Georgetown Custom House and Post Office

1221 31st Street, NW

The Georgetown Custom House and Post Office, designed by Ammi B. Young, Supervising Architect of the Treasury from 1852-1862, is one of several standardized types of custom houses developed under his supervision. Built in 1857-1858, the Custom House and Post Office was designed in the -Renaissance Revival-Italian Palace manner. This style provides for a simplicity and generalization of classical elements and also lends a classical dignity to the building.

Georgetown was established as a port of entry to the United States by an act of Congress approved March 22, 1779. The site of the first custom house, however, has been impossible to locate. By 1856, the problem of where to build a permanent custom house for the District arose and was referred to a Senate Committee on Commerce. Consequently, Congress appropriated $65,000 to build a custom house and post office in Georgetown. The building was completed in 1858 at a total cost of $55,468.

The first floor was used for the post office. Georgetown had its first post office as early as 1776, under the management of Benjamin Franklin, first Postmaster General of the United States. However, the post office in Georgetown never had a permanent location until Congress purchased the land for the present building. In 1877, the Georgetown post office was made a branch of the District of Columbia post office system.

The second floor of the building was used by custom house officials and the Corporation of Georgetown was permitted to occupy space in the building for municipal purposes; the Mayor's office and the Councils and Alderman were housed there. The basement was used for storage of goods awaiting inspection.

DC designation: November 8, 1964
National Register listing: September 10, 1971

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1221 31st Street, NW