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

Appointed Rounds

Make No Little Plans

 

—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

 
Appointed Rounds Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 16, 2012
1. Appointed Rounds Marker
Inscription. The imposing Ariel Rios Building opened in 1934 to house the U.S. Post Office Department. Architect William A. Delano, of the New York firm Delano and Aldrich, drew inspiration from Paris and other European cities to design the building's unusual hourglass shape. The building, including a ground-level arcade and a Parisian-inspired slate mansard roof, was intended to face a circular court planned to span 12th Street. The plan, however, required demolition of the Old Post Office. Its destruction was delayed, and eventually the Old Post Office gained landmark status, preventing completion of the circular court.

When this building was constructed, the Post Office Department was among the larger non-military employers in the nation. Postal service dates to 1775, when the Continental Congress, representing the 13 colonies, appointed Benjamin Franklin the first postmaster general. The ability of colonial military commanders to communicate by mail helped them defeat the British during the Revolution. In the new nation, postal service furthered democracy and growth by linking elected representatives with their constituents and businesses with their customers.

Although the Post Office Department became the U.S. Postal Service in 1971 and moved from the Federal Triangle, the building's plentiful inscriptions, sculptures, bas-reliefs,
Spirit of Progress and Civilization image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
2. Spirit of Progress and Civilization
The central figure of The Spirit of Progress and Civilization by Adolph Weinman raises a torch of enlightenment and holds a winged ball representing progress. On the right, a youth holds a scroll and book symbolizing education. On the left the Roman god Mercury, signifying the speed of mail delivery, fastens his winged sandals. The other figures evoke the many methods of transporting mail by land, water, and even electric wire.
and evocative interior murals preserve its stories and mission of binding the nation together. The embellishments also remind viewers of the thousands of laborers, artists, and craftsmen who found much-needed work here during the Great Depression (1929-1941).

This building was later occupied by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and renamed to honor Special Agent Ariel Rios, who was killed in the line of duty. It now houses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters.

(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
Interior Staircases image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 16, 2012
3. Interior Staircases
A bronze balustrade lining the interior staircases features wings over twisted serpents to symbolize Mercury, the Roman messenger of the gods.
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 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
Sorting the Mail image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 16, 2012
4. Sorting the Mail
Photo of a mural painted by Reginald Marsh, 1935.
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 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 2012 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 5.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Postal Mail and Philately marker series.
 
Location. 38° 53.65′ N, 77° 1.72′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 12th Street NW, on the left when traveling north. Click for map. 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. U. S. Post Office Department (within shouting distance of this marker); Arts and Artists (within shouting distance of this marker); Preserving the Past (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Daniel Patrick Moynihan Place (about
Messenger of Sympathy and Love image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 16, 2012
5. Messenger of Sympathy and Love
Mural painted by Eugene Francis Savage, 1932.
400 feet away); Permanence and Grandeur: Building the Federal Triangle (about 500 feet away); The Division (about 700 feet away); Western Plaza, Pennsylvania Avenue (about 700 feet away); Keeping it Green (about 700 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Federal Triangle.
 
Categories. Government
 
General Store image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 16, 2012
6. General Store
Mural painted by Doris Lee, 1938. The Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts commissioned these murals for the Post Office Department from leading American artists.
Circular Court image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 16, 2012
7. Circular Court
The Old Post Office at center prevented the completion of the circular court intended to flank 12th Street.
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
8. Back of Marker
Elements of the Architecture image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
9. Elements of the Architecture
This early view of the 12th Street facade of the completed Post Office Department building was photographed around 1936. Call outs highlight the central porticio, fluted columns, and arcade.
Federal Triangle Heritage Trail map image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
10. Federal Triangle Heritage Trail map
Appointed Rounds Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
11. Appointed Rounds Marker
Central Portico image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
12. Central Portico
Side Portico image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
13. Side Portico
Archways of the Arcade image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 16, 2012
14. Archways of the Arcade
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 363 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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