Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“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)
 

Completing the Triangle

Make No Little Plans

 

—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

 
Completing the Triangle Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
1. Completing the Triangle Marker
Inscription. The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center honoring the 40th president, filled the last open space in the Federal Triangle. When former First Lady Nancy Reagan dedicated it in 1998, the redevelopment of this area of Pennsylvania Avenue, begun by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, was complete. The Reagan Building's 3.1 million square feet of space make it the second-largest federal building. Only the Pentagon is larger.

The only Federal Triangle building with both private and government offices houses the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Customs Service. James Ingo Freed of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, New York, designed the limestone exterior as a modern re-working of its neighbors' neoclassical style. The public is encouraged to explore this landmark building featuring a contemporary soaring atrium; conference, exhibit, and event spaces; and a tribute to President Reagan.

Planners of the Federal Triangle originally envisioned a "Great Plaza" here, designed as a formal French garden. However as the Federal Triangle began to take shape, construction workers parked on the site. Federal employees and their cars soon followed. With war looming in the late 1930s, the government shelved the Great Plaza idea. The parking
Pennsylvania Avenue Dome image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
2. Pennsylvania Avenue Dome
The Pennsylvania Avenue dome of the Reagan Building pays homage to the presence of monumental domes throughout the city.
lot lingered for six decades.

In 1947 President Harry S Truman dedicated a memorial here to diplomat and former Secretary of Commerce Oscar S. Straus (1850-1926). Appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt, Straus was the first Jewish cabinet member. Visible behind you on the plaza, the privately funded memorial by Adolph Weinman displays two cast-bronze sculptures: Liberty of Worship and The Voice of Reason.

(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
Lower Left Photos image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
3. Lower Left Photos
Top: Keith Sonnier's Route Zenith, a 49-foot-tall neon glass, and metal scupture, plays on the subtle interchange of light and reflection in the glass-covered atrium of the Reagan Building. The U.S. General Service Administration's Art in Architecture Program commissioned the artwork.

Middle: A very young model poses for sculptor Adolph Weinman. His Liberty of Worship sculpture forms part of the Straus Memorial in front of the Reagan Building's main entrance.

Bottom: The Straus Memorial under construction amid a sea of cars, 1942.
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 Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, chair of the McMillan Commission.

For
Lower Right Photos image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
4. Lower Right Photos
Top: On 14th Street, the building's Indiana Limestone façade echoes the columns and rusticated blocks of its earlier neighbors.

Bottom: In 1987 at West Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, President Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet Union's leader: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Two years later the wall came down, reuniting Germany. A section of the wall, a gift to Americans from grateful Berliners, may be seen inside the Ronald Reagan Building.
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 9.)
 
Location. 38° 53.6′ N, 77° 1.9′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 14th Street NW, on the right when traveling north. Touch 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); The Division (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Open For Business (about 400 feet away); From Workers to Environment (about 500 feet away); Arts and Artists (about 700 feet away); Original Patentees Memorial (about
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
5. Back of Marker
700 feet away); Alexander Robey Shepherd (about 700 feet away); Bulfinch Gate House (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Federal Triangle.
 
Categories. GovernmentNotable Buildings
 
Aerial View of the Reagan Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
6. Aerial View of the Reagan Building
This aerial view shows the expanse of the Ronald Reagan Building and how its red-tile roof edge echos the red-roofed Federal Triangle.
Federal Triangle Heritage Trail map image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
7. Federal Triangle Heritage Trail map
Completing the Triangle Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 5, 2016
8. Completing the Triangle Marker
14th Street Entrance to the Reagan Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
9. 14th Street Entrance to the Reagan Building
Liberty of Worship image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
10. Liberty of Worship
Voice of Reason image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 2, 2012
11. Voice of Reason
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 10, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 469 times since then and 38 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on July 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on July 9, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   8. submitted on September 10, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.   9, 10, 11. submitted on July 9, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
Paid Advertisement