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Ammi B. Young

Supervising Architect of the Treasury and his 1858 Alexandria Post Office and Customhouse

Published in the Summer 1994 issue of the The Alexandria Chronicle, by the Alexandria Historical Society, Inc.

Ammi B. Young, Supervising Architect of the Treasury and his 1858 Alexandria Post Office and Customhouse, page 6 of 16

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details of great beauty and delicacy. Bowman was so proud of this development that in 1856 and 1858, he sent sets of beautifully lithographed plans of Young--designed buildings-- eventually totaling about forty seven--to colleges, universities and other scholarly institutions both in the United States and abroad. Bowman's accompanying letters explained that he was sending:..

“...sundry volumes containing a complete series of drawings of Public Buildings, constructed, and in course of construction, under my immediate direction, for the accommodation of the Customs, United States Courts, Post Off ices, Marine Hospitals, Mints, etc. with their respective specifications of the material used and the style of construction.

The introduction of wrought Iron Beams and Girders, it is believed, is new and so far have been entirely successful. Plans and specifications for fifteen new Buildings for similar proposes are now in the course of preparation, Sets of which I expect to have the pleasure of sending you as soon as Lithographed. With respect etc. . . l5

As the demand for government services increased, so did the pace of the Office of Construction. Bowman stated in 1857 that “...the entire amount thus expended for the first .forty years (for public buildings under the Secretary of the Treasury) did not exceed the amount expended during the past fiscal year."16 The table listing buildings constructed, under construction and approved took several pages of Bowman's annual report to the Secretary for that year.17

However, by 1858, money was drying up. There was an economic downturn, and the country’s political problems were mounting. After that year, no new buildings were authorized for the Office of Construction, though work continued on those, including the south wing of the U.S. Treasury, for which there were already appropriations. While some projects were not finished until after the Civil War, the south wing of the treasury was completed in time for Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, to move into his sumptuous office, complete with a mural and a view down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. Alexander Bowman left Washington for his Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania home on sick leave in 1860. He never returned, and was reassigned to West Point in 1861. Young stayed on, but with seemingly little to do. What few letters from him that exist in the National Archives only tell the sender that he has no authority, and that the Acting Chief Engineer in Charge, S.M. Clark, (“. . .to whom the Secretary entrusts all matters of construction. . . “), is away and will be back soon to answer whatever question there may be.”

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