The State, War, and Navy Building, as it was originally known, housed the three Executive Branch Departments most intimately associated with formulating and conducting the nation's foreign policy in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century -- the period when the United States emerged as an international power. The building has housed some of the nation's most significant diplomats and politicians and has been the scene of many historic events.
The history of the OEOB began long before its foundations were laid. The
first executive offices were constructed on sites flanking the White
House between 1799 and 1820. A series of fires (including the burning by
the British in 1814) and overcrowding conditions led to the construction
of the existing Treasury Building, and in 1866, the construction of the
North Wing of the Treasury Building necessitated the demolition of the
State Department to the northeast of the White House. The State
Department then moved to the D.C. Orphan Asylum while the War and Navy
Departments continued to make do with their cramped quarters to the west
of the White House.