White House Virtual Tour: the Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) — formerly known as the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB) and even earlier as the State, War, and Navy Building — is a U.S. government building situated just west of the White House in the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C. Maintained by the General Services Administration, it is occupied by the Executive Office of the President, including the Office of the Vice President of the United States.

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) is located next to the West Wing, and houses a majority of offices for White House staff. Originally built for the State, War, and Navy Departments between 1871 and 1888, the EEOB is an impressive building that commands a unique position in both our national history and architectural heritage.

Located on 17th Street NW, between Pennsylvania Avenue and State Place, and West Executive Drive, the building was commissioned by President Ulysses S. Grant. It was built between 1871 and 1888, on the site of the original 1800 War/State/Navy Building and the White House stables, in the French Second Empire style. At first, it has since been designated as a National Historic Landmark. It was for years the world’s largest office building, with 566 rooms and about ten acres of floor space. Many White House employees have their offices in the massive edifice.

Designed by Supervising Architect of the Treasury Alfred Mullett, the granite, slate, and cast iron exterior makes the EEOB one of America’s best examples of the French Second Empire style of architecture. Construction took 17 years as the building slowly rose wing by wing. The EEOB was finished in 1888 and was the largest office building in Washington with nearly 2 miles of black and white tiled corridors.

The current Vice President’s Ceremonial Office was originally used as the Secretary of Navy’s office from 1879 to 1923. From 1923 to 1947, General John Pershing occupied the office initially as the Army Chief of Staff then as the Chairman of the Battle and Monuments Commission, becoming the longest single occupant of this room (24 years). Additionally, President Hoover used the office for three months following a Christmas Eve fire in the West Wing in 1929. Since 1960 it has been used as the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office with the exception of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, because Lyndon Johnson did not give up the office when he became President after the Kennedy assassination.

The current desk is part of the White House collection, and was commissioned to be built for Theodore Roosevelt’s use in the Oval Office. Several important figures have used the desk including Presidents Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and for a few months, Hoover. The desk was placed in storage early on during Herbert Hoover’s Presidency where it remained until 1945 when President Truman then used it. Vice President Johnson and all subsequent Vice Presidents (except Hubert Humphrey) have used the desk.

The room’s designation as the “Indian Treaty Room” is one of the building’s most interesting mysteries. It is not known how the room inherited its name despite considerable research. Its first mention in the press was in 1954, and many recall the days between 1923 and 1942 when the State Department used the room as storage space, and perhaps someone thought that treaties with Native American tribes were stored in the room.

The Navy Department left in 1918 (except for the Secretary who stayed until 1921), followed by the War Department in 1938, and finally by the State Department in 1947. The White House began to move some of its offices across West Executive Avenue in 1939, and in 1949 the building was turned over to the Executive Office of the President and renamed the Executive Office Building. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969.

The building continues to house various agencies that comprise the Executive Office of the President, such as the White House Office, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Security Council.

Many celebrated national figures have participated in historical events that have taken place within the Old Executive Office Building. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush all had offices in this building before becoming President. It has housed 16 Secretaries of the Navy, 21 Secretaries of War, and 24 Secretaries of State. Sir Winston Churchill once walked its corridors and Japanese emissaries met there with Secretary of State Cordell Hull after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Presidents have occupied space in the EEOB as well. Herbert Hoover worked out of the Secretary of the Navy’s office for a few months following a fire in the Oval Office on Christmas Eve 1929. President Dwight D. Eisenhower held the first televised Presidential news conference in the building’s Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) on January 19, 1955. President Richard Nixon maintained a private “hideaway” office in room 180 of the EEOB during his presidency, from where he preferred to work, using the Oval Office only for ceremonial occasions.

The Old Executive Office Building was renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building when President Bill Clinton approved legislation changing the name on November 9, 1999. President George W. Bush participated in a rededication ceremony on May 7, 2002.