“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)

The Division

Make No Little Plans


— Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

The Division Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
1. The Division Marker
Inscription.  Soon after the Federal government moved to Washington in 1800, this area attracted shops and stables to serve the new residents. But where Constitution Avenue runs today, just south of this sign, Tiber Creek flowed - and often flooded. In 1815 engineers channeled the creek into the new Washington Canal.

By 1860, however, the canal had deteriorated into an open sewer. Impoverished families, both African American and white, lived in small wood-frame houses along unpaved, often muddy streets and alleys. Crime was rampant.

The Civil War (1861-1865) brought thousands of soldiers and civilians into the capital, and brothels and saloons thrived. This area became known as "Hooker's Division," a pun on the name of General Joseph Hooker, who commanded an Army division defending Washington.

After the war ended, Alexander "Boss" Shepherd, head of Washington's powerful Board of Public Works, filled and paved over the canal, though the area remained flood-prone. Reformers such as the Central Union Mission and Anti-Saloon League moved here, as did cabinet workshops, lumber yards, and other industrial facilities. But the old businesses
Washington Canal image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
2. Washington Canal
Artist Seth Eastman's 1850 sketch of the Washington Canal looking west from the foot of the U.S. Capitol.
continued - despite the 1908 arrival of the District Building, home to the city government and police department - until Congress finally outlawed prostitution in 1914, and Prohibition shut down the saloons a few years later.

The Division, including homes, a church, and a school, was bulldozed for construction of the Federal Triangle in 1926. Five years later, Congress renamed B Street (and the filled-in canal) Constitution Avenue.

As you walk through the passageway on your way to Sign 11, please note the typical Federal Triangle cobblestone walk and rusticated (rough-edged) limestone.

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
Map of the Triangle, 1886 image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
3. Map of the Triangle, 1886
The detail from an 1886 real estate map shows the neighborhood south of Pennsylvania Avenue. The Federal Triangle plan erased Ohio Avenue, 13 ½ Street, and C Street. You are standing approximately at the letter "V" in Ohio Avenue. B Street (now Constitution Avenue) was later built over the old Washington Canal.
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 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
Washington Woodworking Company image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
4. Washington Woodworking Company
Washington Woodworking Company, viewed from 12th Street at B Street, was one of the light industries here before the Federal Triangle was laid out.
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 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 10.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Federal Triangle Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 53.585′ N, 77° 1.83′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker can be reached from Constitution Avenue Northwest (U.S. 1/50) east of 14th Street Northwest, on the right when traveling west. Located on a walkway between the Ronald Reagan and Environmental Protection Agency Buildings. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1301 Constitution Avenue Northwest, Washington DC 20229, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. From Workers to Environment (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Completing the Triangle
The Triangle, circa 1923 image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
5. The Triangle, circa 1923
By 1923 the District Building, in the foreground and the Southern Railway building next door on Pennsylvania Avenue had erased some but not all of the Division. In the background is the Old Post Office. Warwick & Hiss billiard parlor, right, was one of the gentlemen's clubs and social activities in the Division.
(about 300 feet away); To the Memory of Oscar S. Straus (about 400 feet away); Keeping It Green (about 400 feet away); Arts and Artists (about 400 feet away); U. S. Post Office Department (about 400 feet away); Flags of the World (about 500 feet away); Public Art for a Modern Museum (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Federal Triangle.
Categories. African AmericansGovernment & PoliticsWar, US CivilWaterways & Vessels
Passageway to Constitution image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
6. Passageway to Constitution
Gilded and burnished aluminum lamps light the cobblestone passagway to Constitution Avenue.
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
7. Back of Marker
Red-Light District, 1912 image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
8. Red-Light District, 1912
Pioneering social documentary photographer Lewis Hine explored the red-light district in 1912. Hine photographed young Griffin Veatch, a messenger, standing on C Street near 13th Street.
Map of the Federal Triangle Heritage Trail System image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
9. Map of the Federal Triangle Heritage Trail System
The Division Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
10. The Division Marker
Columns, Lamps, and Cobblestone image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
11. Columns, Lamps, and Cobblestone
Passageway to Constitution Avenue.

More. Search the internet for The Division.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 3, 2019. This page originally submitted on July 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 432 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on July 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on August 12, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
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