Downtown Washington is a hub of activity—and has been since the establishment of D.C. as the nation’s capital city in 1800. This neighborhood has provided the geographic link between the executive branch, the White House, and the legislative branch, Capitol Hill. Therefore, with its proximity to Pennsylvania Avenue, the longtime route of the inaugural parade, it has attracted many important institutions, including the Treasury Building, the Old Patent Office (now National Portrait Gallery), and the Pension Building (now National Building Museum). Additionally, many grand buildings have been constructed just west of the White House, from Octagon House to the Corcoran Gallery.
With this tour of National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) in Downtown Washington, take a trip back in time to get a glimpse of early Washington and to see preserved buildings designated as significant for their contributions to American history. Consider how these sites connect to the story of America, and what nationally-significant sites along the way may be missing. This tour can be completed by walking, public transport, or car. It is advised to map out your route to determine distance before beginning.
NHLs are ultimately designated by the Secretary of the Interior, upon the recommendation of the National Park System Advisory Board, and are evaluated based on their history, integrity of the property, and their value to the broader American historical narrative. There are currently around 2,600 NHLs, with 75 in the District alone.