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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Judiciary Square in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The National Building Museum

Civil War to Civil Rights

 

óDowntown Heritage Trail ó

 
National Building Museum Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 16, 2009
1. National Building Museum Marker
Inscription.

“Itís too bad the damn thing is fire proof.”
General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1887

The nationís only museum dedicated to American achievements in architecture, urban planning, construction, engineering, and design is appropriately housed in one of the most extraordinary structures in the nationís capital.

Constructed between 1882 and 1887, this Italian Renaissance palace was built to house the Pension Bureau, which administered thousands of pensions owed Civil War soldiers and the families of those who died. It was designed by an engineer, Major General Montgomery C. Meigs, who had served the Union cause as Quartermaster General. General Meigs himself lost his son, John Rogers Meigs, in the Civil War. Some have called this building, with its symbolic parade of Union Forces, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of its day.

Although modeled on Romeís Palazzo Farnese, its provisions for light, air circulation, and fireproofing made it the federal governmentís first modern office building. Built in red brick rather than the white sandstone and marble of other federal buildings, it was ridiculed by many at the time. “Itís too bad the damn thing is fireproof,” said General William Tecumseh Sherman.

A 1,200-foot-long terra cotta frieze encircles the entire
National Building Museum Marker - Photo on Reverse: image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 16, 2009
2. National Building Museum Marker - Photo on Reverse:
"Civil War infantrymen march around the National Building Museum in a 1,200-foot-long terra cotta frieze that surrounds the red brick structure." (National Building Museum.)
building, depicting all the Union forces in the Civil War—infantry, cavalry, and artillery troops, and naval, quartermaster, and medical personnel. Inside, massive 75-foot-tall columns, made of brick and finished to look like marble, punctuate a 300-foot-long Great Hall. The Great Hall has been the site of 14 presidential inaugural balls, starting with Grover Clevelandís in 1885, even before the building was completed.

Threatened with demolition in the 1960s, the building was saved by citizen action. It became home to the National Building Museum by an act of Congress in 1980.

[Photo Captions:]

left to right
Major General Montgomery C. Meigs, above, designed and built the Pension Building with a great hall reminiscent of a Renaissance palace. He use 15 ½ million bricks. (Library of Congress. Library of Congress. Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)

left
The Great Hall decorated for the inaugural ball of President William McKinley in 1901. (Historical Society of Washington, D.C.)

below
A portion of the terra cotta frieze which encircles the building honors the Union forces in the Civil War. (National Building Museum.)

 
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number e.3.)
 
Marker series.
National Building Museum and marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 16, 2009
3. National Building Museum and marker
This marker is included in the Civil War to Civil Rights, and the National Historic Landmarks marker series.
 
Location. Marker has been permanently removed. It was located near 38° 53.836′ N, 77° 1.092′ W. Marker was in Judiciary Square, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker was on F Street east of 5th Street, NW, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker was at or near this postal address: 450 F St NW, Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. A different marker also named The National Building Museum (here, next to this marker); Discover DC / Judiciary Square (within shouting distance of this marker); National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); A Courthouse Reborn (about 500 feet away); Sitting in Judgment (approx. 0.2 miles away); Daniel Webster (approx. 0.2 miles away); Senator Daniel Webster (approx. 0.2 miles away); Cristoforo Colombo (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Judiciary Square.
 
More about this marker. This marker was replaced by a new marker, with the same name and similar text and photos, now numbered e.7, The National Building Museum.
 
Also see . . .  National Building Museum. Wikipedia (Submitted on October 23, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.) 
 
Categories. GovernmentMilitaryNotable BuildingsWar, US Civil
 
The National Building Museum, frieze above west entrance image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, October 23, 2011
4. The National Building Museum, frieze above west entrance
- none of the Union's thousands of soldiers and sailors of African Descent are depicted in the building's famous friezes; however, one of the army quartermaster department's essential civilian employees (ineligible for the government pensions administered from this building and otherwise generally unsung) is prominently depicted with his mules and supply wagon at three different locations on the building's exterior.
Infantry Troops image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, December 1, 2011
5. Infantry Troops
Artillery Section image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, December 1, 2011
6. Artillery Section
Sailors image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, December 1, 2011
7. Sailors
Original cornerstone of the Patent Office Bldg.: the National Building Museum, south entrance image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 12, 2012
8. Original cornerstone of the Patent Office Bldg.: the National Building Museum, south entrance
A.D. 1883
National Building Museum, interior image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 12, 2012
9. National Building Museum, interior
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 29, 2018. This page originally submitted on March 9, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,295 times since then and 31 times this year. Last updated on October 23, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on March 9, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   4. submitted on October 23, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   5, 6, 7. submitted on December 28, 2011, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   8, 9. submitted on August 12, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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