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The Octagon House
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Location: 1799 New York Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C.
Coordinates: 38°53′46.68″N 77°2′29.40″W / 38.8963°N 77.0415°W / 38.8963; -77.0415Coordinates: 38°53′46.68″N 77°2′29.40″W / 38.8963°N 77.0415°W / 38.8963; -77.0415
Built/Founded: 1799
Architect: William Thornton
Architectural style(s): Federal
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL: December 19, 1960[2]
NRHP Reference#: 66000863

The Octagon House, also known as the Colonel John Tayloe House, is located at 1799 New York Avenue, Northwest in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C.. It was designed by William Thornton, the architect of the U.S. Capitol, and built between 1798 and 1800 in Washington, D.C.. Colonel John Tayloe, for whom the house was built, owned Mt. Airy Plantation, located approximately 100 miles south of Washington, D.C. in Richmond County, Virginia. Tayloe was reputed to be the richest Virginian plantation owner of his time, and built the house in Washington at the suggestion of George Washington on land purchased from Benjamin Stoddert, first Secretary of the Navy. When British troops were advancing on Washington, D.C., the Tayloes approached the French ambassador and offered use of their home as the French embassy. The offer was accepted, the French ambassador declared the home an embassy and The Octagon House survived the War of 1812 intact. In 1814, Colonel Tayloe offered the use of his home to President James Madison and his wife, Dolley, for a temporary "Executive Mansion" after the burning of the White House by the British. Madison, who used the circular room above the entrance as a study, signed the ratification papers for the Treaty of Ghent there, which ended the War of 1812. The Tayloes sold the house in 1855. It was used as a hospital during the Civil War, and as an apartment building in the post-war period.

The three-story brick house, adapted to an irregular-shaped lot, displays a dramatic break with the traditional, late Georgian and early Federal house planning that preceded it. The Octagon achieves a zenith in Federal architecture in the United States, through a plan which combines a circle, two rectangles, and a triangle, and through the elegance and restraint of the interior and exterior decoration. The Coade stone, stoves, other decorative elements, and furniture were imported from England. The construction materials, such as bricks, timber, iron, and Aquia Creek sandstone were all manufactured locally.

The Octagon House became the home of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on January 1, 1899, and complete ownership of the property was acquired in 1902. Today, the American Architectural Foundation owns The Octagon House, and the AIA has moved its headquarters to a larger building located directly behind it. The house has undergone extensive renovation since 1996, culminating in efforts to restore the original period appearance. The French Heritage Society is among those who have contributed to the restoration of the house.[3]

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.[2][4]

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