Adjacent to the west wing of the White House, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building is where the majority of the staff work whose agencies report to the Executive Office of the President.
The original building that stood on this site was occupied by the Departments of State, War, and Navy but was destroyed by British forces during the War of 1812. Construction of the current building began in 1871 and was completed in 1888. Designed by Alfred B. Mullett, supervisory architect for the U.S. Department of the Treasury until 1874, the building is a clear example of French Second Empire style, which was popular during the second half of the 19th century. Large, free-standing buildings adorned with an abundance of ornate details, mansard roofs, and central pavilions are characteristic of this style. The French Second Empire style was associated with great wealth and considered quite fashionable at the time. Not everyone was impressed with the design, however. American historian and grandson of John Quincy Adams called it Mullett’s “architectural infant asylum” and author Mark Twain is rumored to have referred to it as the ugliest building in America. Slated for demolition in 1958, the building was saved by then-President Harry S. Truman, despite his inclination to agree with Twain’s assessment.
For the security of its occupants, tours of the interior are not offered, but you can identify many of the characteristic details of the French Second Empire style from the exterior of the building.