The U.S. Constitution, drafted in Philadelphia in September 1787 and ratified by the 13 states the following year, gave the President the responsibility for the conduct of the nation's foreign relations.
The House of Representatives and Senate approved legislation to establish a Department of Foreign Affairs on July 21, 1789, and President Washington signed it into law on July 27, making the Department of Foreign Affairs the first federal agency to be created under the new Constitution. This legislation remains the basic law of the Department of State. In September 1789, additional legislation changed the name of the agency to the Department of State and assigned to it a variety of domestic duties.
These responsibilities grew to include management of the United States Mint, keeper of the Great Seal of the United States, and the taking of the census. President George Washington signed the new legislation on September 15. Most of these domestic duties of the Department of State were eventually turned over to various new Federal departments and agencies that were established during the 19th century. However, the Secretary of State still retains a few domestic responsibilities, such as being the keeper of the Great Seal and being the officer to whom a President or Vice President of the United States wishing to resign must deliver an instrument in writing declaring the decision to resign.
On September 29, 1789, President Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, then Minister to France, to be the first United States Secretary of State. John Jay had been serving in as Secretary of Foreign Affairs as a holdover from the Confederation since before Washington had taken office and would continue in that capacity until Jefferson returned from Europe many months later.
From 1790 to 1800, the State Department had its headquarters in Philadelphia, the capital of the United States at the time. It occupied a building at Church and Fifth Streets (although, for a short period during which a yellow fever epidemic ravaged the city, it resided in the New Jersey State House in Trenton, New Jersey). In 1800, it moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., where it first occupied the Treasury Building and then the Seven Buildings at 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. It moved into the
Six Buildings in September 1800, where it remained until May 1801. It moved into the War Office Building due west of the White House in May 1801. It occupied the Treasury Building from September 1819 to November 1866, except for the period from September 1814 to April 1816 (during which it occupied a structure at G and 18th streets NW while the Treasury Building was repaired). It then occupied the Washington City Orphan Home from November 1866 to July 1875. It moved to the State, War, and Navy Building in 1875. Since May 1947, it has occupied the Harry S. Truman Building in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington; the State Department is therefore sometimes metonymically referred to as "Foggy Bottom."
Madeleine Albright became the first woman to become the United States Secretary of State and the first foreign-born woman to serve in the Cabinet when she was appointed Secretary of State in 1997. Condoleezza Rice became the second female secretary of state in 2005. Hillary Clinton became the third female secretary of state when she was appointed in 2009.
In 2014, the State Department began expanding into the Navy Hill Complex across 23rd Street NW from the Truman Building. A joint venture consisting of the architectural firms of
Goody, Clancy and the Louis Berger Group won a $2.5 million contract in January 2014 to begin planning the renovation of the buildings on the 11.8 acres (48,000 m2) Navy Hill campus, which housed the World War II headquarters of the Office of Strategic Services and was the first headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.