One of my favorite buildings in Washington, D.C. is the Pension Building, which is now the National Building Museum. Between the grandeur of the hall and the beautiful brick exterior with its carved frieze, it stands out in a city of grand buildings. While still under construction in 1885, it was also the site for President Grover Cleveland’s Inaugural Ball. Over the years, there have been seventeen inaugural balls held there, the most of any existing building, according to the staff of the National Building Museum. (No ball this year, but there was a reception in the museum following President Obama’s January 20th official swearing-in.)
As I went through photographs of the decorations for the various balls held in the Pension Building, the second Inaugural Ball for President McKinley stood out as my favorite:
The thousands of incandescent lights strung between the columns must have been a spectacular sight for 1901. The Washington Post of Feb. 8, 1901 adds further visual delight by telling us that the ceiling is swathed in golden drapery. What a sight that must have been!
- Enjoy images of the Pension Building/National Building Museum dressed up for inaugural balls over the years in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. (My second favorite is probably McKinley’s first Inaugural Ball.)
- The Pension Building/National Building Museum is interesting even when it’s not decorated, as these images show.
Thank you to the staff of the National Building Museum for their help with this post!