The Kalorama area was primarily rural until the close of the 19th century, lying northwest of the original limits of Washington City from L'Enfant's original plan. In 1795, Gustavus Scott, a commissioner for the District of Columbia purchased the property, which had been a portion of Anthony Holmead's "Widows Mite" holdings. He constructed a large, classically styled house at 23rd and S Streets, which he named Belair. In 1807, the noted poet Joel Barlow bought the property and renamed it "Kalorama," which translates from Greek as "fine view." Barlow lived in the home until shortly before his death in 1812. Barlow commissioned Capitol architect Benjamin Latrobe to enlarge the house and elevate its design. Kalorama (the residence) was destroyed by a fire during the American Civil War while it was used as a Union hospital. The residence was rebuilt and returned to a single-family home until 1887, when it was leveled by the District of Columbia government for the extension of S Street NW.
Kalorama is primarily residential, although its many embassies and mansions accommodate a lively social and diplomatic scene.