Essential Architecture- Washington D.C.

Treasury Building


Ammi Burnham Young


15th Street




Greek Revival


stone Fluted columns from the Dix Island Granite Company


  The U.S. Treasury building designed by Ammi Burnham Young.
  The U.S. Treasury building in 1804. This building was burned by the British on August 25, 1814.
  The U.S. Treasury, Washington D.C.
  Florence F Noyes 1913
The United States Department of the Treasury is a Cabinet department and the treasury of the United States government. It was established by an Act of Congress in 1789 to manage government revenue. The first Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton. President George Washington asked Hamilton to serve after first having asked Robert Morris. Hamilton almost single-handedly worked out the nation's early financial system, and for several years was a major presence in Washington's administration as well. His statue still stands outside the Treasury building.

The Department is administered by the United States Secretary of the Treasury and the Treasurer of the United States who receives and keeps the money of the United States. The Department prints and mints all paper currency and coins in circulation through the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the United States Mint. It also collects all federal taxes through the Internal Revenue Service.

The Office of the Treasurer is the only office in the Treasury Department that is older than the Department itself, as it was originally created by the Continental Congress in 1775. The Department of the Treasury was created by an Act of Congress passed on September 2, 1789:

And be it...enacted, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to digest and prepare plans for the improvement and management of the revenue, and for the support of public credit; to prepare and report estimates of the public revenue, and the public expenditures; to superintend the collection of revenue; to decide on the forms of keeping and stating accounts and making returns, and to grant under the limitations herein established, or to be hereafter provided, all warrants for monies to be issued from the Treasury, in pursuance of appropriations by law; to execute such services relative to the sale of the lands belonging to the United States, as may be by law required of him; to make report, and give information to either branch of the legislature, in person or in writing (as he may be required), respecting all matters referred to him by the Senate or House of Representatives, or which shall appertain to his office; and generally to perform all such services relative to the finances, as he shall be directed to perform. [1]
Alexander Hamilton was sworn in as the first Secretary of the Treasury on September 11, 1789. His portrait is on the obverse of the U.S. ten dollar bill and the Treasury Department building is shown on the reverse.

The current law, 31 U.S.C. section 301, reads as follows (in part):

§ 301. Department of the Treasury
(a) The Department of the Treasury is an executive department of the United States Government at the seat of the Government.
(b) The head of the Department is the Secretary of the Treasury. The Secretary is appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
See 31 U.S.C. § 301.

The basic functions of the Department of the Treasury include:

Managing Federal finances;
Collecting taxes, duties and monies paid to and due to the U.S. and paying all bills of the U.S.;
Producing all postage stamps, currency and coinage;
Managing Government accounts and the U.S. public debt;
Supervising national banks and thrift institutions;
Advising on domestic and international financial, monetary, economic, trade and tax policy - fiscal policy being the sum of these, and the ultimate responsibility of Congress.
Enforcing Federal finance and tax laws;
Investigating and prosecuting tax evaders, counterfeiters, forgers, smugglers, illicit spirits distillers, and gun law violators.

Treasury Department official, surrounded by packages of newly minted currency, counting and wrapping dollar bills. Washington, D.C., 1907.

With respect to the estimation of revenues for the executive branch, Treasury serves a purpose parallel to that of the Office of Management and Budget for the estimation of spending for the executive branch, the Joint Committee on Taxation for the estimation of revenues for Congress, and the Congressional Budget Office for the estimation of spending for Congress.

The term Treasury reform usually refers narrowly to reform of monetary policy and related economic policy and accounting reform. The broader term monetary reform usually refers to reform of policy of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.


