The Pan American Union is home of the world's oldest international association, founded in 1890 to foster cultural and commercial ties among the Western Hemisphere republics; it serves as a focal point of Washington's diplomatic and cultural activity. The building is widely considered among the city's most beautiful Beaux-Arts buildings in addition to being among the first major buildings implementing the McMillan Commission plans for monumental extension of the Mall. Designed by architects Paul Philippe Cret, and Albert P. Kelsey, this was the first major commission in the architects' distinguished careers.
The construction took place from 1908-1910 and was largely funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The property occupies the former site of the Van Ness Mansion, a commanding location on the Ellipse at Constitution Avenue. Square in plan, the building is organized around tropical patio. It is four-stories, has a hip-roofed main pavilion housing ceremonial rooms, flanked by two-story office wings, and is set amid ample lawns and gardens. Marble facades exhibit symbolic blending of North and South American expression. The main entry is triple arcaded, there are classical details, terra cotta roofs, iconographic sculpture, and ornamental bronzework; the main sculptors were Gutzon Borglum and Isidore Konti. The stately interiors boast extensive artwork. The Blue Aztec garden and 2-story arcaded annex pavilion were completed in 1912.
The Pan American Union was originally called the Bureau of American Republics, established at the First International Conference of American States, held in Washington in 1889-1890. It was renamed the Pan American Union in 1910. It was reorganized as Secretariat of the Organization of American States in 1948.
DC designation: November 8, 1964
National Register listing: June 4, 1969