Originally the State, War and Navy Building:
The Old Executive Offices Building recently renamed Eisenhower Executive Offices Building

This building should have been named the Hamilton Fish Executive Offices Building. Unfortunately Congress sometimes acts emotionally rather than intelligently so in the year 2000 while a member of Congress was near death, his proposal that the building be named for former President Eisenhower passed without opposition, without discussion, and without the knowledge of a large number of Congressmen. New laws and names of buildings often pass through Congress without due attention. This is one. We were opposed to the new name on the grounds that as president, Eisenhower signed the documents that authorized the study and the final recommendation that the building be removed in favor of a newer design. There were members of the Eisenhower family who claimed that Eisenhower's doctor was concerned about his climbing the stairs to enter the building but that his response was that it was good exercise.

We have other reasons for wishing it had not been named for Eisenhower. One of A.B. Mullett's grand nephews was an engineer posted in England during World War II. Before the plans for D Day were completed and the decision to invade at Normandy Beach, the military officers were concerned about launching an attack in that area because they could not discover any way of getting tanks onto the beaches after the first wave of soldiers. The young engineer named Roberts, had suggested floating docks and showed Eisenhower the design. Eisenhower laughed at it, showed the design around the office with big guffaws and rejected the entire plan, including his desire to attack at Normandy. Shortly thereafter Roberts was introduced to Winston Churchill and told him the plan for the floating docks. Churchill took the designs, asked Roberts if it could be done, received a positive response... then took the designs to some of his advisors and asked again if it could be done. The advisors were not certain but said possibly. Churchill then said the plans would be used and the launch was made. The rest is history. The final coup for Roberts was that Eisenhower was ordered to give Roberts and medal and letter for his ingenious plan that made D-Day possible. The history books credit Churchill because he was the one to insist that this plan go through. But the children of Roberts have the letter from Eisenhower which is clearly written with the same ridicule as the original Eisenhower response, that the award was for a plan that should not have worked. Interestingly enough, after several years of researching files in the National Archives and Patent Office for the mid and late 19th Century, we know that the floating dock had been a successful means of achieving otherwise impossible tasks of getting equipment on and off shore. Naming a Mullett building after a man who ridiculed a successful design by one of his grand nephews who helped to make D-Day a success, seems a big slap in the face of the family and an undeserved one.

On the good side, the GSA under the preservationist work of John Dawson, was very professional restored, especially with the care of the exterior stone work, the roof, gutters and down spouts. John is a professional architect, member of American Institute of Architects, and recently retired to Michigan. The current preservationist at the Executive Offices Building is Loni Hovey, also a member of American Institute of Architects.

This building was first constructed over many years in mid 19th Century. The book: A. B. Mullett: his Relevance in American Architecture and Historic Preservation has an excellent chapter on the building written by John Dawson, AIA.  This book is available by request from major bookstores on line as well as from AIA bookstore.

The offices of the Vice President and many supporting staff of the President are in this building. Occasionally the wife of the Vice President keeps offices in this building. There has been a fine restoration of several of the interior rooms to the original appearance when it first opened in the 19th Century. This restoration work was begun under the fine inspiration of John Rogers who initiated the preservation officer's position for the Old State, War and Navy Building during the Reagan administration. Various preservationists were hired, originally recent graduates of George Washington University Historic Preservation school. More recently those hired have been members of AIA. Paint was analyzed, files were researched, and now the official Vice President's office is located in the Old Secretary of the Navy office. The work began on this room when George H. Bush was Vice President. He greatly appreciated the building. A few of the original door knobs which were solid bronze, still remain in the building. Almost all were still in the buildings until the Carter Administration. A few disappeared when those people left to make room for the new administration. Many of the door knobs were replicated and replaced during the Reagan and Bush administrations. Then when the Clinton adminstration departed quite a number of door knobs left with them. pilfering of original solid brass door knobs was a common practice that the Government should retrieve or find some way of preventing from happening again in future years.

During the Reagan adminstration the building became open for the first time since World War II for tours to the public. After September 11, 2001 the tours were stopped. Individuals working in the building were able to provide private tours of the building to friends. The tours may start again as security for such tours is provided again as it has been on a limited basis in the Treasury Department and the White House. We hope so.

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Copyright 2002 Mullett-Smith Press. All Rights Reserved.