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

From Workers to Environment

Make No Little Plans

 

—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

 
From Workers to Environment Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
1. From Workers to Environment Marker
Inscription. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose mission is to protect human health and the environment, has occupied the majority of offices in this block since 2001. EPA West (this building), the adjacent Mellon Auditorium, and the EPA East building share once continuous, monumental faç designed by Arthur Brown, Jr. The projecting temple front of the auditorium, colonnades at both ends, and generous sculptures unify the complex.

Because this 1934 building originally housed the Department of Labor, its most prominent sculptures are monumental pediments showing products of American labor. In Abundance and Industry by Sherry Fry (west end), the female figure symbolizing abundance pours from a vase of apples and pomegranates, the fruits of industry. In Labor and Industry by Albert Stewart (east end), the male figure portraying industry sits amid corn and wheat, the fruits of the soil.

The Labor Department was created to promote the welfare of workers, improve their working conditions, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment. Frances Perkins, the first secretary of labor to occupy this building, was the nation's first woman cabinet member.

Edgar Walter's colossal Columbia holding the torch of freedom crowns the ornate portico behind you. Six Doric columns mark the entrance to the
Laborers on Carved Limestone image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
2. Laborers on Carved Limestone
Laborers pose with a carved limestone block to be hoisted above the entrance to the Mellon Auditorium, 1933. The dome of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History is visible in the background.
Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, named in 1987 in honor of the treasury secretary who spearheaded the creation of Federal Triangle. The auditorium hosted President Franklin Roosevelt as he read numbers drawn in the nation's first peacetime draft lottery, conducted less than a year before the United States entered World War II. After the war, the NATO treaty was signed in the same auditorium.

(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 and International Trade Center was
General George Washsington bas-relief image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
3. General George Washsington bas-relief
Look for General George Washington, depicted planning the Battle of Trenton, in this bas-relief, over the entrance to the Mellon Auditorium behind the columns.
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 more information on Federal
Secretary Perkins and Bureau of Labor Statistics image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
4. Secretary Perkins and Bureau of Labor Statistics
[Top]Department of Labor Secretary Francis Perkins meets the press 1937. [Bottom] Bureau of Labor Statistics clerks enter data on punch cards, 1936, for use in early "computing" machines.
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 11.)
 
Location. 38° 53.537′ N, 77° 1.847′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on Constitution Avenue NW (U.S. 1), on the right when traveling west. Touch 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. The Division (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Keeping it Green (about 400 feet away); Legacy of War (about 400 feet away); Completing the Triangle (about 500 feet away); To the Memory of Oscar S. Straus (about 600 feet away); U. S. Post Office Department (about 700 feet away); Arts and Artists (about 700 feet away); Open For Business (about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Federal Triangle.
 
Categories. EnvironmentGovernmentIndustry & CommerceLabor Unions
 
Selective Service Lottery, 1940 image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
5. Selective Service Lottery, 1940
Spectators, radio networks, and newsreel cameras witness President Franklin Roosevelt opening the Selective Service lottery in the auditorium, 1940. The United States entered World War II the following year.
Secretary Andrew Mellon image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
6. Secretary Andrew Mellon
Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon looks at a scale model of the Federal Triangle, around 1929.
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
7. Back of Marker
Construction of the Mellon Auditorium image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
8. Construction of the Mellon Auditorium
Work progresses as limestone blocks are attached to the steel frame of the Mellon Auditorium, 1933.
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
From Workers to Environment Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
10. From Workers to Environment Marker
General Washington bas-relief image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
11. General Washington bas-relief
Entrance to the Mellon Auditorium image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
12. Entrance to the Mellon Auditorium
 
 
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 345 times since then and 20 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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