Judiciary Square in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The National Building Museum
Civil War to Civil Rights
—Downtown Heritage Trail —
“It’s too bad the damn thing is fire proof.”
General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1887
The nation’s 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 nation’s 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 Rome’s Palazzo Farnese, its provisions for light, air circulation, and fireproofing made it the federal government’s 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. “It’s too bad the damn thing is fireproof,” said General William Tecumseh Sherman.
A 1,200-foot-long terra cotta frieze encircles the entire
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.
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.)
The Great Hall decorated for the inaugural ball of President William McKinley in 1901. (Historical Society of Washington, D.C.)
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. 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. • Government • Military • Notable Buildings • War, US Civil •
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 1,290 times since then and 26 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.