The Second Empire style originated in Europe, where it first appeared during the rebuilding of Paris in the 1850s and 60s. Based upon French Renaissance prototypes, such as the Louvre Palace, the Second Empire style is characterized by the use of a steep mansard roof, central and terminal pavillions, and an elaborately sculptured facade. Its sophistication appealed to visiting foreigners, especially in England and America, where as early as the late 1850s, architects began adopting isolated features and, eventually, the style as a coherent whole. Alfred Mullett's interpretation of the French Second Empire style was, however, particularly Americanized in its lack of an ornate sculptural programme and its bold, linear details.
While it was only a project on the drafting table, the design of the OEOB was subject to controversy. When it was completed in 1888, the Second Empire style had fallen from favor, and Mullett's masterpiece was perceived by capricious Victorians as only an embarrassing reminder of past whims in architectural preference. This was especially the case with the OEOB, since previous plans for a building on the same site had been in the Greek Revivial style of the Treasury Building.
In 1917, the Commission of Fine Arts requested John Russell Pope to prepare sketches of the State, War, and Navy building that incorporated Classical facades. Duringe the same year, Washington architect Waddy B. Wood completed a drawing depicting the building remodeled to resemble the Treasury Building. This project was revived in 1930, but funds were cut, due to opposition to the project and financial burdens imposed by the Great Depression. In 1957, President Eisenhower's Advisory Committee on Presidential Office Space recommended demolition of the Executive Office Building and construction of a modern office facility. However, the overwhelming expenses associated with the demolition saved the building.