Tax Day 💵 Fires, Presidents, & Architecture of the Treasury Building
If you have ever held a $10 bill in your hand, then you have probably seen the "new" US Treasury Building on the back. There have been two buildings to serve as the Treasury Building in US history. Before the building most recognized as the Treasury, there was an all-purpose structure of brick and mortar that launched the financial center for agencies regarding taxation, minting currency, and customs.
History of the Treasury Building
In 1800, the United States was a very new country looking for a place to land the capital. Most of the groundwork for our country was finished in Philadelphia, but President John Adams signed an Execute Order to make Washington DC the new capital of the United States. When the employees of the Federal government reached Washington, there was only one building - the Treasury.
"Of the 131 federal workers who moved to Washington, over half of them (69) were housed in the new Treasury Building, a two-story Federal/Georgian style red brick building with a basement and attic that had 16 rooms on the first floor and 15 rooms on the second floor. The building was 147 feet (45 m) long and 57 feet (17 m) wide, flanking the south-east end of the President's House (later renamed the White House), one of four similar structures for the then four executive departments flanking the east (State and Treasury) and west sides (War and Navy) of the executive mansion facing Pennsylvania Avenue." (source)
To this day, the US Treasury Building still stands in that place, but it is not the same building or architecture at all. In addition, there are several add-on departments, wings, and buildings to accommodate the expansion of the agencies under the Treasury.
Rebuilding the Treasury with New Architecture
💵 Rebuild One - Fire could be considered the motivation for the redesign of the Treasury. In early 1801, the Federal/Georgian style building caught fire on the first floor. The only part of the building that survived was the foundation. The building was rebuilt on the original foundation using fire-proof bricks with an addition of a vault facing the White House under the eye of the first Secretary of State, Alexander Hamilton. He did not live to see the completion of the new build or the vault in 1806.
💵 Rebuild Two - In 1814, the fire-proof brick proved to be a great idea because the Treasury building was burned by British troops during the War of 1812. Many buildings were burned throughout Washington DC during this war, but the vault in the Treasury survived. It was temporarily relocated while the building was set to be rebuilt with other government buildings including the White House.
💵 Rebuild Three - 1833 marks the year of the third fire at the Treasury Building. Richard H. White set the building on fire to destroy the pension files located inside of the vault. The fire-proof vault was the only part of the building that survived the fire. After this fire consumed a large portion of the building, it was decided to start over with a fresh design and architecture.
"When Robert Mills submitted drawings of the destroyed Treasury building along with a report on the need for a more fire-proof building in the future, he also included drawings of what he proposed as a potential new Treasury building. Mills eventually won a design competition and was appointed Architect of Public Buildings by President Andrew Jackson to oversee the design and construction of the Treasury and Patent Office buildings. Construction on the new Treasury building began on September 7, 1836." (source)
US Treasury Building Today
Mills redesigned and rebuilt the Treasury building in the Neoclassical architectural style prominent throughout Washington DC. The grand scale and clean, geometric lines of the Treasury building emphasize the Neoclassical Greek architectural style reaching back over thousands of years.
💰 Statues Surrounding the Building
The outside of the building boasts honorary statues of Alexander Hamilton (south side) and Albert Gallatin (north side), the first and fourth Secretary of State respectively.
"Sculptor James Earle Fraser created the statue of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, which stands in front of the southern façade facing Alexander Hamilton Place and The Ellipse beyond, and that of Albert Gallatin, the fourth and longest-serving Secretary, which stands before the northern entrance facing Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W." (source)
💰 Salmon P. Chase Suite
"This suite of offices was used by Salmon P. Chase, who served as Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War. Entries from Chase's diary indicate several meetings took place with President Lincoln in this room. This suite of offices is currently used by the General Counsel of the Treasury Department." (source)
💰 Secretary's Conference Room & Diplomatic Reception Room
"The conference room is located directly across the hall from the Secretary's Office and next door to the Diplomatic Reception Room. These rooms recreate a typical mid-19th century government interior. They are used by the Secretary of the Treasury for senior staff meetings, diplomatic receptions, press conferences and interviews, and meetings with other Cabinet officers and foreign dignitaries." (source)
💰 The Andrew Johnson Suite
"the Andrew Johnson Suite is the restored office used by President Johnson as his temporary White House immediately following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Black mourning cloth draped the Reception Room during the days following the assassination." (source)
💰 The Vault
"On the second floor is the Burglar-proof Vault with its restored decorative cast iron wall. Built-in 1864, the wall lining was composed of metal balls sandwiched between three steel plates that were intended to prevent a burglar from penetrating the vault. It is now part of the office of the Treasurer of the United States." (source)
💰 The Cash Room
"First used for President Grant's Inaugural Reception in 1869 and it has been restored to the way it looked then. It has been the site of many press conferences, meetings, receptions, and bill-signing ceremonies. Unfortunately, it was severely damaged in the fire that occurred on June 26, 1996, but the restoration to repair water damage caused by the fire is now complete." (source)
Find out the complete story of the architecture and history of the US Treasury Building.
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