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Washington, D.C. (January 11, 2007) —Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States and Honorary Chair of Preserve America presided over the rededication of the U.S. Treasury Building today.
Following a decade of historical and architectural research, restoration, and renovation after a fire in 1996, the National Historic Landmark located at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (next to the White House) was the scene of a tour, remarks, and ribbon-cutting ceremony by Mrs. Bush. She was joined by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Treasury Building Curator Richard Cote, and other officials from the department and restoration project.
“If we want to preserve America’s unique heritage, we must preserve the places where American history was made,” Mrs. Bush said. “Preservation of our culture and past is an issue President Bush and I care deeply about, and we’re fortunate to live and work next door to one of America’s most iconic buildings.”
Mrs. Bush noted the Treasury building was “the nation’s first modern office complex, and it serves as a living example of 19th century design. American social history was made here when [Treasury] Secretary Salmon Chase, whose office I just visited, introduced women into the federal workforce, hiring them to fill positions vacated by men who had left to fight in the Civil War.”
For her complete remarks, visit: www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070111-3.html
The restoration began following a major fire in the structure in 1996. It took 10 years, 1,100 workers, and $247 million to complete the renovation, which included architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, sprinkler systems, security, elevators, and telecommunications improvements as well as restoring historic features throughout the more than 120,000-square-foot building. The nonprofit Treasury Historical Association, a unique group of current and former treasury employees and interested historic preservation volunteers, raised more than $300,000 for the building's renovation including funds to restore the ornate ceiling in the Cash Room and restore the West Dome. The rest of the building's cost came from the government.
Mrs. Bush spotlighted the renovation as an important example of government’s commitment to historic preservation, noting similar efforts are underway in the White House complex itself, and praising the discovery and recovery of original murals and objects of art that had been covered over the passage of decades in the Treasury and nearby buildings.
In his remarks, Secretary Paulson said it was important to modernize the building while remaining true to its historic character. The building is adjacent to the White House on the same spot the first Treasury building occupied in 1800. That first building did not survive the British invasion and burning of Washington, DC, in 1814.
The replacement Treasury building witnessed many historic events and individuals. The Cash Room served as the site of the inaugural ball for President Ulysses S. Grant, the sole time an inaugural ball took place in the room. The building also contains an office suite used by President Andrew Johnson before he moved into the White House after President Lincoln’s assassination, as he wanted to give Mrs. Lincoln time to recover before she left the White House. The Treasury Building also holds rooms where Secretary Chase met with President Lincoln to discuss financing the Civil War. The Secret Service and the Coast Guard both began as organizations within the Department of Treasury.
The full text of Secretary Paulson’s speech is available at www.treas.gov/index.html.
Preserve America is a White House initiative that promotes the educational, cultural, and economic benefits of historic preservation and heritage tourism. To learn more, visit www.preserveamerica.gov.