The eviction on Massachusetts Avenue yesterday was an indelicate undertaking. The site was Embassy Row, the rent was overdue by about $750,000, and the last person sent packing from the stately Georgian mansion was the ambassador of Iran in the 1980s.
After years of legal wrangling, the State Department evicted Ruth Schofield from the former Iranian embassy at 3003 Massachusetts Ave. NW. It was a spectacle that snarled traffic and filled the sidewalk with the donated, mismatched furnishings of Schofield's Prince of Peace Embassy, a nonprofit religious organization she founded.
Schofield rented the four-story, 46-room residence with 14 fireplaces, terraced gardens and a swimming pool seven years ago for $15,000 a month, according to court records. After her two-year lease expired, she stopped paying rent to the State Department, which became the landlord and trustee of the property after the United States cut off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980.
The residence, built in 1934, was a decidedly less pious fixture during the years Ardeshir Zahedi was posted in Washington as the Iranian ambassador and gave hundreds of lavish dinners and parties.
The State Department renovated the residence, and Schofield began renting it in 1995.
"She's repeatedly refused our requests to leave the property and declined to pay the back rent," State Department spokesman Richard A. Boucher said yesterday. "The State Department took appropriate legal action [in federal court] to have Ms. Schofield evicted from that property. . . . We're also pursuing appropriate legal means to collect the back rent."
A distraught Schofield watched yesterday as movers loaded her furniture and other items into a truck. Her Web site says she is an ordained minister with the General Assemblies of God and that her organization is the "bridge between church and state" and "God's White House at the nation's capital."
Boucher said the State Department pursued every opportunity to work out an arrangement with Schofield to pay the back rent. It filed a lawsuit in February 1999, and a judge ruled in the government's favor last November.
"She knew this was coming," said Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.
Metro researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.