IRS Building History

The Site

Prior to the redevelopment of the Federal Triangle, the site of the IRS building was occupied by Washington's first theater. The Washington Theater opened in 1804 and offered a medley of entertainment including song, dance, and magic. It continued in operation until 1820, when a fire destroyed the building.

The property was then purchased by a family of talented Italian immigrants with established reputations as professors of music, dancing, and painting. In 1822 Carusi's Assembly Rooms opened, which played an important role in the city's cultural history as the site for balls, theatrical, musical and literary entertainments, and the occasional political gathering. From 1825 to 1857 a number of Presidential Inaugural balls were held, including those of John Quincy Adams and James Buchanan. In 1872, Carusi's was replaced by a burlesque hall known as the Washington Theater Comique. The building was torn down in the 1930s to make way for Federal Triangle construction.

In addition to the procession of theaters occupying this location, the advent of steamed oysters is associated with Harvey's Oyster Bar, a restaurant located on the site at 11th & Pennsylvania Avenue. Originally specializing in boiled oysters, the staff experimented with steaming in order to quickly serve the large crowds of soldiers during the Civil War. According to stories, steamed oysters were such a success that fifty-foot high piles of oyster shells were said to have littered Pennsylvania Avenue during the war years.

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Last Reviewed 2016-08-19