Explore by Timeline: Reconstruction and Industrialization (1865-1889)
Alfred B. Mullett, Appointed Supervising Architect
Eight months after Isaiah Rogers resigned from the Treasury Department, Alfred B. Mullett, who had been Rogers’ assistant supervising architect, was chosen to head of the Office of the Supervising Architect. In this role, he would supervise the construction of about forty buildings, the best known of which were designed in the Second Empire style.
Rather than hold architectural competitions, Mullett designed most major public buildings himself. This practice soon drew criticism from private architects, who were supported by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Negative press and conflict with Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin H. Bristow led to Mullett’s eventual resignation in 1874.
Construction Begins on State, War, and Navy Building
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) was built between 1871 and 1888 as the State, War, and Navy Building—bringing the interrelated government departments together under a single roof. Although it was initially intended that the architect would be chosen through competition, Supervising Architect of the Treasury Alfred B. Mullett ultimately designed the building.
Built in the Second Empire style, it was the largest office building in Washington upon completion. In 1949 it became the Executive Office Building. 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.
Due to reconstruction after the Civil War, property values plummeted. High taxes, growing state debts, political corruption, and a lack of man power due to war casualties all contributed to a depression and financial panic which lasted nearly a decade. As a result, Mullett’s extravagant building designs were incompatible with country’s economic outlook. Most federal buildings constructed during this time were built in smaller cities and towns. Economic and geographical factors meant architectural styles for federal buildings were less decorative and more functional.
William A. Potter Becomes Supervising Architect
William Appleton Potter succeeded Alfred Mullett as Supervising Architect of the Treasury in 1875. He encouraged the Gothic Revival style for public buildings. Potter resigned in 1876.
James G. Hill Appointed Supervising Architect
James G. Hill held the position of Supervising Architect of the Treasury for seven years. Hill’s buildings were usually followed Italian and Classical precedents.
One of Hill’s designs, the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, was constructed between 1876 and 1881 in the Renaissance Revival style of architecture. Despite several enlargements, the post office and courts vacated the building in 1932. After being used for some years by the University of Arkansas Law School, in 1992 it was returned it to the federal government. The U.S. General Services Administration oversaw a renovation of the building from 1994 to 1997, and rear wings were added. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court and U.S. Marshal Service currently occupy the building.
Construction Begins on Pension Building
From 1887- 1926, the Pension Bureau distributed $8,300,000 in benefits to 2,763,063 veterans and their families of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. In 1881 the U.S. Congress directed General Montgomery C. Meigs (1816-1892), Quartermaster of the U.S. Army and a graduate of West Point, to develop a fireproof building for the Pension Bureau. Meigs envisioned the building as both office space and a monument to those who died in the Civil War.
The interior plan of the Pension Building is dominated by a Great Hall with 75-foot-tall colossal Corinthian columns. Today home to the National Building Museum, the building contains the grandest ceremonial space in the federal inventory.
Mifflin E. Bell Assumes Supervising Architect Position
Iowan Mifflin E. Bell (1846-1904) became Supervising Architect of the Treasury in 1883. Due to the ever increasing workload, Bell delegated much of the design work to his employees. Like his recent predecessors, Bell enjoyed a brief tenure as Supervising Architect. He resigned in 1887, soon after his application for fellowship in the American Institute of Architects was rejected.
One of Bell’s most notable buildings was the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, which Bell designed in the Romanesque Revival style. Completed in 1892, the picturesque building contains dormer windows, iron roof cresting, a steeply pitched roof, and a corner tower.
William A. Freret Becomes Supervising Architect
William A. Freret served as Supervising Architect of the Treasury for less than two years. Buildings produced by Freret’s office were designed mostly in the Romanesque style of architecture.