Site Unseen: Winfield House

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past, they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

On the eve of the arrival of America’s most controversial modern President, we’re looking at a house only accessible after interrogation by armed police officers.

[T]HIS GEORGIAN STYLE BUILDING on the site of St. Dunstan’s, a Regency villa, built by Barbara Hutton in 1936. With a $40 million inheritance, and fearing kidnap of her son, she wanted a more secure home for her family than their Marble Arch house.

The Woolworth chain store group had been founded by Hutton’s grandfather, Frank Winfield Woolworth, his middle name being adopted as the company’s brand.

Unfortunately, the house was only used by the family for three years, her marriage breaking up Barbara Hutton returned to America at the start of World War II.

Winfield House was commandeered by an RAF barrage balloon unit, its windows boarded up and the manicured garden used as a football pitch.

After sustaining during the war buckled floorboards, peeling Chinese wallpaper, broken windows and damage from a flying bomb which had landed 40 yards away, the house was near derelict. Barbara Hutton visited her home and immediately instructed her lawyer to sell the premises for $1 to the United States Government.

The house and grounds were to be used as the official residence of the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.

Winfield House is unique among American residences in that not only was it originally a gift to U.S. Government but it has since been showered with riches in the form of antique furniture, paintings, porcelain, china, glass, chandeliers, objets d’art.

This therefore is ‘a hidden gem’ as few get to see the property from the outside (I once had the pleasure of taking a lady there to attend a formal ball), with 24-hour security outside by armed officers you’re not likely to be invited to see this little piece of America in Regent’s Park.

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