George Washington and Thomas Jefferson invented the architecture of American democracy when they chose the classical style for the new nation's capital and most important structures. Their decision consciously linked the city to the ideals of republican Rome and democratic Athens.

The Founders knew that the classical tradition is time-honored and timeless. In a letter to Pierre L’Enfant, the planner Washington, D.C., Jefferson expressed his wish for a capitol designed after “one of the models of antiquity, which have had the approbation of thousands of years.”

The founding generation no more slavishly imitated other societies’ architecture than the founders imitated other forms of government when they drafted the U.S. Constitution. Instead, they sought and created an unmistakably American idiom. 

The National Civic Art Society aims to advance that classical tradition in federal architecture.

On January 14, 2019, the National Civic Art Society, along with the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Encounter Books, co-sponsored this panel discussion in celebration of Bruce Cole and his posthumously published book Art from the Swamp: How Washington Bureaucrats Squander Millions on Awful Art. For more information, click here.

On October 17, 2018, the C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State and the National Civic Art Society hosted a talk by NCAS Research Fellow Catesby Leigh on "The Architecture of Bureaucracy." Leigh discussed the intellectual and aesthetic inspiration for bureaucratic buildings of the New Deal and later eras, and their stark contrast with the classical principles that influenced the architects of our Capitol, White House, and our republic’s other early buildings. The lecture took place at Historic Decatur House in Washington, D.C.


"Washington: The Classical City" documentary produced by the National Civic Art Society.

The Classical Plan of Washington, D.C.

"We Must Preserve the Founders' Classical Vision for Our Nation's Capital." Public Discourse