The significance of Building 202 in the Southeast Federal Center is closely related to the history and development of the Washington Naval Yard. Ship-building began there in 1800, at the time of an impending war with France. In the 20th century, the Naval Yard experienced three major periods of growth. The first extended through 1902 and was stimulated by the Spanish-American War. The second period occurred during World War 1, when enormous increases in production in the weapons plants resulted in more than doubling it in size. A number of buildings on the site date back to the expansion during World War 1. The third period of growth occurred during World War 2 when the yard became a center for ordnance production and the repair of damaged naval vessels. The last two blocks on the site of the current Southeast Federal Center were absorbed by the US Navy and the town houses lining the street were demolished to make way for new construction. Building 202 is one of the few buildings surviving from this period of growth. Its historical name, Extension to Gun Assembly, Proof and Optical Shops, suggests that it provided space to house increased activity in several existing shops.
After World War 2, production was curtailed at the site as newly developed technologies made the existing facilities obsolete. In 1962 all production stopped and the yard was divided into two parts, one occupied by the US Navy for administrative purposes, and the other transferred to the General Services Administration in 1963.
According to the GSA Master Plan for the Southeast Federal Center, the GSA is planning to move 3,500 administrative personnel onto the site. Initial phases of redevelopment will involve renovating several buildings for use as offices and retail facilities, serving a population of 10,000 to 20,000 people. Building 202 was evaluated as having an excellent potential for reuse based on its contribution to the general industrial character of the site, the condition of the structure and the condition of the exterior envelope. In terms of its architectural merit the building was only regarded as average, being representative of a certain industrial type. The building is planned to be used as office space, possibly yielding 301,000 sq. ft. with the addition of new floor space.
In a Request for Determination of Eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places, Building 202 was considered to be of little architectural and historical significance and a denial of eligibility was recommended. Despite its lack of individual value, the structure is a representative example of the industrial architecture that populated the former Navy Yard. The expression of the massive steel structural frame and the sheer size of the central hall makes it a remarkable space. The glazed roof, however, has been removed, damaging the quality and character of the interior. The strictly functional exterior brick cladding and the industrially produced glazing units, though not particularly distinguished, are pertinent to the historic appearance of the site. Building 202 should be renovated with a degree of sensitivity and consideration, preserving its industrial character.