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Federal Triangle in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Washington, DC: Capital and City

Make No Little Plans

 

—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

 
Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
1. Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker
Inscription. This is the John A. Wilson Building, Washington, DC's city hall, home to DC's mayor and city council.

When completed in 1908, it was known as the District Building (for District of Columbia). Cope and Stewardson of Philadelphia won the competition to design it in the Beaux-Arts style favored by the McMillian Commission, which was charged with remaking this area in 1901. Built on the site of a streetcar powerhouse destroyed by fire in 1897, it is the only building in the Federal Triangle constructed of marble.

The District Building originally housed three presidentially appointed commissioners who, with congressional supervision, governed DC from 1874 until 1974. Passage of the Home Rule Act of 1973 ended exclusive federal control over city affairs and allowed DC citizens to elect a city council and mayor. The DC Council creates the city's laws and budgets, though its actions remain subject to congressional oversight.

When the Federal Triangle plan emerged in the late 1920s, it called for demolition of this building in order to build a Great Plaza on 14th Street. But critics argued it would be wasteful to raze such an impressive marble structure, and citizens rallied to save it.

The building's name honors the late civil rights leader and home rule activist, former DC Council Chair John A. Wilson.

Just
Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker back image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 6, 2015
2. Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker back
ahead across 14th Street is Pershing Park, a memorial to World War I and to General John J. Pershing, hero of World War I and mentor to World War II military leaders. To your right across Pennsylvania Avenue is Freedom Plaza, where a portion of L'Enfant's Plan for Washington is rendered in white marble and black granite.

(Back):
You are standing in the Federal Triangle, a group of buildings whose grandeur symbolizes the power and dignity of the United States. Located between the White House and the Capitol, these buildings house key agencies of the U.S. Government.

The Federal Triangle is united by the use of neoclassical revival architecture, drawing from styles of ancient Greece and Rome that have influenced public buildings throughout the ages. Although each structure was designed for a specific government department or agency, they all share limestone façades, red-tiled roofs and classical colonnades. Their architectural features, following traditions of the Parisian School of Fine Arts (École des Beaux-Arts), illustrate each building's original purpose. Most of the Federal Triangle was constructed between 1927 and 1938. However, the Old Post Office and the John A. Wilson Building survive from an earlier era, while the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center was not completed until 1998.

In 1791 Pierre L'Enfant designed a city plan
Home Rule image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
3. Home Rule
Mayor Walter Washington addresses a rally calling for home rule, 1973. Young lobbyists, (right) mob District Commissioner Guy Mason in his District Building office, demanding a playground for their Anacostia neighborhood, 1946.
for the new cpaital in Washington under the direction of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The L'Enfant Plan overlaid broad avenues on a street grid with areas reserved for prominent buildings and parks. This area originally followed L'Enfant's vision as a center for businesses serving the municipal and federal governments. By the time of the Civil War (1861-1865), it had become a hodgepodge of boarding houses, stables, and light industry. This disarray, and the growing need for government office space, led to calls for redevelopment. In 1901 the Senate Park Commission, known as the McMillan Commission, created a new plan for Washington's parks and monumental areas and redefined the Triangle as a government center. In 1926 Congress authorized a massive building program that drew inspiration from classical architecture to create today's monumental Federal Triangle.

Make No Little Plans: Federal Triangle Heritage Trail is an Official Washington, D.C. Walking Trail. The self-guided, 1.75-mile tour of 16 signs offers about one hour of gentle exercise. Its theme comes from "Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men's blood. Make big plans," attributed to visionary Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, chair of the McMillan Commission.

For more information on Federal Triangle buildings, please visit www.gsa.gov. For more information on DC neighborhoods
Photos on the Center Right of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
4. Photos on the Center Right of Marker
Top caption: The first elected DC Council of the 20th century, pictured in 1975. Back row: William P. Spaulding, Arrington Dixon, Rev. Jerry Moore, David Clarke, Marion Barry, Rev. James Coates, John A. Wilson, Douglas Moore. Front row: Nadine Winter, Polly Shackleton, Mayor Walter Washington, Sterling Tucker, Willie Hardy, Missing: Julius Hobson, Sr. At right, John Wilson campaigns for council chair, 1990.

Lower Caption: The tall building on the corner of this bloc was Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Hall where Union Army veterans organized campaigns to obtain federal benefits. The whole block was razed to create the park just ahead on Pennsylvania Avenue honoring General John J. Pershing (left).
and walking tours, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.

Make No Little Plans: Federal Triangle Heritage Trail is produced by the U.S. General Services Administration in collaboration with the District Department of Transportation and Cultural Tourism DC.

 
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 7.)
 
Location. 38° 53.721′ N, 77° 1.894′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street NW, on the right when traveling east on Pennsylvania Avenue. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20004, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Alexander Robey Shepherd (a few steps from this marker); The John A. Wilson Building (a few steps from this marker); John J. Pershing, General of the Armies (1860-1948) (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Great Seal of the United States (about 300 feet away); Open For Business (about 400 feet away); Julia Ward Howe (about 400 feet away); The New Willard (about 400 feet away); The Peace Convention (about 400 feet away).
 
Categories. GovernmentNotable Buildings
 
Detail of the L'Enfant Plan image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
5. Detail of the L'Enfant Plan
A detail of the L'Enfant Plan is reproduced in black granite and white marble on Freedom Plaza. The white marble Pennsylvania Avenue aligns with the actual avenue. The plaza honors the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who finished writing his "I Have a Dream" speech at the nearby Willard Hotel.
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
6. Back of Marker
Beaux-Arts architecture image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
7. Beaux-Arts architecture
This ornate white marble 1908 building was the first of the Beaux-Arts architecture constructed in the Federal Triangle. Along the top of the main façade are figures representing (from left) Sculpture, Painting, Architecture, Music, Commerce, Engineering, Agriculture, and Statesmanship.
Federal Triangle Heritage Trail map image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
8. Federal Triangle Heritage Trail map
Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
9. Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker
Entrance to the John A. Wilson Buidling image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
10. Entrance to the John A. Wilson Buidling
Figures on the Back of the Wilson Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
11. Figures on the Back of the Wilson Building
John A. Wilson Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 22, 2008
12. John A. Wilson Building
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 506 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2. submitted on , by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.   3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   12. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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