Essential Architecture- Washington D.C.

State, War and Navy Building (Old Executive Office Building)


Alfred B. Mullett (architect of "Mullett's monstrosity", the reviled demolished New York City Hall Post Office - see below for image)


Washington, DC




Second Empire




  a: front and west flank, tinted photo, from an old postcard (J. Howe).
  b: front and west flank, tinted photo, from an old postcard (J. Howe).
  c: view, photo c.1900-20, Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress.
  d: front, photo 1978, J. Cohen .
  e: angle view, photo D. Brownlee.
  Below- "Mullett's monstrosity", the reviled demolished New York City Hall Post Office
Old Executive Office Building

President William Howard Taft's prized Holstein cow, Pauline Wayne, poses in front of the Navy Building, which is known today as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The Old Executive Office Building (OEOB), now officially known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building (and formerly as the State, War, and Navy Building) is a federal office building next to the White House, on 17th Street, N.W., between Pennsylvania Avenue and New York Avenue, in Washington, D.C.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, the Old Executive Office Building, a National Historic Landmark, was built between 1871 and 1888. Designed by Alfred B. Mullett, Supervising Architect, in the French Second Empire-style, the building housed the Departments of State, War, and Navy. Much of the interior was designed by Richard von Ezdorf using fireproof cast-iron structural and decorative elements. The building gradually became seen as inefficient and was nearly demolished in 1957. Since 1981, major renovations have been performed, including the development of a comprehensive preservation program and the formulation of a master plan for the building's continued adaptive use. The building continues to house various agencies that compose the President's Executive Office, such as the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Security Council.

Many celebrated national figures have participated in the historical events that have taken place within the Old Executive Office Building's granite walls. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush all had offices in this building before becoming President. It has housed 16 Secretaries of the Navy, 21 Secretaries of War, and 24 Secretaries of State. Winston Churchill once walked its corridors and Japanese emissaries met there with Secretary of State Cordell Hull after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. President Herbert Hoover occupied the Secretary of the Navy's office for a few months following a fire in the Oval Office on Christmas Eve, 1929. In recent history, Richard Nixon had a private office there during his presidency. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first in a succession of Vice Presidents to the present day that have had offices in the building.

Constructed from 1871 to 1888, this building was originally the State, War and Navy Building and is one of the best examples in the United States of the Second Empire style. QUINN EVANS | ARCHITECTS has provided architectural design services for several comprehensive projects at this National Historic Landmark, which today houses the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Secret Service.

Restoration of the building’s detailed granite upper facade and its ornate mansard roofing system entailed substantive materials research and sophisticated design and project management solutions. To resolve the structural problems of the 100,000-square-foot roof complex, 63,000 square feet of new arched concrete roof decking was installed and overlaid with slate and copper sheet metal roofing. The restoration involved refurbishment or replacement of 60 skylights, installation of over a mile of gutters, restoration of 200 cast iron and granite dormers, repair of 28 chimneys, and the casting of over 7,500 ornamental iron elements. Construction planning was implemented to accomplish the work in phases over four years, with uninterrupted occupancy and maintenance of stringent White House security requirements throughout the construction period. The $24.5 million roof replacement was completed within budget and 243 days ahead of schedule.
Alfred Bult Mullett (1834-1890)

Alfred B. Mullett was born in England in 1834. His family immigrated to Glendale, Ohio in 1845. A couple of years later he began work in the Cincinnati office of architect Isaiah Rogers.
Mullett later moved to Washington, D.C. and in 1863 began work for the Treasury Department. He rose to the position of Supervising Architect in 1866.

During his eight years as Supervising Architect, he oversaw the design and construction of over forty federal buildings across America.

Several of these buildings are still standing, including the Mint in Carson City, NV, the Mint in San Francisco, CA, and the State, War and Navy Building (now the Old Executive Office Building) in Washington, D.C.

Society of Architectural Historians

Special thanks to the Society of Architectural Historians
for some of the images on this page (copyright SAH).