As a museum and exhibit space, the oldest private residence in DC now hosts programs demonstrating the cultural and societal impact of architects and architecture, and the architect’s potential to create a just and equitable society.
Closely tied to our nation’s history since its construction began in 1799, The Octagon is a symbol of power and influence in Washington, DC. The Octagon house was built by enslaved workers for Virginia’s wealthiest plantation family, largely as a gesture by the Tayloes in support of the newly-established capital. The building was designed by the first architect of the United States Capitol, William Thornton, and served for six months as the White House after the 1814 Burning of Washington.
Recognizing The Octagon’s national importance, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) established its national headquarters on-site in 1898 and restored the building as one of the country’s earliest preservation projects. In the 1970s AIA constructed its current headquarters on the site of The Octagon’s original outbuildings, opening The Octagon to the public as a museum. Now owned by the Architects Foundation, The Octagon continues to inspire current and future architects, highlighting important moments and movements in American and architectural history.