Winder Building History

Site History

Constructed on Square 169, the Winder Building holds the northwest corner of the intersection of 17th and F Streets in the Northwest quadrant of Washington DC. At the time of its construction, the area surrounding the Winder Building was comprised primarily of low-lying residential dwellings. However, its close proximity to the White House, War and Navy Buildings, and surrounding Presidential Park made it a desirable parcel for future government development.

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. Located directly across the street from the headquarters of the Department of War, William Winder was aware both the department's dire need for additional space and its inability to fund construction. His speculation paid off and upon completion of the building it was immediately leased in its entirety by the Department of War.

Richard Arthington Gilpin, the architect of the Winder Building, designed a structure in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. At the time of its construction, the building was the largest and tallest office building in the city, containing 130 rooms. Architectural features include an elaborate cast iron balcony and detailed railing decorated with an elaborate foliated rinceau pattern.

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), its early use of iron beams, and its innovative 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, a controversial general, 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), was originally a resident of Philadelphia who came to Washington in the 1840s as a speculative real estate developer.

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