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

Arts and Artists

Make No Little Plans

 

—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

 
Arts and Artists Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
1. Arts and Artists Marker
Inscription. Woodrow Wilson Plaza honors President Woodrow Wilson, noted scholar and former president of Princeton University. Located just inside the Ronald Reagan building ahead is the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the nation's memorial to our 29th president. The nonpartisan institution studies national and world affairs.

Installed in the lively plaza are monumental sculptures by two Washington-born artists: the cast-aluminum Federal Triangle Flowers by Stephen Robin and the hammer-formed and welded bronze Bearing Witness by Martin Puryear. Robin's large-scale rose and lily reflect traditional uses of flowers as architectural ornamentation. The familiar yet mysterious shape of Puryear's colossal work allows viewers to create their own associations. The sculptures, commissioned by the U.S. General Services Administration's Art in Architecture Program, continue a long history of government-sponsored art for public buildings.

Take a moment to marvel at the bas-reliefs by Adolph Alexander Weinman and Anthony De Francisci adorning the former Post Office Department (now Ariel Rios) building. Just under the roofline at either end of the curved façade are the graceful sculptures, The Transmission of Mail by Day and The Transmission of Mail by Night. A timeline of postal service history and a
Sculptor Stephen Robin image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
2. Sculptor Stephen Robin
Sculptor Stephen Robin in his studio, with a clay model of his Federal Triangle Flowers.
romantic statement of mail delivery's effect on American life are inscribed between them. Just below the sculptures, a series of plaques by Weinman and Joseph Renier illustrates communications developments: carrier pigeons, smoke signals, and drums. Benjamin Franklin tops the list of postmasters general carved into the façade.

Passageways leading to 12th Street and to the National Mall via Constitution Avenue to your left evoke architectural traditions of European cities.

(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
Woodrow Wilson and Bearing Witness image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
3. Woodrow Wilson and Bearing Witness
(Left): President Woodrow Wilson at his White House desk, around 1918. The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Memorial Exhibit is open to the public. Enter through the doors located behind the Bearing Witness sculpture.
(Right): Bearing Witness was created by contemporary American sculptor Martin Puryear.
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 Chicago architect
Transmission of Mail image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
4. Transmission of Mail
Look up to your left to see the bas-relief of The Transmission of Mail by Day. Its companion The Transmission of Mail by Night, portrayed behind the text of this sign, is on the opposite side of the building's curved façade.
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 6.)
 
Location. 38° 53.642′ N, 77° 1.773′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker can be reached from Pennsylvania Avenue, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Located in the plaza between the Ronald Reagan and Ariel Rios Buildings. 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); Appointed Rounds (within shouting distance of this marker); Daniel Patrick Moynihan Place (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Division (about 400 feet away); Preserving the Past
Forms of Communication image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
5. Forms of Communication
The frieze illustrates early forms of communication. From left are smoke signals, drums, helio (light-reflecting) signal, blanket signal, and carrier pigeons.
(about 500 feet away); To the Memory of Oscar S. Straus (about 600 feet away); Western Plaza, Pennsylvania Avenue (about 600 feet away); Open For Business (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Federal Triangle.
 
Categories. Arts, Letters, Music
 
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
6. Back of Marker
Post Office Department Building Construction image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
7. Post Office Department Building Construction
When the Post Office Department building was under construction in 1933, the area where you are standing was a parking lot that remained until the Wilson Plaza and Ronald Reagan Building were built in the 1990s.
Map of the Federal Triangle Heritage Trail System image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
8. Map of the Federal Triangle Heritage Trail System
Arts and Artists Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
9. Arts and Artists Marker
Federal Triangle Flowers image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
10. Federal Triangle Flowers
Bearing Witness image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
11. Bearing Witness
Early Forms of Communication Frieze image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
12. Early Forms of Communication Frieze
Section of frieze and inscription on Post Office Department Building. (See nearby markers.)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 415 times since then and 26 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, 12. submitted on August 12, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
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