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 Historical View of the EEOB — The 1900's

The Office of the Secretary of the Navy, ca. 1905. U.S. Naval Institute.
Many of our most celebrated national figures have participated in historical events that have taken place within the EEOB's granite walls. Theodore and 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 here with Secretary of State Cordell Hull after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. President Herbert Hoover occupied the Secretary of Navy's office for a few months following a fire in the Oval Office on Christmas Eve 1929. In recent history, President Richard Nixon had a private office here. 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.

West Rotunda, restored in 1987. Extensive research was conducted to determine the colors of the stained glass that was removed in 1950. Walter Smalling, Jr.
Gradually, the original tenants of the EEOB vacated the building - the Navy Department left in 1918 (except for the Secretary who stayed until 1921), followed by the War Department in 1938, and finally by the State Department in 1947. The White House began to move some of its offices across West Executive Avenue in 1939, and in 1949 the building was turned over to the Executive Office of the President and renamed the Executive Office Building. The building continues to house various agencies that comprise the Executive Office of the President, such as the White House Office, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget and the National Security Council.

The Executive Office of the President Law Library was originally the War Department Library. This room mixes motifs derived from several architectural styles and, although it looks like a mixture of different metals, is composed entirely of cast iron. Walter Smalling, Jr.
The French Second Empire style originated in Europe, where it first appeared during the rebuilding of Paris in the 1850s and 60s. Based upon French Renaissance prototypes, such as the Louvre Palace, the Second Empire style is characterized by the use of a steep mansard roof, central and end pavilions, and an elaborately sculptured facade. Its sophistication appealed to visiting foreigners, especially in England and America, where as early as the late 1850s, architects began adopting isolated features and, eventually, the style as a coherent whole. Alfred Mullett's interpretation of the French Second Empire style was, however, particularly Americanized in its lack of an ornate sculptural program and its bold, linear details.

Theodore Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under John D. Long prior to the Spanish-American War. Library of Congress.
While it was only a project on the drafting table, the design of the EEOB was subject to controversy. When it was completed in 1888, the Second Empire style had fallen from favor, and Mullett's masterpiece was perceived by capricious Victorians as only an embarrassing reminder of past whims in architectural preference. This was especially the case with the EEOB, since previous plans for a building on the same site had been in the Greek Revivial style of the Treasury Building.

North wing dome. Paint analysis revealed differences in coloration corresponding to the differences in design in the two pairs of domes and led to their restoration in 1984. Walter Smalling, Jr.
In 1917, the Commission of Fine Arts requested John Russell Pope to prepare sketches of the State, War, and Navy building that incorporated Classical facades. During the same year, Washington architect Waddy B. Wood completed a drawing depicting the building remodeled to resemble the Treasury Building. This project was revived in 1930 when Congress appropriated $3 million for its construction. Wood worked for 3 years on the design to remove the granite walls and replace them with marble, but the project was shelved due to financial burdens imposed by the Great Depression. In 1957, President Eisenhower's Advisory Committee on Presidential Office Space recommended demolition of the Executive Office Building and construction of a modern office facility. However, the public outery, and overwhelming expenses associated with the demolition saved the building.

Original painted decoration on the coved ceiling in the office of the Secretary of the Navy. Walter Smalling, Jr.
The building has not been without detractors. It has been referred to as Mullett's "architectural infant asylum" by writer Henry Adams. President Harry S. Truman came to the defense of the building when it was threatened by demolition in 1958. He said it was "the greatest monstrosity in America". Noted architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock, however described it as "perhaps the best extant example in America of the second empire."

The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969. In 1972, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites.

Office of the Secretary of the Navy restored 1987. Restoration included partial replication of original marquetry floor. Walter Smalling, Jr.
Since 1981, the Office of Administration of the Executive Office of the President has actively pursued a rigorous program of rehabilitation of the EEOB. The entire structure has benefited from an upgraded maintenance program that has also included restoration of some of the EEOB's most spectacular historic interiors.

In 1988, Congress enacted legislation to allow the Office of Administration to accept gifts and loans from the public on behalf of the EEOB to be used for preservation and restoration purposes. Persons interested in finding out more about the preservation program or in making a contribution should contact the Preservation Office.

Office of the Secretary of War, 1888. It is typically victorian in style, with a parquet floor, heavy wall coverings, and an intricate ceiling mural. Library of Congress.

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