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Pension Building Collection

Bas
Bas relief panel replicating part of the Museum’s exterior frieze designed by Caspar Buberl in 1885, bronze painted terra cotta (restored).
Collection of the National Building Museum
Six
Six petal rosette—made by the Boston Terra Cotta Company—from the cornice of the U.S. Pension Building, Washington, D.C.
Collection of the National Building Museum.
Lion’s
Lion’s head from the cornice of the U.S. Pension Building, Washington, District of Columbia, 1884. Terra cotta (painted at a later date) made by the Boston Terra Cotta Company.
Collection of the National Building Museum

 
In 1881, Congress directed Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs (1816–1892) to design and construct a fireproof, brick headquarters for the burgeoning U.S. Pension Bureau. Eager to create light-filled and well-ventilated offices, Meigs selected the center-courtyard plan of Renaissance palaces he had admired in Rome. In this arrangement, sunlight would pour into offices from two directions instead of one. His model for the building’s exterior was the brick, monumentally-scaled Palazzo Farnese, completed to Michelangelo's specifications in 1589. This bold yet masterfully-detailed palace is one of the most admired and influential buildings of the past 500 years. In Meigs' interpretation, an important feature was added to the façade: an ornamental terra-cotta frieze honoring the Civil War veterans the Pension Bureau served. In the 1980s, during the restoration of Meigs’ grand, civic landmark, a number of original building elements were recovered and now form the core of the Museum’s Pension Building Collection.

U.S. Pension Building, now National Building Museum, 1881–1887
401 F Street NW  Washington, D.C.

Supervising Architect and Engingeer:
U.S. Army Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, 1969
Designated a National Historic Landmark, 1985