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

Our Tax Dollars

Make No Little Plans

 

—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

 
Our Tax Dollars Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
1. Our Tax Dollars Marker
Inscription. While only Congress - the people's elected representatives - can impose taxes and decide how they are spent, the Internal Revenue Service, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury, ensures those taxes are collected fairly and efficiently.

The IRS building reminds citizens what their tax dollars buy. In the words of the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes engraved over the building's entrance, "Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society." Revenue collected by the IRS pays for everything from national defense and highways to weather forecasts and food safety inspections.

Louis A. Simon, superintendent of the architectural section of the Treasury Department, designed the IRS building to be the least ornate in the Federal Triangle because it houses a bureau, rather than a cabinet-level department of government. The building's neoclassical style is similar to its neighbors', but its only embellishments are four eagles atop shields carved in limestone panels flanking the entrance.

Congress enacted the first income tax to pay expenses of the Civil War, and in 1862 President Lincoln appointed a commissioner of internal revenue to collect it. A decade later the income tax was repealed and not revived until 1913, when the 16th Amendment to the Constitution gave Congress authority to enact a permanent income tax. The first Form 1040
Lobby of IRS Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
2. Lobby of IRS Building
The lobby of the IRS building photographed soon after its completion in 1930, features a coffered plaster ceiling, two story arched openings, and limestone-clad walls.
was issued that year, and Americans began paying one percent tax personal incomes greater than $3,000, and six percent on incomes greater than $500,000.

Other forms of revenue collected by the IRS include corporate, estate, excise, gift, and employment taxes.

(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 not completed until 1998.

In 1791 Pierre L'Enfant designed a city plan for the new cpaital in Washington under the direction
Beer Meter image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
3. Beer Meter
IRS clerks use a "beer meter" to determine the alcoholic content of beer and thus its tax rate, 1937.
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 Triangle buildings, please visit www.gsa.gov. For more information on DC neighborhoods and walking tours, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
IRS Workers image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
4. IRS Workers
A 1946 photo essay by DC photojournalists of Harris & Ewing captured "Miss Rose Marie Preston," below, one of an army of women.... Above 'trained auditors carefully check your tax returns."


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 13.)
 
Location. 38° 53.54′ N, 77° 1.66′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of Constitution Avenue NW and 12th Street NW, on the right when traveling west on Constitution Avenue NW. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20004, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Colossal Head 4 (replica) ( about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Cedar of Lebanon ( about 500 feet away); Solomon G. Brown ( about 500 feet away); Keeping it Green ( about 500 feet away); Equal Justice Under the Law ( about 600 feet away); U. S. Post Office Department ( about 700 feet away); Appointed Rounds ( about 700 feet away); Legacy of War ( about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Federal Triangle.
 
Categories. GovernmentNotable BuildingsWar, US Civil
 
IRS Workers image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
5. IRS Workers
...entering 'statistics from tax returns' on punch cards for proto-computers.
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
6. Back of Marker
IRS Building under Construction image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 7, 2012
7. IRS Building under Construction
This 1929 view taken from atop the Washington Monument shows the IRS Building under construction. At middle right is the old Louisiana Avenue lined with market buildings and produce trucks. That section of the avenue was later replaced by the Department of Justice building.
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
Our Tax Dollars Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
9. Our Tax Dollars Marker
IRS Building Sign image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
10. IRS Building Sign
The IRS Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 7, 2012
11. The IRS Building
Entrance to the IRS Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
12. Entrance to the IRS Building
Note the shields and eagles mentioned in the text of the marker. A portion of the Oliver Wendell Holmes quote is visible above the entrance.
The IRS Building image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
13. The IRS Building
 
 
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 337 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on August 12, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. submitted on August 16, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
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