The Old Post Office, designed in the traditional Romanesque architecture of H.H. Richardson, is one of Washington's few significant Romanesque Revival buildings on a monumental scale. It was the first Federal building erected on Pennsylvania Avenue in the area now known as the Federal Triangle.
Plans for the building were prepared in 1891 in the office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury, W.J. Edbrooke. Many of the similarly-styled Richardson-inspired Federal buildings that would go on to be built across the country during the 1890s were designed in Edbrooke's office. At the time of its completion in 1899 (at a cost of more than $2.5 million), the building, with its 315-foot-high clock tower, was the third highest in Washington, exceeded only by the Capitol and the Washington Monument. Its central enclosed court was one of the largest in the world.
The building served as the District of Columbia's general post office until 1914, when operations moved to a new building next to Union Station. For decades thereafter, the building served a variety of government-related functions. Throughout its history, the building has been threatened with demolition many times, but the longer it survived, the more iconic it became.
When plans to demolish the building crystallized again in the early 1970s, many protested and lobbied against the demolition, including Don't Tear It Down, the predecessor of the DC Preservation League. A nomination to the National Register of Historic Places succeeded in 1973, and plans to demolish the building were replaced with plans to preserve it. Renovation took place between 1979 and 1983, and the building was expanded between 1988 and 1992, before being redeveloped as a hotel beginning in 2014.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964
National Register: April 11, 1973