The United States Naval Observatory (USNO) itself is one of the oldest scientific agencies in the US. Its primary mission is to produce timing, navigation and positioning data for the US Navy and US Department of Defense. First named the Depot of Charts and Instruments, the observatory was established by the Secretary of the Navy, John Branch, in 1830. At the time of its building, it was far from the light pollution created by the city center. Today, the observatory’s primary observation work is made in Arizona. In addition to producing data, the Naval Observatory maintains the “Master Clock,” providing precise time to the GPS satellite constellation run by the US Air Force.
Observatory Circle is a neighborhood in Northwest Washington, D.C., monopolized by the grounds of the USNO and the official residence of the Vice President. There are approximately 500 households within the neighborhood. The main causeway is Massachusetts Avenue, which is predominantly occupied by embassies and thus considered part of Embassy Row.
Surrounded by protected areas and parks, Observatory Circle is elegant, affluent and includes building styles typical of Washington, D.C.