The Octagon House is at 1799 New York Ave. N.W. at 18th St., 2 blks. w. of the White House. Built at the turn of the 19th century by architect William Thornton, this Federal-style residence served as the executive mansion for President James Madison in 1814 after the White House was burned by the British during the War of 1812. It was also an important social center during the city's early years.
After functioning as a school for Catholic girls, office space for federal government workers and a tenement for poor families, the building was purchased by the American Institute of Architects in 1902. Today this restored historic house museum offers changing exhibits and occasional public programs.