Architectural History of the National Postal Museum, 1911




Date: 1911-1993


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  • Designed by the architectural firm of Daniel Burnham in 1911, the modern day National Postal Museum operated as the main United States Post Office branch in Washington D.C. from 1914-1986. The Neoclassical Beaux-Arts building reflects the architecture of the City Beautiful Movement, and sits purposefully next to Union Station train depot.
  • When neoclassical architecture briefly went out of fashion in 1950s, the building was updated to a modern design. The National Postal Museum was created in 1990 as an agreement between the United States Postal Service and the Smithsonian Institution, and the Smithsonian undertook a renovation to restore the building to its original grandeur. The museum opened in 1993.
  • Elements of this building include a flat roof, a raised first story, a hierarchy of spaces (including a grand entrance), arched doorways, sculptured emblems, and other classical architecture details such as large pilasters guarding the front entrance. Beaux-Arts architecture is considered to be eclectic because of its variations of different styles, and the National postal Museum is no exception. It displays elements of Roman, Italian Renaissance, Greek, and Gothic Architecture.
  • In addition to the museum, the building currently houses the United States Department of Labor Statistics and the United States Senate Data Center.


  • Burnham, Daniel Hudson 1846-1912
  • National Postal Museum (U.S.)
  • United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • United States Congress Senate Data center


Chronology of Smithsonian History


Ewing, H., & Ballard, A. (2009). A guide to Smithsonian architecture. Washington: Smithsonian Books.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Eclecticism
  • Architecture
  • Museums
  • Museum architecture
  • Architecture, Neoclassical
  • City Beautiful Movement
  • Eclecticism in architecture


Washington (D.C.)

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