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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 J. Makali Bruton, September 6, 2015
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
Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker reverse image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 6, 2015
2. Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker reverse
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 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
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.
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 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
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).
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 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.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Federal Triangle Heritage Trail marker series.
 
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 Northwest and 14th Street Northwest, on the right when traveling east on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington DC 20004, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
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); Marion Barry, Jr. (within shouting distance of this marker); John J. Pershing, General of the Armies (1860-1948)
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.
(about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Great Seal of the United States (about 300 feet away); Alice Paul (about 300 feet away); The Washington Post (about 400 feet away); Open For Business (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Federal Triangle.
 
Categories. African AmericansArchitectureCivil RightsGovernment & PoliticsWar, World IWar, World II
 
Beaux-Arts architecture image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
6. 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
7. Federal Triangle Heritage Trail map
Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
8. Washington, DC: Capital and City Marker
Entrance to the John A. Wilson Buidling image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
9. 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
10. Figures on the Back of the Wilson Building
John A. Wilson Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 22, 2008
11. John A. Wilson Building
 

More. Search the internet for Washington, DC: Capital and City.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 3, 2019. This page originally submitted on July 4, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 671 times since then. Photos:   1. submitted on June 25, 2019, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.   2. submitted on September 19, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.   3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on July 8, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   11. submitted on July 9, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
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