Seven Buildings were seven townhouses constructed on the northwest
corner of Pennsylvania Avenue NW and 19th Street NW in Washington,
D.C., in 1796. They were some of the earliest residential
structures built in the city. One of the
Seven Buildings was the
presidential home of President
James Madison and his wife, Dolley,
after the burning of the
White House in 1814, and later the residence
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren shortly before and after his inauguration as
President. Most of the buildings were demolished in 1959. The facades
of two buildings were incorporated into a modern office building in
2 Demolition and remaining facades
Residence Act of 1790, which established the District of Columbia
as the site for the capital of the United States, provided for the
appointment of three commissioners by the President (without the need
for Senate confirmation) to govern the District of Columbia, survey
its land, purchase property from private landowners, and construct
federal buildings. On December 24, 1793,
James Greenleaf and Robert
Morris purchased 6,000 lots from the commissioners and began marketing
them for sale and development. In November 1794, General Walter
Stewart purchased the seven lots at 1901 to 1913 Pennsylvania Avenue
and constructed seven three-story townhouses on the property. They
were not the first residences to be constructed in the District of
Columbia. Many of the residences in Georgetown, Hamburgh Village (the
current neighborhood of Foggy Bottom), and on the many farms in what
became D.C. preceded them. However, they were among the earliest
residential homes to be constructed in the new "Federal City" in the
District of Columbia. They were certainly among the finest: They
were exquisitely detailed, and an ornamental lintel with a sculpted
woman's head was placed above each front door.
The remaining facades of the Seven Buildings, incorporated into a 1986
1901 Pennsylvania Avenue NW was the most famous of the seven
structures. After the
Burning of Washington
Burning of Washington by British troops in 1814,
James Madison and his wife, Dolley, lived in the building
from October 1815 to March 1817 while the
White House was restored.
It had the nickname of "House of a Thousand Candles" after the
Madisons hosted a reception for General
Andrew Jackson and his wife in
the building in late 1815. It was also known as the "Gerry House"
Elbridge Gerry lived in it while he was Vice President from
1813 till his death in 1814.  Vice President Martin Van Buren
lived for a short period in this house as well, just before he was
elected. He stayed in it until shortly after his inauguration.
It is often reported, such as on the plaque erected on the remaining
facades, that the corner house served briefly as the State Department
headquarters from 1800 to 1801, and thus was where the Constitution
and Declaration of Independence were stored, but this is due to
confusion between this row and the "Six Buildings" further down the
street. The "Six Buildings" had a seventh building added on later and
this is the source of the confusion.
From 1804 to 1811, the corner house was the French Embassy and from
1811 until the outbreak of the
War of 1812
War of 1812 it was the British
Stephen Decatur purchased 1907 and 1909 Pennsylvania
Avenue in 1816 and lived in one of them in from 1817 to 1818. It was
his first home in D.C.
During the American Civil War, General
George B. McClellan
George B. McClellan and General
Martin Davis Hardin
Martin Davis Hardin both had their headquarters in the Seven
Buildings. Some time after 1865, a fourth story was built atop
1903 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
During their first 50 years, the
Seven Buildings were some of the most
fashionable addresses in the city. But by the 1890s, they were being
used as commercial structures rather than homes.
Demolition and remaining facades
The first of the
Seven Buildings to be razed was 1913 Pennsylvania
Avenue NW which was replaced in 1898 with a new four-story building.
The next three buildings, consisting of the addresses 1901-1907
Pennsylvania Avenue NW, were razed in 1959 and a large, modern office
building was constructed on the site. 
In 1986, the last two remaining buildings were gutted and their
facades incorporated into a $4.5 million, nine-story office
building. The office building now houses the Embassy of
^ Gutheim, p. 103.
^ Pinheiro, p. 212.
^ Abbot, et al., p. 16.
^ Bryan, p. 244.
^ Webb and Wooldridge, p. 182.
^ The Federal City boundaries were an area bounded by Boundary Street
(northwest and northeast), 15th Street (east), East Capitol Street,
the Anacostia River, the Potomac River, and Rock Creek.
^ a b Goode, p. 169.
^ Haas, p. 30.
^ Gary, p. 34.
^ Bergheim, p. 199.
^ Greer, p 17
^ Bryan, p. 251.
^ Berges makes this mistake on page 43, but as noted in "Homes of the
Department of State, 1774-1976" by Lee H. Burke "This assertion is
erroneous since contemporary records of the Department of State refer
specifically and repeatedly to its occupancy of one of the houses
among the Six Buildings."
^ Eberlein, Harold Donaldson; Hubbard, Cortlandt Van Dyke (1958).
Historic Houses of George-Town & Washington City. Dietz Press.
p. 317-325. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Smith, Delos H. (2012). Architectural Report of Decatur House (PDF).
Washington, DC: Library of Congress. p. 23. Retrieved 22 June
^ Eberlein and Hubbard, p. 329; Brand, p. 99.
^ Kelly, p. 75.
^ McGuire, Kim. "The Oldest on the Avenue." Washington Post. March 13,
^ Wang, p. 41.
Abbot, William Wright; Chase, Philander D.; Hoth, David R.; Patrick,
Christian Sternberg; and Twohig, Dorothy, eds. The Papers of George
Washington, Presidential Series: 1 January-30 April 1794.
Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 2009.
Allison, Robert J. Stephen Decatur: American Naval Hero, 1779-1820.
Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.
Berges, Steve. Charters of Liberty: The Declaration of Independence,
the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Milwaukee:
American Liberty Press, 2010.
Bergheim, Laura. The Washington Historical Atlas: Who Did What, When,
and Where in the Nation's Capital. Rockville, Md.: Woodbine House,
Brand, Stewart. How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built.
New York: Viking, 1994.
Bryan, Wilhelmus B. A History of the National Capital: From Its
Foundation Through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act. New
York: Macmillan, 1914.
Eberlein, Harold Donaldson and Hubbard, Cortlandt Van Dyke. Historic
Houses of George-Town & Washington City. Richmond, Va.: Dietz
Gary, Ralph. The Presidents Were Here: A State-By-State Historical
Guide. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2008.
Goode, James M. Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's
Destroyed Buildings. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press,
Greer, Mary A Catalogue of the exhibit of the Department of state at
the Louisiana purchase exposition, St. Louis, 1904 Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1904
Gutheim, Frederick. Worthy of the Nation: The History of Planning for
the National Capital. 1st ed. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian
Institution Press, 1977.
Haas, Irvin. Historic Homes of the American Presidents. New York:
Dover Publishing, 1991.
Kelly, Charles Suddarth. Washington, D.C., Then and Now: 69 Sites
Photographed in the Past and Present. New York: Dover Publishing,
Perkins, Bradford. Prologue to War: England and the United States,
1805-1812. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1961.
Pinheiro, John C. "George Washington's Leadership Style and Conflict
at the Federal City." In
White House Studies Compendium. Vol. 5.
Robert W. Watson, ed. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2008.
Tinkler, Robert. James Hamilton of South Carolina. Baton Rouge, La.:
Louisiana State University Press, 2004.
Webb, William Bensing and Wooldridge, John. Centennial History of the
Washington, D.C. Dayton, Ohio: H.W. Crew, 1892
Wang, Amy B. Fodor's 2008
Washington, D.C. New York: Fodor's Travel
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