Georgetown Walking Tour Part 3

The house on 3038 N Street NW is not to be missed. Once it belonged to Averell and Pamela Harriman. They were old time lovers. They met in London during WWII. William Averell Harriman (1891-1986) was sent to London to coordinate the Lend Lease program and Pamela was newly married to Prime Minister Churchill’s son Randolph. They met again in 1971 in Georgetown in Washington D.C. at a dinner party and got married a few months later. They were both widowed at that time.

Harriman's house

William Harriman’s father, Edward Henry Harriman, was a railroad baron. Herriman’s father organized a scientific expedition to Alaska in the summer of 1899. Twenty five prominent scientists including John Muir, John Burroughs, George Bird Grinnell, and Edward Curtis headed out to explore the coasts of Alaska and Russia on the steamship “George Eder.” Eight years old William Harriman was also a member of the expedition.

William Harriman graduated from Yale in 1913, where he was a member of the Skull and Bones Society. He inherited a business and a fortune from his father. He established W. A. Harriman & Co, a banking business, in 1922. Later, his brother Roland joined the company. Harriman also had main stakes in the Union Pacific Railroad, the Polaroid Corporation, the Merchant Shipbuilding Corporation, the Southern Pacific, Wells Fargo & Co, United American Lines, the Union Banking Corporation and many more.

Harriman’s sister, Mary, encouraged him to participate in the National Recovery Administration to help her and her friends, the Roosevelts. This launched his political carrier.

William Averell Harriman

In 1942 some of Harriman’s businesses were seized by the U.S. Government due to the Trading with the Enemy Act. The Union Banking Corporation and a few other ventures were connected to German companies and to the financial interests of Fritz Thyssen, who financed the Nazi party. All Harriman’s businesses were returned to him after the war, but the Union Banking Corporation was dissolved in 1951.

In the spring of 1941 Harriman was a special envoy of President Roosevelt and coordinated the Lend Lease program in Europe. This program was set up to provide military equipment, ammunition, food and oil free of charge to the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union, the Republic of China, Canada, New Zealand, and India. The program included warships, airplanes, weapons, and trucks. After the war equipment, which had not been destroyed, was to be returned to the United States. This help provided by the U.S to their allies was worth 50.1 billion of dollars in total.

In 1941 Harriman participated in the meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill, when they drew up the Atlantic Charter. Harriman also went to the Soviet Union to negotiate the terms of the Lend Lease agreement.

Churchill, Harriman, Stalin, and Molotov
Churchill, Harriman, Stalin, and Molotov

His participation in meetings between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin was important.   These meetings were crucial to the outcome of WWII.  In 1942 he accompanied Churchill during the Conference in Moscow, where Stalin pressed for an opening of a second front in France, but they had to explain to him why the Allies were fighting in North Africa instead. Harriman was instrumental at pacifying Churchill, because of his distrust of Stalin and in helping Roosevelt gain the trust of Stalin during the Tehran Conference. There were very tough negotiations because “the big three” had opposing views on how the post war world should be established. Stalin pressed the policy of dividing the world into the spheres of influence, Churchill held the same views, but Roosevelt insisted on the self-determination of countries freed from the Nazis. Harriman facilitated the Yalta Conference. He was President Roosevelt’s top adviser due to his position as the U.S. ambassador to Moscow and insisted on taking a stronger stance with Stalin on the matter of Poland. Harriman was also present at “the big three” conference at Potsdam after President Roosevelt’s death. Harriman was an ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1943 to 1946, and then, in 1946 he was an ambassador to Britain.

The Yalta Conference in Crimea in February. 1945 Harriman is directly behind Stalin
The Yalta Conference in Crimea in February 1945. Harriman is directly behind Stalin

After the war Harriman was appointed as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce by President Truman. He was also in charge of the Marshall Plan in 1948. Harriman was sent to Tehran to negotiate between Britain and Iran after the Iranians nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Harriman ran for the Governor of New York in 1954 and served in this position one term. He served as an ambassador-at-large under President Kennedy and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. He supported the coup in Vietnam against Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963 and was the chief U.S. negotiator during peace talks on Vietnam in Paris. He helped negotiate the Partial Nuclear Test Ban treaty in 1963 and was widely respected as a consultant for his acute analytical insight in matters of foreign affairs. In 1978 he was a senior member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. General Assembly on Disarmament. He was also a member of the Counsel of Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Diplomacy Charter, the Club of Rome, and others. He gave interviews in the TV documentary series “The World at War,” where he remembered his experience during the negotiations between Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill and his views on the Cold War politics, Poland, and the Warsaw Pact.

Harriman and Khrushchev. Trip to the Soviet Union in 1959
Harriman and Khrushchev. Trip to the Soviet Union in 1959

While travelling in Europe on a honeymoon with his second wife Marie Norton Whitley, who was an art collector, they purchased paintings of Van Gough, Picasso, Degas, Cézanne, and Renoir. They donated these paintings to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and also the paintings of Walt Kuhn, which they acquired later.

Pamela Harriman, his third wife, was an activist for the Democratic Party. She served as an ambassador in France under President Clinton from 1993 to 1997.

To be continued.

Resources used: Georgetown Notable Homes/Blds


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