Like many buildings constructed during and after World War I, the Treasury Annex added more space for the federal department to conduct its business. Built in 1918 on Lafayette Square and designed by well-known architect Cass Gilbert – who later designed the U.S. Supreme Court Building – this structure was placed near the White House and the Treasury Department’s main building. However, the annex was preceded by another important financial institution, one that would inspire its updated name in 2016.
Designed to match the Treasury Department’s main building, the annex was inspired by classical Greek architecture, with minimal ornamentation for both budgetary and aesthetic purposes. Additionally, the building was constructed on the site of the former Freedman’s Bank Building, formally known as the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. The company was created by the federal government in 1865 to help newly emancipated African Americans reach financial stability and independence. Despite these goals, the bank closed only nine years later due to the Panic of 1873. The bank building was demolished in 1899.
With the Treasury Annex taking the place of the Freedman’s Bank Building, the annex extended the available space of the Department of the Treasury. The building contains six floors with a basement, as well as a large skylight to allow for natural light to shine through. The annex was also connected to the main building by an underground tunnel, increasing its functionality for employees.
In 2016, in order to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company, the Department of the Treasury renamed the building after the site’s earlier occupant. Citing an interest in preserving the heritage of the site, the agency also unveiled educational plaques detailing the history of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. The building is still owned and used by the Department of the Treasury.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
Within Lafayette Square Historic District