The Seven Buildings (1796 - 1960)

This block of Federal style buildings has largely been demolished and now houses, along with a modern addition, the Embassy of Mexico.

The remnants of this row of Federal style buildings date back to the 1790s. The Seven Buildings, which sit just northwest of the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue, figure extensively into the early history of, not only Washington, DC, but also the United States.

With construction initialized in 1796 and completion in 1800, it had been noted by newspapers and sources of the time that the State Department moved into one of the Seven Buildings. However, that claim has since been found to be untrue, as records from the Department of State refer to the nearby Six Buildings, which were demolished in the mid-1980s. The Seven Buildings would serve as the home of President James Madison and his family from 1815 to 1817, due to the aftereffects of the War of 1812. The Seven Buildings would also be the home of Vice Presidents Elbridge Gerry, Martin Van Buren (prior to his election as the 8th President), and Secretary of the Treasury Robert J. Walker. 

During the 19th century, other distinguished guests frequented these Federal style buildings, including Naval Hero Stephen Decatur, who would hold a short residence at the Seven Buildings. Decatur is best known for his service in the Quasi-War (1798-1801) and the War of 1812. He was given a Congressional Gold Medal and a ceremonial sword after many years of service. He and his wife purchased a part of the Seven Buildings during the War of 1812, living there between 1812 and 1815. 

Strong, swirling opinions surround the alterations and additions made to these historic buildings, as they were partially demolished in the 1960s. What remains is the historic facade of 1911 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, a stark historic contrast to the large, nearly Brutalist architecture that surrounds it. In Capital Losses, James Goode remarked that the additions made in the 1980s are a “tasteless massive office complex” and that “a worse architectural solution to their preservation and ambience could not be imagined!” The large office building is currently being used as the Embassy of Mexico, constructed in 1988. The plaque memorializing the location reads: “At the dawn of the 1800s, this complex housed the Declaration of Independence.” The plaque adds: ”As a testament to the strength and depth of the ties that bind our two countries and peoples, Mexico commemorates the bicentennial of its independence and the centennial of its revolution with this plaque.”

DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks) (Omitted from list: March 7, 1968; Redesignated: May 23rd, 1984), (1901-09 and 1913 Pennsylvania Avenue NW omitted from list on July 24, 1968 and demolished in the 1960s



1911 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW