District Building, Washington DC

Date added: January 07, 2011 Categories: Washington DC City Hall Beaux-Arts

Before construction of the District Building, the square had a variety of uses. A Baltimore stage line occupied one comer of the tract prior to the establishment of Nailor's stables in 1820's. In the 1850's a three story brick shop used a bindery fronted on E Street. Immediately before the construction of the District Building, the site housed a Capital Traction Company powerhouse. The powerhouse was completely destroyed by fire in 1897.

The Public Building Act which became law in 1902 authorized $550,000 for purchase of the powerhouse site. The sane law also authorized construction of a building at a cost not to exceed $1,500,000. This amount was later increased to $2,000,000. Construction costs were increased by the need to drive approximately 2,400 piles into the marshy ground to support the building since it was located on the bed of the Tiber River.

The building was constructed from 1904 - 1908, The building was dedicated with much ceremony on July 4, 1908, with the Honorable Henry MacFarland, the President of the Commissioners, presiding.

In 1944 the main corridor of the new building was lined with 200 cots for visiting servicemen.

The District Building is an excellent example of American Beaux Arts Classicism. The base of the building is of grey granite from Blue Hill, Maine; the upper stories are of white marble from South Dover, New York. The building is approximately 241 feet wide (13 bays) and 190 feet deep (9 bays) , Above the first story, the building opens into a light court on the south or rear elevation, and thus takes a U-shaped form. Of wall-bearing construction, the building is 5 stories high plus basement and sub-basement.

The interior of the first floor contains a grand marble stairway located opposite the main entrance. The walls have marble stairway located opposite the main entrance. The walls have marble wainscoting and the interior still contains such classical motifs as broken pediments over the interior doors. The fifth floor was originally designed to house the three Commissioners who governed the city of Washington. These pine-paneled offices are located at the northeast, northwest, and southeast comers of the building, and are now occupied by the offices of the Mayor and the City Administrator. The "Boardroom" with its elliptical vaulted ceiling is now used as the Council Chamber. The interior of the vestibule is elaborately decorated with classical motifs.

The building occupies the entire block between E and D Streets, 13 1/2 and 14th Streets, south of Pennsylvania Avenue. The building is also located in the midst of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development. The White House is located on the north end of Pennsylvania Avenue and the Capitol on the south end.