Finding itself landlocked on its site in the city's financial district, the university in 1912 secured a hold in the Foggy Bottom area, at 2023 G Street NW. Initially, the university occupied row houses, but as building funds increased, most of these were demolished, and distinctly academic, institutional structures were erected. Some single or small groups of row houses survive, sheltering academic departments. The once-thriving residential community shrank as the university expanded to become the second-largest landholder in Foggy Bottom, after the federal government. University-sponsored real estate development activities included speculative office buildings, which were justified as potential classrooms.
Several campus buildings that date from Foggy Bottom's mid-nineteenth-century heyday as an elite residential neighborhood are the Woodhull House (
FB17.1) at 2033 G Street NW and the Alumni House (
FB17.2) at 714
The first attempt at a comprehensive campus plan is seen in the quadrangle ( FB17.5) at 20th, G, 21st, and H streets. Here a yard is bordered to the east and west by Colonial Revival academic buildings of the 1920s, while the south side is lined with 1930s Moderne academic structures. Architect Albert L. Harris, a former apprentice to Henry Ives Cobb of Chicago, provided the classic university quadrangle plan. In 1924, Harris with Arthur B. Heaton designed Stockton Hall ( FB17.6) on 20th Street for the law school and Corcoran Hall ( FB17.7) on 21st Street for classrooms. In 1970, the modern style law library ( FB17.8), designed by Mills, Petticord and Mills, augmented the law school. In the 1980s, Keyes Condon Florance designed the flanking Postmodern classroom extensions.
On the south side of the quadrangle, Bell, Lisner, and Stuart halls ( FB17.9), as well as boldly geometric Lisner Auditorium ( FB17.10) by Waldron Faulkner, were constructed in 1934–1941 in a spartan Moderne mode. More recently, in an effort to create a harmonious red brick backdrop for the quadrangle, these buildings' protective paint has been removed, revealing depression-era soft brick. In 1987, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill redesigned the entire yard, which uses Neo-Moderne light fixtures to recall the 1930s era.