US representation in Bordeaux dates from March 1778 when France formally recognized the independence of the thirteen colonies on February 6, 1778. The Continental Congress appointed John Bondfield as a commercial agent. This was the first known American diplomatic station in the world. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin sailed back to America from Paris and Thomas Jefferson was commissioned as Minister of the United States to France.
In 1790, President George Washington commissioned Joseph Fenwick of Maryland as the first American consul to Bordeaux. “Fenwick House”, built by Victor Louis, also architect of the Grand Theatre, still stands on the quayside and is well-known in Bordeaux. The post was in continuous existence, except during the so-called Franco-American “cold war” of 1798-1800 and the Nazi WWII occupation of 1940-44. In 1962, it became a Consulate General.
It was closed in 1995 for budgetary reasons, in part because as U.S. visas were no longer required for French tourists and businessmen visiting the U.S. for less than three months. Bordeaux was reopened in 2000 as an American Presence Post (APP) when Ambassador Felix G. Rohatyn obtained Congressional approval. On October 1st, 2000, State Secretary Madeleine Albright presented to Mayor Alain Juppé, former Prime Minister, the Accreditation Letter of the first American Consul in Bordeaux, Joseph Fenwick, signed by President George Washington and then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.