The Agriculture Department
The Agriculture Department

Department of Agriculture Conservatory, north and west fašades, ca. 1870
Department of Agriculture Conservatory, north and west fašades, ca. 1870

Department of Agriculture Conservatory, north fašade, ca. 1900
Department of Agriculture Conservatory, north fašade, ca. 1900


The Agriculture Department (12)

The Mall
Constructed from 1867-68, demolished in 1930

In 1867-68, Adolf Cluss and his partner, J. W. von Kammerhueber, designed and supervised construction of the first Department of Agriculture building, which Cluss boasted cost "twenty-three and three quarters cents per cubic foot." Located between 12th and 14th streets, southwest, the building faced the department's gardens that stretched across the Mall to what is now Constitution Avenue.

An early report described the building as "Renaissance style," constructed of "pressed brick, with brownstone base, belts, trimmings, and cornices." The ceiling of the octagonal entrance vestibule was "decorated with fresco work, around a center representing an arbor vine foliage, and held by American eagles with spread wings; arabesque ornaments are sprung with four medallions illustrating in turn, by landscape, light effect, and human figures, spring, morning and childhood; summer, noon, and youth; autumn, evening and mature age; winter, night, and old age." The first floor offices were richly decorated; the chief clerk's office, for example, was paneled in wainscot in "curly walnut, mahogany, and maple, surmounted by frescoed stucco cornice and a ceiling in complementary colors."

Cluss's design contrasted with the massive, classical style that had previously characterized most of Washington's government buildings. By 1870, Cluss had also designed the adjacent Conservatory for tropical plants. In 1930, both structures were razed, replaced by new buildings just to the south, making way for the 1902 McMillan Commission plan for a 900-foot wide, cleared Mall from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.

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