Buildings that have stood for a century or more in Washington, DC, give a fascinating look at the evolution of architecture and daily life in America.
A trip to Washington, D.C., is like entering an open-air museum, and it’s a fascinating experience. Everywhere you look, you’ll find a monument or historical edifice.
The following is a guide of historical buildings in Washington, D.C., that no traveler should miss. In a city as culturally diverse as this, it’s best to let your curiosity lead the way.
First St SE
Beginning in 1793, the Capitol of the United States of America has served as its home. It has been renovated, expanded, and restored since that time. As a testament to the American people’s creativity, tenacity, and ability, the Capitol that we see today was built over several decades.
One of the world’s most important and influential 19th-century architects, builders, and craftsmen, the Capitol has been under development for the past two centuries. It is the first significant example in America of the Federal architectural style, influenced by English Neoclassicism, which is first and foremost evident here, as are several attempts to create an American-specific design language and aesthetic rooted in American culture and principles.
U.S. Treasury Building
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
The second department of the federal government was created in 1789 and is housed in the Treasury Building. There were five prominent American architects involved in the construction of the building between 1836 and 1869: Robert Mills, Ammi B. Young, Thomas U. Walter, and Isaiah Rogers.
Inspired by Greek Revival architecture that embodied the new nation’s ethos, both this structure and its adjacent Patent Office are some of America’s finest examples of Greek Revival civil architecture. Although they were the government’s largest non-military construction projects at the time, they also had a profound impact on the design of many other buildings in the United States.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
For more than a century, the White House has served as the residence of every American president, and it is widely regarded as the emblem of the presidency around the world. Since its inception, the White House has hosted the president, his staff, and visiting dignitaries from around the globe and served as a space for the president to meet with members of the public.
The whitewash on the Aquia Creek sandstone walls gave the White House its common moniker fairly early after President Roosevelt officially called the Executive Mansion in 1902. An architectural competition in 1792 selected the design of the mansion by Irish-born architect James Hoban. A year after the cornerstone was put, the building began, and the home wasn’t finished until 1803 when the first residents moved in.
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave S.E.
The Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, is both iconic and vast. Its oldest works date back to 2040 B.C., and it has about 164 million things on 838 kilometers of shelves. The library’s main reading room, which opened in April 1800, has one of the most stunning interiors in the city.
In 1800, President John Adams signed an act of Congress giving $5,000 for books for the use of Congress as part of an act providing for the relocation of the new national government from Philadelphia to Washington. This was the beginning of the Library of Congress. The first joint committee, a Joint Congressional Committee, would provide oversight. After Jefferson signed legislation making the position of Librarian of Congress a presidential appointment, the Library of Congress has had a special relationship with the U.S. Presidency since that time.
Arts and Industries Building, Smithsonian Institution (National Museum)
900 Jefferson Drive, S.W.
The Arts and Industries Building, Smithsonian Institution is the best-preserved example of 19th-century world’s fair or exposition-type architecture in the United States was built between 1879 and 1881. The Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876’s leftover international exhibits were housed in this building, which reflects the three main requirements of this architectural type: to enclose a large area, to present a tasteful, dramatic, and pleasing exterior, and to employ inexpensive construction technology.
511 10th St NW
Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre is a national historical landmark and an active theatre. Until 1968, the structure had been utilized for a variety of purposes. Across the street is the Peterson House, the rowhouse where Abraham Lincoln died. It is open to the public and furnished with historic antiques from that period.
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
400 Michigan Ave. NE
Byzantine-Romanesque in design, its colossal, one-of-a-kind superstructure has over 80 chapels and oratories dedicated to the peoples, cultures, and traditions that comprise the fabric of the Catholic faith and the mosaic of our magnificent nation. Additionally, the Basilica holds the world’s biggest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art.
The Basilica, which is open 365 days a year, receives about one million visitors each year, attracting pilgrims and tourists from around the country and world.
2401 Foxhall Rd NW
American architect Philip Johnson created the Kreeger Museum in 1963. Johnson then went on to design the Dumbarton Oaks museum pavilion at Georgetown University and the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. In 1978, he was awarded the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, and in 1979, he was awarded the inaugural Pritzker Architecture Prize. This Foxhall Crescent art museum reopened in 2017 with works by Picasso, Miró, and van Gogh.
The secret of historical buildings
These historic DC brick structures were constructed using exclusively coal-fired clay bricks and lime mortar for their load-bearing masonry walls. They have no structural support in the form of iron, steel, or any other kind of reinforcing material. The softness of the antique bricks is since they were kilned at lower temperatures.
They can expand and contract in size as they absorb and expel moisture. In addition to being softer, the original lime mortar acted as a lubricant. The mortar needs to be replenished from time to time. Using a cement-based mortar to tuckpoint ancient DC brick homes prevents the bricks from expanding because it is stiffer and less porous than traditional mortar. The restricted bricks gradually disintegrate under the weight of the pressure.
The majority of historic building restoration projects include replacing cracked or broken bricks. Damage to old bricks can occur in a variety of ways. Using the wrong mortar during repointing is a typical cause of crumbling walls. Damage from soft mortar, which may necessitate more frequent repointing, could result from neglect. Building restoration specialists can repair bricks and brick structures no matter how they become damaged.
Contact Paragon Remodeling to learn more about masonry tuckpointing
Tuckpointing the bricks of historic buildings in Washington DC should be left to experts who know how to use traditional materials and methods correctly. We offer tuckpointing services in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.
Get started on your next tuckpointing project by contacting us today.