Preserving an Urban Treasure

A Washington, D.C., tourist attraction survives as a mixed-use destination

An active post office no more, The Old Post Office Pavilion has secured its survival over the decades via a myriad of commercial uses. 

Originally built in 1899 and situated between the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C., the Old Post Office was abandoned by the Postmaster General in 1934 and was eyed for demolition by more than one U.S. president. However, thanks to the efforts of philanthropists and local history activists, the 10-story building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and, beginning in 1976, an extensive makeover added retail, restaurant and office uses.

The key feature of the property is a 315-ft.-high clock tower that makes the structure the third tallest in Washington, D.C. For decades, its views of the city have rivaled those of the Washington Monument and, today, its 270-ft. observation deck is still the main attraction. 

“D.C. is home to some of the most unique views in the country — many of which can be discovered at the Old Post Office Pavilion or at the top of our Clock Tower with its 360-degree vista,” said Rodney Dyer, general manager, Old Post Office Pavilion.

An expansive interior atrium — home to federal offices and 100,000 sq. ft. of specialty retail, entertainment space and a food court — serves as a daytime pull, as do daily clock tower tours by the National Park Service Rangers. Tour guides point not only to the expansive views, but to historical exhibits housed in the tower and to the official United States Bells of Congress, which ring every Thursday evening and on special occasions.

Discussions of a full-scale redevelopment of the building raise questions about future uses. There have been overtures from several hotel operators, such as Donald Trump’s Trump Hotel Collection, which has proposed transforming the historic building into a 300-room luxury hotel, meeting center and museum. Until redevelopment plans are finalized, an eclectic lineup of restaurant and small-shop operators continues to drive traffic, among them Bagel Express, Ben & Jerry’s, Georgetown Deli, Bike and Roll bike tours and rentals, City Electronics, Finishing Touch accessories and Toy Land. 

Management and leasing of the building is handled by Hill Partners Inc., based in Charlotte, N.C.

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