First Posted: Aug 2, 2012
Jan 20, 2020

National Press Club

Image: Public Domain
National Press Building

Looking southeast at the National Press Building at the corner of 13th Street NW and E Streets NW in Washington, DC, in the United States. The National Press Building is owned by the National Press Club, and was built to house the club's headquarters and to generate income for the club. It was designed by the architectural firm of C.W. & George Rapp (also known as Rapp & Rapp). Construction began in early 1926. The cornerstone was laid by President Calvin on April 8, 1926. Construction was complete in December 1927, and the building dedicated by President Coolidge on February 4, 1928. The building was constructed of steel and reinforced concrete by the firm of George A. Fuller, Co. The 14-story (141 feet [42.9 metres]) structure is in the Beaux Arts style, clad in terra cotta and brick, and featured ornate piers and articulated spandrels. Atop a rusticated base was a section composed of shafts with rusticated quoins. The upper section was topped with a balustrade.

The building was originally to have only 11 stories, but three additional stories and a movie theater were added to ensure the building's profitability. The entrance to the movie house, known as the Fox Theatre, was in the eastern facade through a rusticated neoclassical arch. The movie theater was removed in 1964. The building was slated for demolition in 1980. But in 1983, the National Press Club won approval for a 20 percent tax credit from the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site (even though the building was not declared historic). A $100 million renovation, designed by HTB, Inc., from 1984 to 1985 stripped the original cladding from the building, accentuated the windows, and carved an opening in the corner (supported by piers). The eastern facade and "Fox Arch" are all that remains of the original facade as of 2012. About Press Building Image

The National Press Club is a professional organization and private social club for journalists. It is located in Washington, DC Its membership consists of journalists, former journalists, government information officers, and those considered to be regular news sources. It is well known for its gatherings with invited speakers from public life.

Founded in 1908, every U.S. president since Theodore Roosevelt has visited the club, and all since Warren Harding have been members. Most have spoken from the club's podium. Others who have appeared at the club include monarchs, prime ministers and premiers, members of Congress, Cabinet officials, ambassadors, scholars, entertainers, business leaders, and athletes. The Club's emblem is the Owl, in deference to wisdom, awareness and long nights spent on the job.


On March 12, 1908, 32 newspapermen met at the Washington Chamber of Commerce to discuss starting a club for journalists. At the meeting they agreed to meet again on March 29 in the F Street parlor of the Willard Hotel to frame a constitution for the National Press Club. The Club founders laid down a credo which promised "to promote social enjoyment among the members, to cultivate literary taste, to encourage friendly intercourse among newspapermen and those with whom they were thrown in contact in the pursuit of their vocation, to aid members in distress and to foster the ethical standards of the profession."

With $300, the founding members moved into its first club quarters on the second floor of 1205 F Street NW. By 1909, the club had outgrown its new quarters and moved above Rhodes Tavern at the corner of 15th and F Streets. Once again the club outgrew its residence and moved to the Albee Building (formerly Riggs) at 15th and G Streets.

In 1925, National Press Club President Henry L. Sweinhart, appointed a special building committee to plan for a permanent club headquarters. A deal was negotiated with the Ebbitt Hotel, allowing the Ebbitt to move to the Albee building and allowing the National Press Club to demolish the hotel to build the National Press Building. The building included retail space and office space intended for Washington news bureaus with the club occupying the 13th and 14th floors. In order to increase their funding, the Club struck a deal with Fox to build a theater as part of the building. The National Press Building opened its doors in August 1927. The building was renovated in 1984-85, in conjunction with the development of the adjacent The Shops at National Place.

During the Great Depression, the Club struggled financially as it was beginning to be recognized as an influential group. It managed to find additional funding from wealthy individuals. Regular weekly luncheons for speakers began in 1932 with an appearance by president-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt. Since then the Club has hosted an average of 70 luncheons each year with prominent people. Over the years Nikita Khrushchev, Soong May-ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek), Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Muhammad Ali, Charles de Gaulle, Robert Redford, Boris Yeltsin, Elizabeth Taylor, Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, and the Dalai Lama and Angelina Jolie have all spoken at the club.

At its inception the National Press Club opened its doors only to white male journalists. In response, female journalists founded a Women's National Press Club in 1919, and African-American journalists founded the Capital Press Club in 1944. After the National Press Club admitted the first African-American male journalist in 1955, female journalists escalated their fight for entry. In December 1970, members of the Women's National Press Club voted to allow men into their club and renamed it the Washington Press Club. The next month, the National Press Club voted 227 to 56 to admit women. In 1985, the two clubs merged. Shortly after women were admitted to the National Press Club journalist Gloria Steinem, a feminist leader and founder of New York and Ms. magazines, became the first woman to address the organization.

Speaking at the National Press Club to mark his retirement, CBS commentator Eric Sevareid called the club the "sanctum sanctorum of American journalists" and said "It's the Westminster Hall, it's Delphi, it's Mecca, the Wailing Wall for everybody in this country having anything to do with the news business; the only hallowed place I know of that's absolutely bursting with irreverence."

The Broadcast Operations Center opened in 2006. Located on the 4th floor of the National Press Building, a full-service video production with facilities for webcast and video conference solutions, video production capabilities, global transmission portals, and web enabled multimedia.

The National Press Club also rents space to other organizations.

Professional Development

The National Press Club Journalism Institute, the non-profit arm of the National Press Club, trains communications professionals in a changing media environment, provides scholarships to the next generation of journalists, recognizes excellence in journalism, and promotes a free press. The Institute also trains working journalists through its Bloomberg Center for Electronic Journalism, and provides research for communications professionals through its Eric Friedheim Journalism Library.

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National Press Club

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