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Here Are the Best Books on Washington, D.C. Architecture

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It's time to step away from the coloring book and expand your library with publications that truly dig into the history of Washington, D.C.'s architecture and the people who made it happen. All of these (save for one) are available on Amazon, which of course means that you can find sellers who will offer the book for more than half the price of it new (which may not appeal to everyone, but it's worth noting for penny pinchers). From Best Addresses to The Black Architects of Washington, D.C., the literature listed below are must-haves for any history buffs, architects, realtors, and anyone else who prides themselves on their extensive knowledge of the nation's capital. Looking for a longer architecture- or design-focused article to keep you company while you wait for these books to ship to your door? These longreads should help you out on any pensive night, lengthy drive, or awkward conversation with extended family.



AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C.
G. Martin Moeller Jr.

Form the Watergate to the Cairo, the American Institute of Architects provides insight into more than 400 landmarks in Washington, D.C. with descriptions and historical facts on each one.


Best Addresses
James Goode

This massive, well-researched book is the authoritative guide to every apartment building in and around Washington, D.C. Along with photography and examinations of the people who built and lived in these properties, Goode goes above and beyond when it comes to documenting the architectural wonders of the nation's capital. Goode was the winner of Washingtonian's prestigious "Washingtonian of the Year" award.

Take an architectural tour of Washington, D.C.'s architecture lost to the wrecking ball with photography and history into not only the properties, but the people who inhabited them.

After 10 years of research, Peatross published this illustrated text with stories of how Washington, D.C.'s architecture was linked with the zodiac, while providing the significance of the symbols found throughout the nation's capital.

Every aspect of Washington, D.C. is investigated in this publication, from the District's major government buildings to its monuments to its neighborhoods, while unearthing the myriad number of changes the city's architecture has experienced since the Revolutionary War.

This well-documented publication focuses on the work of the National Capital Planning Commission and how the District has grown over the past few decades.


Lost Washington, D.C.
Paul Kelsey Williams

Not to be confused with John DeFerrari's Lost Washington, D.C., this publication of the same name addresses the myriad of buildings that were destroyed in Washington, D.C. These properties include the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary, the Albaugh's Opera House, and more. Expect not only photographs of these lost buildings, but commentary and factual history to understand the context.


The Black Architects of Washington, D.C.
Dr. Harrison Mosley Ethridge

You won't be able to find this dissertation on Amazon, but it's worth the hunt. The author is one of the first to ever extensively research the history and legacy of African American architects in Washington, D.C. You can find this book in a variety of libraries in Washington, D.C. as well as other cities around the nation.

[Image via Shutterstock/CoraMax]

This narrative account explores the story of how Pierre Charles L'Enfant was chosen to design the nation's capital, why he was turned away only 11 months later, and what became of his designs.

In this book, architectural historian Pamela Scott delves into the depth of the the Corps' involvement in the design and development of Washington, D.C. This publication received the Blue Pencil Award for "Most Outstanding Soft Cover Book" from the National Association for Government Communicators in 2007.

While most argue that the design of Washington, D.C. is thanks to Pierre Charles L'Enfant, Ovason argues that it was Masonic architects like Thomas Jefferson who truly influenced the making of the city.


Washington, D.C. Then & Now
Alexander D. Mitchell IV

Take a blast to the past to what Washington, D.C. once looked like 200 years ago. In Washington, D.C. Then & Now, you can discover vintage black and white photography compared with color photography of what the District looks like today.

Have any other suggestions? Be sure to leave a comment!

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