Jump to navigation
tags

Building History

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1615 H Street Northwest

Washington, D.C.

In 1802, when Washington, D.C., was still a federal territory, the land on which the United States Chamber of Commerce stands was valued at two cents per square foot. Today, that location — directly across Lafayette Park from the White House — is one of the most historic and valuable pieces of real estate in the nation's capital — if not in the entire country.

The rich history of the U.S. Chamber building traces itself back to one of the 19th century's greatest thinkers, Daniel Webster. In 1841, friends of Webster purchased a three-and-a-half story home on the ground now occupied by the U.S. Chamber building. Webster's home was the site of a number of historic events, including final negotiations with Great Britain over Maine's boundaries that resulted in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

In 1849, Webster sold his house to the prominent Washingtonian W.W. Corcoran, whose art collection today remains close by. Several other dignitaries lived in Webster's former home over the years before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ultimately purchased the land. It broke ground in 1922, having selected Cass Gilbert, designer of the Supreme Court Building and the Treasury Annex in Washington, D.C., and one of the most renowned architects of the day, to design a building to reflect the organization's prestigious mission.

Three years and $3 million dollars later, the U.S. business community had its headquarters. Marked by three-story Corinthian columns and an Indiana limestone surface, the exterior of the building reflects the Chamber's commitment to solid, traditional American values, while the interior public rooms and space reflect the organization's dynamic, forward-thinking mission.

Meeting Spaces

The first floor of the Chamber is lined with a series of public meeting rooms, the largest and grandest of which is the Hall of Flags, referred to for many years as the Council Chamber. With teakwood floors, high walls of French Crazanne marble, and an elaborate ceiling design reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance, the Hall of Flags has been the site of important addresses delivered by a succession of U.S. presidents, including Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Foreign leaders regularly speak at the Chamber, and this roster includes Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, the Philippine's Corazon Aquino, and India's Rajiv Gandhi.

The Hall of Flags takes its name from the banners of 12 great explorers who blazed the paths of trade and planted the first seeds of commercial and industrial growth in the New World: Columbus, Cabot, Vespucci, Hudson, Cartier, La Salle, Ponce de Leon, de Soto, Magellan, Drake, Balboa, and Cortez.

The Library, originally called the Reception Room, has a ceiling decorated in an elaborate carved effect similar to that in the Hall of Flags, and today functions as a meeting place for Chamber staff and visitors.

The Briefing Center, which occupies a former open-air courtyard, is, like all of the Chamber's public rooms, equipped with state-of-the-art communications technology for audio and visual broadcasts and cybercasting. The architecture of this meeting room was designed to capture the feeling of an atrium — the patterned carpet symbolizes the central fountain, the ceiling resembles a blue sky, and the frosted glass doors surrounding the room on all sides are what one would expect around a garden.