The National Building Museum

The National Building Museum (HM253J)

Location: Washington, DC 20001
Buy District Of Columbia State flags at!
Country: United States of America
Buy United States of America flags at!

N 38° 53.836', W 77° 1.092'

  • 0 check ins
  • 0 favorites

Civil War to Civil Rights

—Downtown Heritage Trail —

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 in the style of an Italian Renaissance palace, the building was designed to house the Pension Bureau. The bureau, forerunner to today's Veterans Administration, managed thousands of pensions owed to Civil War veterans and to 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 the Pension Building's 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 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. A favorite venue for presidential inaugural balls, the Great Hall hosted its first for Grover Cleveland 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.

Major General Montgomery C. Meigs, above, designed and built the Pension Building with a great hall reminiscent of a Renaissance palace. He use 15½ million bricks. A recent view of the finished Great Hall, lower right.

The Great Hall decorated for the inaugural ball of President William McKinley in 1901.

A portion of the terra cotta frieze which encircles the building and honors the Union forces in the Civil War. Frieze by Casper Buberi.
HM NumberHM253J
Placed ByCultural Tourism DC
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, January 29th, 2018 at 10:01am PST -08:00
Sorry, but we don't have a picture of this historical marker yet. If you have a picture, please share it with us. It's simple to do. 1) Become a member. 2) Adopt this historical marker listing. 3) Upload the picture.
Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 324980 N 4307312
Decimal Degrees38.89726667, -77.01820000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 53.836', W 77° 1.092'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 53' 50.16" N, 77° 1' 5.52" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)202, 703
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 450 F St NW, Washington DC 20001, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

Is this marker missing? Are the coordinates wrong? Do you have additional information that you would like to share with us? If so, check in.

Check Ins  check in   |    all

Have you seen this marker? If so, check in and tell us about it.

Comments 0 comments

Maintenance Issues
  1. Is this marker part of a series?
  2. What historical period does the marker represent?
  3. What historical place does the marker represent?
  4. What type of marker is it?
  5. What class is the marker?
  6. What style is the marker?
  7. Does the marker have a number?
  8. What year was the marker erected?
  9. This marker needs at least one picture.
  10. Can this marker be seen from the road?
  11. Is the marker in the median?