Pension Building—National Building Museum
Visit Pension Building—National Building MuseumPlan Your Visit
The historic home of the National Building Museum was built between 1882 and 1887 for three distinct purposes: to house the headquarters of the United States Pension Bureau, to provide a suitably grand space for Washington’s social and political functions, and to commemorate the service of those who fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War.
Before the Civil War, most pensions (money or land grants offered to veterans disabled in the course of military service and to the widows and orphans of officers killed) were paid out by state governments, as many veterans served in state militias, not for the federal government. However, by 1864, of the 51,135 pensioners on the rolls, more than 48,000 had served in the Civil War. By 1871, new claims and new eligibility provisions added over 250,000 new pensioners to the rolls—and the numbers kept increasing. Not only did the Civil War greatly increase the number of pensioners, the war also created a demand for federal workers and office space to administer the pensions. This tremendous growth is what prompted Congress, in 1881, to commission the Pension Building.
Today, the Pension Building still serves its original purposes as a venue for social and political functions, specifically, presidential Inauguration Balls. Visit this virtual tour to take a look inside.