“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Federal Triangle in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Open For Business

Make No Little Plans


—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

Open For Business Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
1. Open For Business Marker
Inscription. Across the street the Department of Commerce's Herbert C. Hoover Building anchors the Federal Triangle, just as the department - with its mission of promoting trade, supporting economic development, and strengthening the competitiveness of American companies - historically anchors the U.S. economy. Upon completion in 1932, the building was the world's largest office complex, covering almost eight acres and filling three city blocks with 3,300 rooms. It brought under one roof offices that had been scattered among 20 locations in Washington. The massive Hoover Building has six interior courtyards that bring light and air into offices. Exterior sculptures, plaques, and inscriptions illustrate the department's wide-ranging activities.

The monumental structure reflects the nation's prosperity when Louis Ayres of the New York firm of York and Sawyer designed it and when President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone in May 1929. A few months later, however, the world economy crashed, launching the Great Depression. Fortunately, construction on the Federal Triangle proceeded creating jobs that became harder to find as the depression deepened.

When the Commerce Department was founded in 1903, it took in the Census Bureau (established in 1790), Bureau of Navigation (1789), Lighthouse Service (1789), Patent Office (1802), Coast and
Aeronautics image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
2. Aeronautics
The central figure for James Earle Fraser's Aeronitics sculpture is hoisted into position on the 13th Street side of the Hoover Building. The sculpture's two 'mortals' fasten wings to a 'demi-god' pilot, suggesting the greatness of human flight.
Geodetic Survey (1807), Bureau of Steamboat Inspection (1838), and Bureau of Fisheries (1871). When the building was complete, it also housed the bureaus of Mines, Foreign and Domestic Commerce, and Aeronautics, as well as the Radio Division. Changing times have consolidated or eliminated many bureaus, but the department's mission of supporting the American economy remains constant.

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
Lower Left Photos image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
3. Lower Left Photos
Upper photo: The Commerce Department's vaulted law library. The library and the White House Visitor Center are open to the public and can be entered on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the building.

Lower photo: President Herbert Hoover, who earlier served as secretary of commerce, addressed the nation at the 1929 cornerstone-laying ceremony of the Department of Commerce building.
until 1998.

In 1791 Pierre L'Enfant designed a city plan 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,
Artwork for the Hoover Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
4. Artwork for the Hoover Building
Upper photo: To decorate the façades of the building, James Earle Fraser designed bas-reliefs representing Commerce's 16 bureaus in 1930. The National Aquarium, an initiative of the Bureau of Fisheries, is located inside the Commerce Building and is open to the public.

Lower photo: Craftsmen create the bronze doors found inside the Hoover Building. An example of their handiwork is shown at right.
please visit For more information on DC neighborhoods and walking tours, please visit

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 2012 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 8.)
Location. 38° 53.658′ N, 77° 1.905′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 14th Street NW, on the right when traveling north. Click for map. Located in front of the Ronald Reagan Building. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20229, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. To the Memory of Oscar S. Straus (within shouting distance of this marker); Alexander Robey Shepherd (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Completing the Triangle (about 400 feet away); Washington, DC: Capital and City (about 400 feet away); The John A. Wilson Building (about 400 feet away); The Division (about 600 feet away); Original Patentees Memorial
Bronze Door Artwork image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
5. Bronze Door Artwork
(about 600 feet away); John J. Pershing, General of the Armies (1860-1948) (about 600 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Federal Triangle.
Also see . . .  National Aquarium: closure in 2013. (Submitted on February 22, 2014, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Categories. GovernmentNotable Buildings
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
6. Back of Marker
Commerce Department's Offices image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
7. Commerce Department's Offices
The monumental Commerce Department serves as the short leg of the Federal Triangle. It features a base of rusticated granite blocks, a colonnade with Doric capitals, and a cornice embellished with eagles.
Federal Triangle Heritage Trail map image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
8. Federal Triangle Heritage Trail map
Open For Business Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 13, 2016
9. Open For Business Marker
The marker can be seen here (to the left of the large "P" sign) in front of the Ronald Reagan Building, looking south on 14th Street, NW.
Hoover Building - 14th Street Side image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
10. Hoover Building - 14th Street Side
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 327 times since then and 75 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   9. submitted on , by J. Makali Bruton of San Salvador, El Salvador.   10. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on September 13, 2016.
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