Winder Building History

Site History

The Winder Building was constructed on Square 169, which held the northwestern corner of 17th and F Streets in the Northwest quadrant of Washington. Essentially, this area in the city whose focus is wholly relegated to the nearby White House and surrounding Presidential Park

Named after its builder, William H. Winder, the Winder building was Washington’s first ‘skyscraper’ when it opened for business in 1848. The government purchased the building in 1854. Originally designed as office space for the U.S. Army and Navy, the building has housed a variety of government tenants over the years, including a military arms museum.

Design & Construction

Designed exclusively for governmental use, the Winder Building was erected between 1847 and 1848 as a commercial venture by William H. Winder.

Richard Arthington Gilpin, the architect of the Winder Building, designed a structure that at that time was the largest and tallest office building in Washington. The building is modeled after those of the Italian Renaissance Revival style therefore, the principal rooms of the building—those that were the most public and the most grandly decorated—were located one story above street level. Architectural features such as an elaborate cast iron balcony and detailed railing decorated with an elaborate foliated rinceau pattern.

The building, which was then the largest in the city, contained 130 rooms which were leased by the Department of War. The building was finished too late to serve as nerve center for the Mexican War, but served such a purpose for many later campaigns.

One of the few extant pre-Civil War office buildings in Washington, the Winder Building was notable at the time of its construction for its height (much criticized) in pre- elevator days, its early use of iron beams, and its central heating system.

William H. Winder, Jr.

The Winder Building was built by William H. Winder Jr., nephew and namesake of General William H. Winder who led the American Forces under General George Washington during the Battle of Bladensburg in the War of 1812. William H. Winder, Jr. (1801-1879), a resident of Philadelphia came to Washington and assembled several small parcels to create a large, L-shaped lot at the corner of 17th and F Streets—ideally situated for its proximity to the War and Navy Department building across 17th.

Last Reviewed 2016-06-30