Effective January 24, 2003 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was no longer a Bureau of the Department of the Treasury. The law enforcement functions of ATF have been transferred to the Department of Justice. The tax and trade functions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms remained with Treasury at the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

On March 1, 2003 the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the United States Customs Service, and the United States Secret Service moved to the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Under the Secretary's direct supervision are the departmental offices, which are responsible for management and policy formulation.
Once used to store currency, this is the largest Greek Revival edifice in Washington. Robert Mills, the architect responsible for the Washington Monument and the Patent Office (now the Smithsonian American Art Museum), designed the grand colonnade that stretches down 15th Street. Construction of the Treasury Building started in 1836 and, after several additions, was finally completed in 1869. Its southern facade has a statue of Alexander Hamilton, the department's first secretary. After the death of President Lincoln, the Andrew Johnson Suite was used as the executive office by the new president while Mrs. Lincoln moved out of the White House. Other vestiges of its earlier days are the two-story marble Cash Room and a 19th-century burglarproof vault lining. Tours have been suspended indefinitely; call ahead if you're planning a visit.

Fact Sheets: Treasury Building

Treasury Building Tour

Tours of the Main Treasury Building of the Main Treasury Building, located at Fifteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. are available by advanced reservation through your Congressional offices. For more information on tours and reservations, visit the Treasury Curator web site. Please note that this is NOT the tour for seeing the production of United States currency notes. To see currency production, you need to tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

You can also take a narrated virtual tour of the Main Treasury Building.

The Main Treasury Building

The Main Treasury Building is located at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. This view is taken from the north. In the distance is the Washington Monument.

Content Image: The Treasury BuildingOn the building's south side, you will see a statue of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury. On the north side, there is a statue of Albert Gallatin, the 4th Secretary of the Treasury, serving during the Jefferson and Madison administrations. On west side, next to the White House, you will see a reproduction of the Liberty Bell. All visitors must enter through the Fifteenth Street entrance.

The Salmon P. Chase Suite

Content Image:The Salmon P.Chase SuiteThe first stop on the tour is the Salmon P. Chase Suite, one of the restored historic rooms on the third floor. This suite of offices was used by Salmon P. Chase, who served as Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War. Entries from Chase's diary indicate several meetings took place with President Lincoln in this room. This suite of offices is currently used by the General Counsel of the Treasury Department.

The Secretary's Conference and Diplomatic Reception Room

Content Image:The Secretary's Conference and Diplomatic Reception RoomThe next stop on the tour is the Secretary's Conference Room and Diplomatic Reception Room. The conference room is located directly across the hall from the Secretary's Office and next door to the Diplomatic Reception Room by a connecting hallway.

These rooms recreate a typical mid-19th century government interior. They are used by the Secretary of the Treasury for senior staff meetings, diplomatic receptions, press conferences and interviews, and meetings with other Cabinet officers and foreign dignitaries.

The Andrew Johnson Suite

Content Image:The Andrew Johnson Suite with Portrait Content Image:The Andrew Johnson Suite with TableThe final stop on the third floor is the Andrew Johnson Suite, location of the resoted office used by President Johnson as his temporary White House immediately following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Black mourning cloth draped the Reception Room during the days following the assasination. The portrait of President Johnson is on loan courtesy of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

The Burglar-Proof Vault

Content Image: Burglar-proof VaultOn the second floor is the Burglar-proof Vault, with its restored decorative cast iron wall. Built in 1864, the wall lining was composed of metal balls sandwiched between three steel plates that were intended to prevent a burglar from penetrating the vault. It is now part of the office of the Treasurer of the United States.

The Cash Room

Content Image:The Cash RoomThe historic marble Cash Room on the second floor is the final stop on the tour. It was first used for President Grant's Inaugural Reception in 1869 and was restored to the way it looked then. It has been the site of many press conferences, meetings, receptions and bill signing ceremonies. Unfortunately, it was severely damaged in the fire that occurred on June 26, 1996, but the restoration to repair water damage caused by the fire is now complete.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: We wish to thank the Office of the Curator for helping us to maintain this information. We also invite you to visit the Curator's Home Page to read more about the architecture of the Treasury Building and its historic collection.


"Enough Wise Men, The Story of Our Constitution" by Forrest McDonaldPublished by the Dominion of Canada and by Longmans Canada Limited, Toronto 1970