You are here

Vice President's House (Superintendent's House; Admiral's House; Quarters A, United States Naval Observatory)

-A A +A
Superintendent's House; Admiral's House; Quarters A, United States Naval Observatory
1891–1893, Leon E. Dessez. Observatory Circle
  • Vice President's House (Superintendent's House; Admiral's House; Quarters A, United States Naval Observatory) (Franz Jantzen)

Failure of an attempt in 1966 to build a permanent official home for the vice president on 10 acres adjoining the Naval Observatory led to renovation in 1974 of the original superintendent's house on the observatory grounds. Dessez's sprawling two-story house is an appealing late Victorian mixture of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival stylistic features designed in the tradition of summer resort architecture, probably in response to its high (and then rural) location, where there were always breezes. The formal vocabulary—a semicircular, conical-capped tower protruding from its southeast corner; broad, squat dormers (originally with copper roofs) set low in the high hip roof—was primarily drawn from the Queen Anne tradition. However, the house's basically rectangular form and wraparound Colonial Revival porch with double Ionic columns that terminates at a porte-cochère set on the central cross axis (and main door) indicate the new stylistic tendency, as do a plethora of closely spaced windows on both stories and broad, plain entablatures throughout. In 1961, the red brick walls were painted white and the shutters were painted black, further colonializing its appearance. Dessez's very reductivist architectural vocabulary was probably a result of the same no-frills attitude that pervaded the Naval Observatory's scientific and administrative buildings.

Writing Credits

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee


What's Nearby


Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Vice President's House (Superintendent's House; Admiral's House; Quarters A, United States Naval Observatory)", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 390-390.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.