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History of the Consulate

Image of a building with U.S. flag

The Consulate building

The ties between the Azores and the United States go back to the beginning of our country. The Continental Congress maintained contact with the islands to coordinate the travel of our emissaries seeking to gain European support for our Revolution, and in 1777 Thomas Truxtun and the Continental Navy sloop "Independence" took three British "prizes" off the coast. President George Washington appointed the first official U.S. Consul, John Street, in 1795, when Thomas Jefferson was our Secretary of State. We've had representatives here ever since, and the U.S. Consulate in Ponta Delgada is the oldest continuously operating U.S. Consulate in the world. At first, the main American Consulate was located on the island of Faial, and we had branch offices in Ponta Delgada and, for a short time, a Consular Agent on the island of Flores as well. In 1917 all Consulate operations moved to Sao Miguel.

After John Street was named Consul in Horta, Thomas Hickling was appointed Vice Consul in Ponta Delgada, also in 1795. Thomas Hickling was a young American businessman who moved to Sao Miguel in 1769, after a falling out with his conservative father over the younger Hickling's active support for the Revolution. Hickling was an energetic entrepreneur and left mementos and stories that survive to this day. One is a rock with his name carved into it and the date "1770" that is situated near one of the bubbling volcanic pools in the city of Furnas. He also left other tangible reminders: a summer palace he called "Yankee Hall" in Furnas which became the genesis of the now world-class formal gardens of the Terra Nostra Hotel and the first U.S. Consulate building in Ponta Delgada, which is now the Hotel Sao Pedro, a school for hoteliers. His principal residence, in severe disrepair, can still be seen in the city of Livramento, a suburb of Ponta Delgada.

Thanks to the efforts of former Consul William F. Doty (Principal Officer 1924-1928), the Consulate has a list of all Consuls and Vice Consuls who have served here since 1795. This is a small Consulate and always has been; the list spans 200 years, but only three pages. Nonetheless, the Azores and Azorean-Americans have figured prominently in American history, and stories and reports in Consulate files provide intriguing glimpses into the contributions they and the American diplomats posted here have made during great historical events.

During the 19th Century, representing the United States became a tradition for the Dabney family. Three generations of Dabneys served the U.S. here, until the family departed in 1892.