Designed by American architect Willoughby Edbrooke, this enormous Romanesque Revival building was the largest office building in D.C. when it opened in 1899. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was far from beloved in its own era. Considered dowdy by the time it opened for business, when architectural fashion had turned to rounded, more romantic Beaux-Arts design, it was soon abandoned in favor of a new mail depot building over by Union Station; 15 years after it was built, it was commonly referred to as the “old” post office.
By the late 1920s, popular sentiment in Washington was that the building should be torn down, but the Great Depression prevented the demolition; instead, the Old Post Office was left to molder for about 40 years. In the 1970s, it was saved by community support and the National Endowment for the Arts, which now has its headquarters here; in addition to a few other government agencies, the Pavilion houses several restaurants, eateries, shops and services.
Free tours of the Pavilion’s 315-foot clock tower, which offers 360-degree views of downtown Washington, are given daily by National Park Service Rangers; tours meet by the glass elevators on the Pavilion’s stage level.
Despite its modern-day popularity, the Pavilion has proved a financial liability for the city. In 2012, real estate developer (and reality show star) Donald Trump announced he’d been approved to renovate the Pavilion into the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., which will include 250 hotel rooms, a conference center, a spa, restaurants and a museum dedicated to the building's history.