State, War, and Navy Building
Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street, NW|
|Architect||Alfred B. Mullett|
|Architectural style||French Second Empire|
|NRHP reference #||69000293|
|Added to NRHP||June 4, 1969|
|Designated NHL||November 11, 1971|
The Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB)--formerly known as the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB) and even earlier as the State, War, and Navy Building--is a U.S. government building situated just west of the White House in the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C. Maintained by the General Services Administration, it is occupied by the Executive Office of the President, including the Office of the Vice President of the United States.
Located on 17th Street NW, between Pennsylvania Avenue and State Place, and West Executive Drive, the building was commissioned by President Ulysses S. Grant. It was built between 1871 and 1888, on the site of the original 1800 War/State/Navy Building and the White House stables, in the French Second Empire style. While the building exterior received substantial criticism at first, it has since been designated as a National Historic Landmark. It was for years the world's largest office building, with 566 rooms and about ten acres of floor space. Many White House employees have their offices in the EEOB.
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In 1802, the Washington Jockey Club lay at the rear of what is now the site of Decatur House at H Street and Jackson Place, crossing Seventeenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to Twentieth Street--today the Eisenhower Executive Office Building--having been completed only four years earlier in 1798, as the stonemasons had finished the brick and painters applied white paint to the President's House.
It was designed by Alfred B. Mullett, Supervising Architect. Patterned after French Second Empire architecture that clashed sharply with the neoclassical style of the other Federal buildings in the city, it was generally regarded with scorn and disdain, and Mullett, the exterior architect, ended his life by suicide, while in litigation. The OEOB was referred to by Mark Twain as "the ugliest building in America." President Harry S. Truman called it "the greatest monstrosity in America." Historian Henry Adams called it Mullett's "architectural infant asylum."
Much of the interior was designed by Richard von Ezdorf using fireproof cast-iron structural and decorative elements, including massive skylights above each of the major stairwells and doorknobs with cast patterns indicating which of the original three occupying departments (State, Navy, or War) occupied a particular space. The total cost to construct the building came in at $10,038,482.42 when construction ended in 1888, after 17 years. The original tenants of the building quickly outgrew it and finally vacated it completely in the late 1930s. The building gradually came to be seen as inefficient and was nearly demolished in 1957. In 1969, the building received the highest recognition possible, becoming a National Historic Landmark.
In 1981, plans began to restore all the "secretary of" suites. The main office of the Secretary of the Navy was restored in 1987 and is now used as the ceremonial office of the Vice President of the United States. Shortly after September 11, 2001, the 17th Street side of the building was vacated and has since been modernized. The building continues to house various agencies that compose the President's Executive Office, such as the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Security Council. Its most public function is that of the Vice President's Ceremonial Office, which is mainly used for special meetings and press conferences.
Many celebrated national figures have participated in historical events that have taken place within the Old Executive Office Building. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush all had offices in this building before becoming President. It has housed 16 Secretaries of the Navy, 21 Secretaries of War, and 24 Secretaries of State. Sir Winston Churchill once walked its corridors and Japanese emissaries met there with Secretary of State Cordell Hull after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Presidents have occupied space in the EEOB as well. Herbert Hoover worked out of the Secretary of the Navy's office for a few months following a fire in the Oval Office on Christmas Eve 1929. President Dwight D. Eisenhower held the first televised Presidential news conference in the building's Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) on January 19, 1955. President Richard Nixon maintained a private "hideaway" office in room 180 of the EEOB during his presidency, from where he preferred to work, using the Oval Office only for ceremonial occasions.
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first in a succession of Vice Presidents who have had offices in the building. The first wife of a Vice President to have an office in the building was Marilyn Quayle, wife of Dan Quayle, Vice President to George H.W. Bush.
The Old Executive Office Building was renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building when President Bill Clinton approved legislation changing the name on November 9, 1999. President George W. Bush participated in a rededication ceremony on May 7, 2002.
A small fire on December 19, 2007 damaged an office of the vice-president's staff and included the VP ceremonial office. According to media reporting, the office of the Vice President's Political Director, Amy Whitelaw, was heavily damaged in the fire.
Charles Evans Hughes with the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the background