Downtown in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The United States Treasury
Civil War to Civil Rights
— Downtown Heritage Trail —
Billions for the war
and a bunker
for the president
The grand, pillared United States Treasury building that stands before you was the financial command center for the Union during the Civil War. It was here between 1861 and 1865 that Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase raised the unprecedented sum of $2.7 billion to finance the government and the war.
Chase issued bonds, instituted internal revenue taxes, printed paper money called "greenbacks," and created the first personal income tax in the United States. He also revived the nation's early but short-lived system of national banks to provide financial stability — a network that remained in place until our present Federal Reserve System was established in 1913.
The first section of the Treasury was designed by Robert Mills in 1836. Throughout the Civil War, activity swirled here. The 5th Massachusetts camped here, cooking in the courtyard, and the basement became a bunker for the president and his cabinet in case of Confederate attack. It was here also that the short-handed federal government hired large numbers of women
In 1863 the Treasury provided the setting for an experiment devised by President Lincoln. Here all loyal slave owners in the District of Columbia were paid to free their property. The concept, however, was never taken to other slave-holding communities.
(Captions, counter-clockwise from the top left)
Secretary Chase hired "lady clerks" to hand-cut his new greenbacks.
Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase's restored office.
This 1862 political cartoon captures Treasury Secretary Chase as "bleeding" funds from a willing United STates. At this time, a common method for treating illness was to drain some of the patient's blood.
Treasury's north front under construction, 1867.
Blanche K. Bruce, a U.S. senator from Mississippi, later served President James A. Garfield as the first African American Register of the Treasury. Born a slave, Bruce exemplified the civil rights gains made by African Americans as a result of the war and Reconstruction.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number W.5.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans War, US Civil • Women. In addition, it is included in the Downtown Heritage Trail series list.
Location. 38° 53.805′ N, 77° 2.028′ W. Marker is in Downtown, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 15th Street Northwest north of Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC 20220, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Dr. Edgar J. Helms (a few steps from this marker); Frederick Douglass 1817 - 1895 (a few steps from this marker); The Extra Mile (within shouting distance of this marker); Paul Harris 1868 - 1947 (within shouting distance of this marker); The Hotel Washington (within shouting distance of this marker); Alexander Hamilton Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Edgar Allen 1862 - 1937 (within shouting distance of this marker); Site of Rhodes Tavern (within shouting distance of this marker).
Credits. This page was last revised on June 9, 2019. It was originally submitted on March 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 107 times since then and 9 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on March 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 4, 5, 6. submitted on March 3, 2019, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.