Georgetown Custom House and Post Office

This post office and custom house occupies a prominent position in the history of the District of Columbia.

The Georgetown Custom House and Post Office, designed by Ammi B. Young and built between 1857 and 1858, is one of several standardized types of custom houses developed under Young's supervision. The style of these custom houses 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 on 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.

In 1864, Senate Bill No. 210 was introduced, proposing the abolishment of Georgetown as the port of entry and making the official port Washington City. The mayor of Georgetown led a violent fight against this bill, charging that Congress was attempting to destroy his city; he was able to convince Congress that the Custom House should remain in Georgetown. When Georgetown was absorbed into the District of Columbia, the name of the port of entry was officially changed to Washington. In 1913 President Taft ordered a reorganization of customs districts; the port of Washington became a part of Customs District Number 13 which included Maryland, Washington, and Alexandria, Virginia. In 1967, the Custom House moved out of its second floor space. The post office still occupies the first floor.

DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
National Register: September 10, 1971
Within Georgetown Historic District



1221 31st Street, NW ~ The Custom House and Post Office is located at 1221 31st St., NW. It is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.