The Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) was built between 1871 and 1888 as the State, War, and Navy Department Building, bringing these rapidly growing interrelated government departments together under a single roof.
Alfred B. Mullett, Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department, designed the building. It was built in four stages and replaced two existing executive office buildings that stood west of the White House. The south wing (1871-1875) housed the State Department. The east wing (1872-1879) housed the Navy Department. The north (1879-1882), west and center wings (1884-88) housed the War Department. In 1874 Mullett resigned as Supervising Architect because of difficulties with the Treasury Secretary and was succeeded by Orville Babcock (1875) and then William A. Potter (1875-1877). However, the last 11 years of construction was supervised by Colonel Thomas Lincoln Casey, an Army Engineer, who was assisted by Chief Designer, Richard Von Ezdorf.
The Office of the Superintendent of the State, War, and Navy Building was created in 1882 to provide building services for the Departments within the building. It was the first federal agency created solely to manage a building and, as such, was a predecessor of the U.S. General Services Administration. The Navy outgrew its space and left in 1918. The War Department outgrew its space and left in 1938. The State Department followed in 1947. In 1949 the building became the Executive Office Building to better identify its occupants, the Bureau of the Budget and White House staff. In 1955 President Dwight D. Eisenhower held the first televised presidential press conference in the Indian Treaty Room. The building has housed all Vice Presidents and their staffs, beginning with Lyndon B. Johnson. It has been associated with people, events, and decisions of great historic importance to the country.
In 1957 the President's Advisory Commission on Presidential Office Space recommended demolition and replacement with a modern office building. This recommendation was never implemented. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969, the building is also within the Lafayette Square National Historic Landmark District. It was renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building in 1999 and rededicated in 2002.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building is located next to the White House at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW and is surrounded by a decorative cast-iron fence set on a granite base. A major example of French Second Empire style architecture, it stands with the Capitol, the White House, and the Treasury building as a symbol of the U.S. government. Designed by Alfred B. Mullett a few years after completion of the nearby Treasury Department Building, Congress required that his design match Treasury's building plan and use of fireproof materials. However, it is set apart by its highly articulated gray granite facades with tiers of porticoes, paired Doric and Ionic colonnades, and dramatic slate-covered mansard roofs. These are characteristic features of the Second Empire style favored by Mullett and used to great effect.
Upon completion it was the largest office building in Washington. The granite walls are nearly four feet thick and supported on spread hydraulic concrete footings. The window frames, exterior roof sculpture, cornices, and roof trim are cast iron. The interior has ceilings eighteen feet high, and nearly two miles of corridors, lined with floors of white marble and black limestone. The Venetian-born and Austrian-trained chief designer, Richard Von Ezdorf, created a fireproof interior by using cast-iron structural and decorative elements in conjunction with brick and plaster walls. Installed in 1875, the hydraulic lift elevator was the first in any U.S. government building. Telephone and telegraph lines were installed in 1879 and electric lights by 1890.
Monumental curving granite staircases, lined with over 4,000 individually cast bronze balusters, are set below four skylit domes and two stained-glass rotundas. The State Department's south wing was the first to be occupied. It contains a library, the Diplomatic Reception Room, and the Secretary's office suite decorated with carved wood, Oriental rugs, and stenciled wall patterns. The State Department's elegant four-story library, now used as the Executive Office of the President Library, was constructed entirely of cast iron and completed in 1876. It is the largest of the three libraries in the building.
The Navy Department occupied the east wing. The office suite of the Secretary is decorated with elaborate stenciling, marquetry floors, and heavily decorated ceiling and wall moldings. The Indian Treaty Room, originally the Navy's library and reception room, has rich marble wall panels, encaustic tile floors, and gold-leaf ornamentation. The two-story room has hosted the signings of international treaties, presidential press conferences, and presidential ceremonies. The 800-pound bronze lamps in each corner represent Peace & War, Liberty, Arts & Sciences, and Industry.
The War Department occupied the north, west, and center wings. Its major interior spaces include the ornately finished War Department Library, constructed of cast iron like the other two libraries, and the Secretary's office suite. Like the east wing, the west wing contains a double staircase set below a stained-glass rotunda.
In 1982 the Preservation Office was established to develop a comprehensive preservation program for the building. This includes research, educational programs, the public tour program, and the formulation of a master plan for the building's continued adaptive use. The upgraded maintenance program has also included the restoration of some of the building's spectacular historic interiors to their original appearance.
1871-1888: The State, War and Navy Department Building (later the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) is constructed.
1898: In Room 208, the Secretary of State gives the Spanish Ambassador his credentials and passports as the U.S. declares war against Spain.
1930: State, War and Navy Department Building is renamed the Department of State Building.
1949: The Department of State Building is renamed the Executive Office Building.
1955: Eisenhower holds first-ever televised Presidential press conference in Room 474.
1957: Advisory Commission on Presidential Space recommends demolition to build a modern office building.
1969: The building is designated a National Historic Landmark.
1971: The building is added to Lafayette Square National Historic Landmark District.
1982: Preservation Office created to oversee restoration of interior public spaces and certain significant offices.
1999: The building is renamed in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
2002: In a public ceremony on the east steps, the building is rededicated by President George W. Bush.
Architects: Alfred B. Mullett, Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department, and Richard Von Ezdorf, Chief Designer
Construction Dates: 1871-1888
Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark, part of the Lafayette Square National Historic Landmark District
Location: 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, next to the White House
Architectural Style: French Second Empire
Primary Materials: Gray granite with cast-iron details
Prominent Features: Coupled Doric and Ionic colonnades; mansard roof with cast-iron trim; stained glass skylights; monumental spiral staircases; three cast-iron libraries of two-, three-, and four-stories