The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Building, designed by Cass Gilbert in 1925, is an-excellent example of Gilbert's work and of the influence of the City Beautiful movement and the MacMillan Commission Report on the city of Washington. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which continues to occupy the building, embodies the institutional role of 20th century government lobbying organizations in Washington. The Chamber of Commerce Building meets National Register Criterion C because it represents the work of Cass Gilbert, one of the most accomplished architects of the early 20th century. It also meets National Register Criterion A because of its association with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization that has represented American business interests in Washington since its inception in 1912.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce exemplifies the institutional role played by voluntary associations in national government in the 20th century. These organizations reach well beyond lobbying to play an important role in coordinating membership participation in government. The associations not only provide a voice for their members, they inform them about common concerns as well. They clarify public policy issues for members, provide technical information to legislators and public officials, and educate the general public. As the role of government has increased during the 20th century, the importance and influence of these organizations has grown proportionally.
The history of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce clearly illustrates how these organizations have become an important part of the political process. The need for a national organization that could speak with one voice for business interests in the U.S. became apparent during the reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th century. Business organizations had a predominantly local focus that made it difficult for business to command the institutional presence of labor or agriculture in government deliberations. At that time, businessmen with access to government often propounded conflicting views on issues.
Built 1925 (Cass Gilbert, architect)
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964
National Register: May 13, 1992