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D.C.’s Municipal Center, home of the D.C. Police Department, becomes a historic landmark

Designed by the same architect behind the West Wing of the White House

Photo via Google Street View

In a Facebook post, the D.C. Preservation League has announced Washington, D.C.’s newest historic landmark, the Henry J. Daly Building, otherwise known as the Municipal Center. Located at 300 Indiana Avenue NW near Chinatown, this building is the headquarters for multiple agencies, including the Washington Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

It was constructed in 1941 with Public Works Administration grants and loans, totaling approximately 600,000 square feet, making it one of the District’s largest facilities. The architect behind the structure was city architect Nathan Wyeth, who is most known for having designed the West Wing of the White House and the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The name, Henry J. Daly Building, is meant to honor Sergeant Henry J. Daly, a 28-year MPD veteran who was killed by an armed intruder.

This was the first building developed during the 1920s for a civic center between Judiciary Square and Pennsylvania Avenue. According to the Historic Preservation Review Board nomination, it represents the urbanization and the expanding role of the government as well as the development of modern municipal administration for the District.

The architecture is an example of the Classical Moderne style, which is often associated with New Deal civic buildings. Some of the most significant features added to the building include its bas reliefs flanking the plaza staircase by Lee Lawrie and John Gregory, ceramic tile murals by Hildreth Meiere and Wayland Gregory in the building’s landscaped interior courtyards, a tile mosaic map of Washington, D.C., by Eric Menke on the floor of the C Street lobby, and the Police Memorial Fountain by John J. Earley on the Indiana Avenue side of the building near its northwest corner.

While the D.C. Preservation League was able to succeed in having the Henry P. Daly Building be named a landmark, it certainly isn’t the most popular building in the city.

In 2016, Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke about the building, saying, “Sometimes people exaggerate, but it’s probably the worst building in our entire portfolio.”

There are currently plans to renovate the building with hopes to enhance and upgrade the security infrastructure and increase the building efficiency and create space for additional District government tenants. There are no reports yet as to how this historic landmark designation could affect the planned renovation.