press. Washington: FOX News. http://origin2.foxnews.com/wires/2009Jan02/0,4670,USLondonEmbassy,00.html. Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  8. ^ Embassy of the United States in London (2008-10-02). "U.S. Takes First Steps Toward Embassy Relocation". Press release. http://www.usembassy.org.uk/ukpapress84.html. Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  9. ^ Gray, Melissa (2009-11-03). "Qatari firm buys U.S. Embassy building in London". CNN. http://edition.cnn.hu/2009/WORLD/europe/11/03/us.embassy.london/index.html. Retrieved 2009-11-03.  
  10. ^ O'Connor, Rebecca (2009-11-03). "Qataris buy US Embassy building in London". London: The Times. http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/construction_and_property/article6901412.ece. Retrieved 2009-11-03.  
  11. ^ a b Bourke, Chris (2009-11-03). "U.S. Embassy Building in London Sold to Qatari Diar". Bloomberg. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601102&sid=a1Qtc5S4AfCY. Retrieved 2009-11-03.  
  12. ^ "US embassy sold to Qatari group". BBC News. 2009-11-03. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/8340118.stm. Retrieved 2009-11-03.  

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′40″N 0°09′11″W / 51.51118°N 0.15295°W / 51.51118; -0.15295








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