Born to a prominent Boston family, attorney Gardiner Hubbard, founder of the National Geographic Society, bought a tract of nearly 50 acres in the Cleveland Park area of Washington, D.C. in 1886. In 1888, he hired famed architect Francis Richmond Allen to design a summer home for the Hubbard family. Because of the twin oak trees in front of the house, Mrs. Hubbard called her new residence the "Twin Oaks Estate." This wooden home consists of 26 rooms in a Georgian Revival style design. All in all, more than twenty ROC ambassadors or representatives have been her proprietor, bearing witness to many critical moments in the ROC's diplomatic history.
The Hubbards had two daughters. The elder daughter, Mabel, married Alexander Bell, inventor of the telephone; the younger daughter, Roberta, married banker Charles Bell. Roberta and Charles had one daughter, Grace Hubbard Fortescue. By bits and pieces, descendants of the Hubbard family inherited and gradually sold off the nearly 50-acre property. Parcels of the property are now separately owned by Tregaron Conservancy and the Washington International School. The piece that belongs to the ROC, the Twin Oaks Estate, is approximately 18.1 acres.
In l937, ROC Ambassador Thomas Wang rented the estate as an official residence from Grace, maternal granddaughter of the Hubbards. Later Ambassadors Hu Shih and Tao-ming Wei continued to rent the property, until l947, when Grace sold the property to the ROC government. The original deed of sale, executed by Ambassador Wellington Koo on behalf of the ROC government, is now secured in TECRO's safe.
The south patio was the main entrance to the huge house, but it was later remodeled by the ROC government into a dining room that seats up to 100 guests. Official dinners, receptions and events are held here. The original patio door and full-length windows provide excellent lighting and allow guests to take in the ever-changing outside scenery. In the sitting room hang two famous extemporaneous portraits of the Twin Oaks Estate, done by prominent Taiwan artist Dan-feng Liang at Twin Oaks, and several old black and white photographs of the Hubbard family. New art additions include an abstract painting titled "Song of the Century" by Mr. Yu-chih Wu, which was donated by former Ambassador and Madame Jason Yuan in celebration of the ROC's Centennial. There is also an oblong door by the side of the dining room which leads to Twin Oaks' other elegant dining room, complete with the original chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The 100-year-old chandelier was made by the Tiffany Company; hence, this room is called the "Tiffany Room."
The Sino-Japanese War officially started following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937. In 1943, Madame Chiang Kai-shek came to the United States to give speeches and ask for help. She addressed Congress in the hope of gaining greater friendship with the U.S. At the time, Madame Chiang stayed at Twin Oaks. In l950, the United States dispatched the Seventh Fleet to patrol the Taiwan Strait. In l954, the United States and the ROC signed the Mutual Defense Treaty at Twin Oaks. Later, however, the political situation changed. In January l979, the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with the ROC. To prevent Twin Oaks from being seized by mainland China, the ROC government symbolically transferred Twin Oaks to the Friends of Free China Association, a private organization. On that somber occasion, embassy staff members and their families held the ceremony of the lowering of the ROC flag and watched the flag of blue, white and crimson slowly descend the pole. Without exception, everyone in attendance was full of tears, which ran down their faces and soaked their sleeves.
In l982, the Friends of Free China Association returned the property to the ROC government, but the vast grounds were full of weeds, and both the interior and exterior of the house were in a state of disrepair. In l983, Dr. Fredrick Chien became the new ambassador. He and his wife Julie reported the dire condition of Twin Oaks back to the Foreign Ministry and obtained special funds for a large-scale renovation. Besides strengthening the structure and beautifying the external appearance of the house, they carefully selected new furniture and furnishings, fully restoring Twin Oaks' former elegance. In l986, the U.S. Department of the Interior officially listed Twin Oaks as historic site.
In recent years, every ambassador has placed a high priority on the renovation of Twin Oaks. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also very supportive of the ambassadors' renovation plans. Funds were allocated each year to do necessary renovations, covering a total of more than 20 different projects. After completion of the renovation, to enhance security and to minimize fire hazards, security and fire alarm systems were installed in and around the main house, and the security system was linked to the largest security firm in the United States. Electronically transmitted live pictures are continuously monitored by a 24-hour security office.
For over seven decades, countless dignitaries and friends have met with ROC ambassadors and representatives at Twin Oaks for various diplomatic and social gatherings. Twin Oaks' exquisite beauty, special history, and gracious hosts and hostesses have earned the mansion a fine reputation among guests who leave with fond memories of their visits.