The region known as Regent’s Park today was a rural countryside until the 19th century when John Nash, Architect to the Woods and Forests Department, and friend of the Prince of Wales and the future King George IV, created plans to develop it. With the help of draftsman James Morgan, John Nash began an elaborate project to construct the countryside into what consisted of fifty-six villas and a zoo (which is still on site). By the time construction was taking place, the price of the projects had shot so high that only eight villas were actually constructed. During this period, Hertford Villa was the largest of them all.  It was Italianate in style and is where Winfield House, the  American Ambassador’s residence now stands.

Antique steel engraving of Hertford Villa in the Regent’s Park, the residence of the Marquis of Hertford. Maps & Antique Prints, Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1828.

In 1936 the house was partly destroyed by fire and it was bought by Barbara Hutton.The world-famous heiress was then twenty-four years old and married to Count Haugwitz-Reventlow. Shorty after her purchase of the home, on August 10, 1936 the Crown Estate Commission gave permission for Regency villa to be torn down and rebuilt as a red brick Georgian style house. In 1939, World War II was on the brim of erupting and Barbara’s marriage to Count Reventlow was coming to an end,  she soon returned to America. Winfield House was commandeered and used by an RAF barrage balloon unit. The windows were boarded up and balloons corrupted the gardens where officers played football on a team called “Barbara’s Own” made to be a mockery. Winfield underwent harsh abuse from the hands of the war. Barbara ventured back to London a year after the was concluded to see what remained. After witnessing the wreckage, she phoned her lawyer in New York and told him she wanted to give the house to the U.S. Government to be repaired and used as the official residence of the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. Her “most generous and patriotic offer” was accepted in a personal letter from President Harry Truman. For nothing more than one United States dollar, Barbara passed the home on to American ownership where it now stands, as the United States of America’s Embassy in Regents Park, London, England.