The office handled some of the most important architectural commissions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among its creations are the well-known State, War, and Navy building (now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) in Washington, DC, the San Francisco Mint Building, and smaller post offices that have served communities for decades, many recognized as National Historic Landmarks, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, or designated as local landmarks.
Until 1893 the office used in-house architects. In 1893 Missouri Congressman John Charles Tarsney introduced a bill that allowed the Supervisory Architect to have competitions among private architects for major structures. Competitions were held for the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, Cleveland Federal Building, U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Baltimore, Maryland, and U.S. Customhouse in San Francisco (which are all now on the National Register of Historic Places) among others. The competitions were met with enthusiasm by the architect community but were also marred by scandal as when Taylor picked Cass Gilbert for the New York Customs job. Taylor and Gilbert had been members of the Gilbert & Taylor architecture firm in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1913 the act was repealed.