Meridian House, at 1630 Crescent Place, was built by Ambassador Irwin Boyle Laughlin. He purchased the land in 1912, two years after his friend Henry White bought the adjacent site. Both houses are residential jewels designed by renowned architect John Russell Pope, who designed the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art (West Building) and the National Archives. After a long and distinguished career with the US Foreign Service, Mr. Laughlin retired in 1919 and built Meridian House, filling it with his collection of 18th century French drawings and Oriental porcelains and screens. Although he later returned to the diplomatic corps, serving as Ambassador to Greece and Spain in the 1920s and 30s, Mr. Laughlin also played an active role in Washington’s artistic and historical communities.
Ambassador Laughlin was married to Therese Iselin, daughter of New York banker Adrian Iselin. Their daughter, Gertrude, who married Rear Admiral Hubert Winthrop Chanler, lived in Meridian House during her youth and from time to time after her marriage, especially when her husband was away on naval assignments. The house remained in the Laughlin family until 1958.
In 1960, a newly created non-profit organization dedicated to promoting international understanding, which later became Meridian International Center, received a grant from the Ford Foundation to purchase Meridian House. Gertrude Chanler served as a Meridian trustee for many years and made a substantial donation to start Meridian's endowment. Her children continue to support Meridian International Center and frequently visit the house with their own children.