- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2007

First lady Laura Bush visited her next-door neighbors yesterday and pronounced herself impressed with the remodeling at 1500 Pennsylvania Ave.

Mrs. Bush joined Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion of a 10-year renovation of the Treasury Building, which is the third oldest government structure in Washington after the Capitol and the White House.

“All Americans will benefit by having this historic landmark preserved for future generations,” Mrs. Bush told the crowd.

Mr. Paulson noted that a building housing the U.S. Treasury had been on the same spot next to the White House since 1800. But he said that at times, it would have been “helpful to be a little farther away,” such as in 1814 when British troops, after setting fire to the White House, torched the Treasury Building for good measure.

The current structure, on which construction began in 1836, had not undergone a major renovation since the beginning of the last century.

The 10-year project, finished at a cost of $247 million, restored the building’s lost grandeur by uncovering painted ceilings and skylights that had not been seen for decades and by refurbishing the ornate Cash Room, site of Ulysses S. Grant’s first inaugural ball in 1869.

The renovation also included a major upgrade of heating, plumbing and electrical systems.

Mrs. Bush, who has been a supporter of historic preservation, was given a tour of some of the restored rooms including the Salmon P. Chase Suite, where Abraham Lincoln’s Treasury secretary had his offices, and the Andrew Johnson Suite, where Lincoln’s successor worked for eight weeks in 1865 after the assassination.

In her remarks, Mrs. Bush praised Chase, who went on to become chief justice of the Supreme Court, for being the first official to introduce women into the federal work force by hiring them to replace men who had left to fight in the Civil War.

The Treasury Department is open during the week only to visitors with appointments, but the public can take guided tours on Saturdays by making advance reservations through their congressional offices.

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