Florida House on Capitol Hill
|Florida House on Capitol Hill|
|Address||1 2nd St NE|
Florida House on Capitol Hill (sometimes referred to as The Florida Embassy including its official web address, even though legally individual states do not have "embassies" as do foreign governments) is a privately owned education and information center located in central Washington, D.C.. It provides meeting, classroom and reception space for Floridians and others when they visit the nation's capital city. Florida House is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization funded solely through private donations; the building is not owned by the State of Florida nor is it supported by Florida taxpayer dollars.
Florida House conducts a number of educational, cultural and award programs each year. Educational programs include: Florida Congressional Intern Seminar Series, Interactive Map, Fernando Flamingo, Lawton Chiles Public Policy Seminar, Stavros Forum, Visitor’s Information Gallery, Florida Delegation Information Exhibit, Washington Visitor’s Information Guide, A Civic Responsibility: Understanding the Process, Florida House: An Oral History Project and a partnership with the Miss Florida program.
Cultural programs include: Florida Authors Series/Distinguished Artist, Florida Authors Library, Art Exhibits including Florida Highwaymen, Seminole Indian Tribe, and a partnership with Florida Museum of Art, Art Collection, Rotating Legendary Florida Exhibit, Inaugural Activities, and partnership with the Cherry Blossom Princess program. It hosts Florida’s participation in “Taste of the South.”
Awards include the 1845 Society, the Louise Lykes Ferguson Medal, the Rhea Chiles Vision Award, Florida Distinguished Artist, Florida Distinguished Author, and Cherry Blossom Princess.
Currently around 15,000 people visit Florida House each year. In addition to rest and relaxation (including a free glass of orange juice, Florida's official beverage), visitors meet a staff on hand with information on tours, restaurants, attractions, historic sites and directions.
The Florida House Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides cultural, social, educational and economic resources; showcases Florida’s culture and diversity; maintains and operates Florida House, Florida’s embassy in the nation’s capital; and provides opportunities for Florida’s citizens to enrich their appreciation and knowledge of the U.S. government.
Opening its door on October 26, 1973, Florida House became the first, and remains the only, “State Embassy” in Washington DC. Its purpose is to serve the people of the State of Florida. Florida House is an education and information center and provides exclusive meeting, classroom and reception space for Floridians visiting Washington DC.
The Victorian-style row house that is now Florida House was originally built in 1891 by Edward Manning, an architect working on the Library of Congress. By the time Rhea Chiles walked past the house in 1972, the neighborhood was unsafe, the second floor had caved in, the windows were boarded up and homeless people were living in the basement. But there was a “For Sale” sign out front. Recalling one of her children had asked where Florida’s embassy was during a tour of Embassy Row, she used that vision to raise $120,000 from friends in Florida then added $5,000 of her own money to purchase the house.
Operating on a Shoestring budget for the first ten years, when the beams holding up the third floor collapsed in 1982 sending everything tumbling, major structural and interior renovations were done. The trustees determined the furnishings in the house should reflect that of a home built in 1891. Every piece of furniture and art has been a gift from a Floridian.
Florida House is not owned by the State of Florida, but rather by the people of the state through a nonprofit foundation. The foundation is managed by a Board of Trustees representing a cross-section of business, cultural and philanthropic leaders of Florida. No state or federal tax dollars support the house or its operations. Funding of the house is by individual contributions from fellow Floridians, corporate sponsors and the Board of Trustees. Rhea Chiles remains Chairman Emeritus of the House. According to the bylaws, the spouse of the current governor is invited to serve as Honorary Chairman.
Officers of the Board of Trustees include: Chairman, Senior Vice Chairmen made up of spouses of current or former elected officials, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. The Chief Executive Officer maintains the day-to-day operations of the house and its programs. The state is divided into regions, with regional groups hosting yearly fundraisers.
- "There's Only One State Embassy In Washington. Of Course, It's Florida's" Eliza McGraw, Atlas Obscura, 28 October 2016
- "And despite being on Capitol Hill, Florida House takes no sides. You leave your hat at the door, CEO and president Bart Hudson says, because once you come through the door you are a Floridian." Atlas Obscura 28 October 2016
- Florida House website (informational video)
- "Friday Files", Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel, 10 March 2010