Photo of the State Department During the Civil War

We posted a great old photo of the old State Department Building earlier. Here’s another, similar angle photo of the building, but much clearer. Click on it for some amazing details.

Does anyone know why there are a large number of wooden boxes at the main entrance to the building? Those seem too small to be caskets. Any thoughts?

Old State Department Building, corner 15 Street and Pennsylvania Avenue - photo taken during the Civil War
Old State Department Building, corner 15 Street and Pennsylvania Avenue – photo taken during the Civil War

Source: Library of Congress

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  • Larry

    Zoom in and you see wooden boxes of various sizes. Perhaps it’s a shipment of supplies or an office move (in or out). Also note the apple seller by the fence with a sign on his chest.

  • dorisyork

    If you zoom in to the man selling the apples, keep going right until it stops. It looks to be a double negative of a man pointing a gun at another………or ghosts!!!! Am I the only one that sees it?

  • Paul Wahler

    There are definitely two images of people in the lower right of the photo. Undoubtedly due to the long exposure time of photographs of the day. Some pedestrians wandered into the scene for a brief period (seconds) and “ghosts” appear on the completed exposure. Besides the boxes, there is a heavy timber frame which can be seen just inside the fence – look past the streetlight. It was common to move goods in wooden crates in those pre-cardboard days. I am guessing that some moving-in or moving-out was happening.

  • W Clayton

    This photo was likely taken just after the civil war had concluded. In 1866 the Northeast Executive Building was scheduled to be torn down to make way for the erection of the north wing of the present Treasury Department Building. On July 3, 1866, Congress authorized the Secretary of State “to hire a suitable building or buildings for the temporary accommodation of the Department of State” and appropriated $25,000 “towards defraying the expense of such hiring, the transfer of the public archives, and the fitting up of the building or buildings.” They would move to the the newly constructed Washington City Orphan Asylum Building located on the southeast corner of Fourteenth and S Streets Northwest. Having survived an assassination plot that took President Lincoln, Secretary of State Seward would finish out the last 3 of his 8 year service some distance removed from the White House and Treasury Buildings.