Washington's Kalorama area: home to rich and famous

Sébastien BLANC
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A house in the Kalorama neighbourhood in Washington, DC, where former US President Barack Obama has chosen to live

So where's Barack Obama these days? Look no further than Washington's swanky Kalorama neighborhood. And what about Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka and her family? That's where you'll find them too.

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos? He lives there too, but only sometimes.

But despite an influx of celebrity residents, the luxurious and stately enclave in the US capital is keeping its cool. It's used to it.

"It's a neighborhood that's hidden away, with people of higher means, and it's very quiet, very pleasant and very attractive," said retiree Joan Ludlow, a retired administrator in higher education who has lived in Kalorama since 1979.

On a recent unusually mild winter afternoon, Ludlow was reading a book in a sunny public garden.

Like many of her neighbors, she said she was happy that Obama, who left office on January 20, had chosen to live nearby, even though Secret Service agents blocked access to the street when the Obama family moved in.

Parking in the neighborhood has become a "big issue," she said simply.

The Democratic former president and wife Michelle are leasing an 8,600-square-foot (800-square-meter) house for at least two years to allow their younger daughter Sasha to finish high school.

Other former tenants of the White House, located less than two miles (three kilometers) away, have lived in Kalorama through the years -- notably, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover.

The posh neighborhood has a long history as home to government ministers, Supreme Court justices, Treasury secretaries, and other powerful figures in government and business.

Tucked into the northwest corner of the capital, it is full of large mansions and homes with impeccably groomed yards, where millionaires, senior diplomats and others enjoy an exclusive world of privilege.

Agnes O'Hare, the wife of the European Union's ambassador to the United States, lives on the same street as the Obamas.

"I am sure they hate prying eyes of neighbors, but -- who knows -- maybe someday when they are out walking the dogs, we'll see them," she said with a smile.

"From time to time, you'll catch a glimpse of someone you recognize and you're trying to say, 'Why do I think I know them?' And then you realize it's because you've seen them on television," O'Hare said.

- Ivanka, and now Tillerson -

The latest VIP known to have succumbed to the charms of Kalorama is Rex Tillerson, Trump's new secretary of state and former head of ExxonMobil.

The wealthy Texas oilman reportedly paid $5.6 million for his house on February 10.

Among his neighbors is Trump's high-profile daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, a senior White House advisor.

The New York transplants, who have three children, chose a $5.5 million property to live in that is now is ringed by security vehicles.

Their neighbors seemed a tad concerned about the presence of potentially rambunctious children.

Jeannie O'Donnell said she was passing by the garden of the Trump-Kushner home one morning when she spotted the president's daughter through the hedge pushing her three-year-old son on a swing.

"He was singing at the top of his lungs -- 'God Bless America,'" she said.

- 'Fine view' -

When the French-born American architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant designed the layout of Washington's streets in 1791, what is now known as Kalorama was in a rural area northwest of the city.

In the early 19th century, a poet and diplomat, Joel Barlow, bought a mansion in the idyllic landscape and called it Kalorama, which means "fine view" in Greek.

The neighborhood, which abuts the US national Rock Creek Park, became known as Kalorama. It has none of the exuberance of New York's Park Avenue and lacks the glamour of Beverly Hills in California, but it is a major draw in the seat of US power for the mega-wealthy.

Bezos -- the head of online giant Amazon and one of the planet's richest men -- snapped up in October the mansion that was formerly the Textile Museum to turn it into Washington's largest home.

Bought for $23 million, Bezos, who lives on the West Coast, intends to use the 2,700-square-foot (2,500 square meter) property as a pied-a-terre on the East Coast. He is now the owner of The Washington Post.

France recently shook up the real estate market by putting up for sale a portion of the land at the residence of the French ambassador to the United States, currently occupied by Gerard Araud.

The imposing Tudor-style official residence, with its glittering chandeliers and treasures from the Mobilier National, France's cultural furnishings agency, has long been a magnet for Washington social life and scene of many elegant soirees.

France is selling unused grounds, roughly half an acre (2,300 square meters), on the residence's property for $5.6 million.

Given the rarity of land becoming available for construction in Kalorama, the real estate agency selling it presents the offering as "historic."