Monday, March 1, 2010

The Building Building

I've written about the National Building Museum before, but since it's one of my favorite spaces in the city I don't feel bad giving it a little more attention on this blog. My grandfather actually used to work in the building as building manager before it was converted into a museum, and was involved with some aspects of the building's transformation. During a recent house cleaning he discovered some of the building museum's early promotional materials and mailed them to me.

What a treat! The promotional brochure explains the thought behind turning Montgomery Meig's 1887 Pension Building into a museum for the building arts to, "present the drama of building and to stimulate public interest in the quality, beauty, and livability of man-made America." The National Building museum council was formed in the late 1970s as the offices that existed in the building at the time were slowly being moved to other government agencies, and the massive building with it's impressive great hall was falling into a sad state of disuse and disrepair. It turns out my grandfather was instrumental in getting netting put up around the enormous column capitals to keep pieces of them from crashing down onto the cubicle bound workers below. The committee to save the building was made up of an impressive cast of characters, prominent in the preservation of Washington and beyond, and by 1982 the Old Pension Building was reborn as the National Building Museum. The museum continues to operate today as a monument to preservation and good design

Everyone should visit!

Sources: The Building Building, 1977 Brochure produced by the Committee for a National Museum of the Building Arts, Inc.
Photo courtesy of the author

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