United Mine Workers of America (The University Club)

Built in 1912 as the University Club, this building is now more closely associated with the legendary union leader John L. Lewis.

A self-made man, Lewis was president of the United Mine Workers of America for more than 40 years. In 1936, in the midst of the Great Depression, his purchase of this elegant building from a failing club not only provided a base of operations for lobbying government officials, but also validated the strength of the union in its war of class struggle. Lewis expunged the inscribed university names and shields from the facades, and added a top floor pavilion housing a heavy-timbered assembly room for union officers.

The building recalls not only the influence of the elite gentlemen’s clubs that were once significant in Washington’s social life, but also the achievements of the United Mine Workers of America, which reshaped its appearance and occupied it for more than a half century. It forms part of the monumental streetscape around McPherson Square, and typifies the efforts of private organizations to embellish the national capital (President Taft laid the cornerstone). It is a fine example of Italian Renaissance Revival design, by the influential Washington architect George Oakley Totten; the 1937 alterations (also Italianate) were designed by the noted Washington architects Porter & Lockie. The building is six stories (originally five), with rusticated facades of limestone and tan brick, a piano nobile of monumental arched windows, and central portico; grand interior rooms remain.

DC Inventory: April 22, 1999
National Register: September 13, 2000
National Historic Landmark: April 5, 2005

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900 15th Street, NW