By Roxanne Rukowicz
Behind the Scenes Events
Since the Inaugural Ball of President Grover Cleveland in 1885, the National Building Museum has been host to royalty, dignitaries, and the public alike.
Commissioned to serve as both the home of the Pension Bureau and as a gala venue for Washington’s social and political functions, the National Building Museum, originally known as the Pension Building, was completed in 1887.
Attendees at any function at the National Building Museum will find the building to be truly awe-inspiring with its architect, U.S. Army General Montgomery C. Meigs, having based its design on two Roman palaces – the Palazzo Farnese and the Palazzo della Cancelleria.
Inside the National Building Museum
Both the interior and exterior boast spectacular architectural features, including a 1,200’ long, 3’ high exterior frieze depicting a continuous parade of Civil War military units; 234 busts set in niches high above the center court; 144 interior columns, a ventilation system that was years ahead of its time that helped beat the DC heat and low-pitched, wide steps that allowed for injured veterans (and their horses) to make their way to the upper floors.
Measuring 116 × 316 feet, the Great Hall features a central fountain and is divided into three courts by two screens of four colossal Corinthian columns—at 75’ high, 8’ in diameter and 25’ in circumference, they are reportedly among the tallest classical columns in the world, each requiring 70,000 bricks to build.
It is this decadence of sheer size and design that makes the National Building Museum a stunning venue for an event — from receptions to inaugural balls to presidential summits.
We have seen this space elegantly draped, decorated and lit with special features from start to finish; and have alternatively watched as hosts let the stunning visuals of the building speak for themselves. Any which way you choose, hosting an event at the National Building Museum will stun guests through its sheer size, grandeur and opulence.
Consider these tips when utilizing this unique venue for your next power event.
- Walk through the space early on and visualize your event and the formal program. Will you cover the fountain or leave it open? Where will you set your stage? What portion of the space will you use for your reception, seated dinner and any potential after-party?
- Contract with vendors who have worked the space before. Venues this size, and with these architectural features, have nuances that many fresh to the location may not be aware of. Most notably here at the National Building Museum … sound.
- When building your budget, consider extra costs such as additional video screens and special projects. Be aware that with a large group, sight lines may develop due to the colossal columns — especially if the crowd is large and you are seating guests in more than one of the courts.
- Larger catered meals may require portions of the parking lot to be tented to allow for expanded room to work. Confirm with your caterer early on what their space needs will be.
- Because the building is open to the public (and a wonderful place to enjoy a brown-bag lunch, we might add), you are forbidden from doing any sound checks or rehearsals until 5 p.m.
- Fear not! There are additional suites available on the second and third floors that will allow intimate settings for your smaller, VIP receptions or meet-and-greets.
- The National Building Museum is metro accessible but you will want to plan for valet. Street parking in this area of town is at a minimum.
- When negotiating the facility rental fee, ask if the Museum Shop can be kept open for your guests to browse and buy. The potential revenues may afford you a small reduction in fees.
About Roxanne Rukowicz
Ranked one of Washington, DC’s top Meeting and Event Planners for 2009 by the Washington Business Journal, Roxanne Rukowicz’s Behind the Scenes Events, opened its doors in July of 2008 with a single concept in mind: to offer organizations access to an affordable full-service meeting and event planning solution.
Having worked in the Washington, DC meeting and event industry for over a decade, Roxanne started her career at the Greater Washington Board of Trade in 1999. Her experience with this influential regional network of business leaders allowed her hands-on training from the start. What began as a mere temporary work assignment, later progressed into a position as General Manager, as she excelled at each advanced meeting and event planning position she held.
Her extensive association and nonprofit planning skills are accented by experience working in the social and entertainment markets. Positions with The Walt Disney Companies and as a freelance wedding and special event coordinator have featured opportunities with A-list celebrity clients and top ranking government officials.
With a commitment to excellence and focus on the customer experience, Roxanne Rukowicz and the Behind the Scenes Events team create and produce exemplary meetings and events that drive an organization’s mission and goals.
For more information, visit Behind the Scenes Events.