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U.S. inspects Seattle mansion owned by Russian government

The Russian government occupied this Madison Park home in Seattle until the U.S. ordered Russian diplomats to leave Washington state in April, 2018.
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The Russian government occupied this Madison Park home in Seattle until the U.S. ordered Russian diplomats to leave Washington state in April, 2018.

It was a big week on the job for one Seattle locksmith. The task: unlock the gate and front door of a mansion owned by the Russian government. The house, a Seattle landmark, is on East Madison Street in Seattle's Madison Park neighborhood.

The lock-picking was part of the U.S. government’s work to officially shut down the Russian Embassy's operations in Seattle.

One month ago the Trump Administration ordered the closure of the Russian consulate office in Seattle, ending Russian passport services and diplomatic operations in the city. The Russian government was granted 30 extra days to vacate the mansion, which expired Tuesday night at midnight.

Russia has owned the Samuel Hyde House in Seattle since the early 1990s, but the U.S. government regulates which countries can operate offices or official homes in the U.S.

The U.S. State Department requested the two countries do a walk-through of the house, together, this week. However, Russian officials stood by and watched, but wouldn't help the U.S. enter, according to the State Department.

"We didn't want to have to enter the property the way we did. We had asked the Russians to do this in a more organized way. They declined. They gave us no option but to do what we had to do and we had to hire a local locksmith," said Cliff Seagroves, who directs the U.S. Office of Foreign Missions for the State Department.

The purpose of the house inspection, according to the State Department, was “to secure and protect the facilities and to confirm the Russian government personnel had vacated the premises.”

During the inspection the Russian Embassy in the U.W. tweeted out a video and characterized it as "intruders" entering Russian property.

[asset-images[{"caption": "The Samuel Hyde house was completed in 1910.", "fid": "144250", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201804/samuelhydehouse.jpg", "attribution": "Credit City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board"}]]Seagroves wouldn't elaborate on what they discovered in the house, except for "furniture." When asked if there was evidence of espionage he said, "I'm no expert in identifying such things, but from my layman's perspective it's just a residence."

The U.S. government will maintain the house from here forward. The U.S. owns the land, but Seagroves said there's an open question over who owns the house now.

The Samuel Hyde House, also known as McGilvra’s 2nd Addition, was built in 1910 for liquor entrepreneur Samuel Hyde according to city of Seattle documents. The two story home and its gardens sit on a half-acre property, which is “bordered on all sides by a classically built brick wall.” It was named a Seattle landmark in 1981.