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

Grandeur for the People

Make No Little Plans

 

—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

 
Grandeur for the People Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
1. Grandeur for the People Marker
Inscription. The National Archives, keeper of the nation's founding documents and most important federal government records, occupies this important spot halfway between the Capitol and the White House. Before the Archives building was constructed, federal records were stored haphazardly all over town. The nation's first archivist began centralizing them here in 1935.

In 1898 the United States won the Spanish-American War, and national leaders began questioning whether their capital city reflected the nation's new importance in world affairs. This viewpoint, the centennial in 1900 of the federal government's arrival in Washington in 1800, and concerns of the nation's foremost architects spurred the Senate Park Commission, led by Senator James McMillan, to develop a new city plan. The McMillan Plan revived and expanded elements of Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 vision for the capital. It also looked to the Beaux-Arts style of buildings at the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition (world's fair). The fair awed visitors and launched the City Beautiful movement, which promoted classically inspired groups of buildings for governmental or institutional functions. The McMillan Plan redesigned the National Mall and designated this 70-acre triangle for new government offices. Before World War I intervened, however, only one structure was built, the John
The McMillan Plan image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
2. The McMillan Plan
The 1901 McMillan Plan proposed a triangular grouping of government office buildings between the White House and the U.S. Capitol. They are shown in black in the upper right quadrant of this plan.
A. Wilson Building (Washington, DC's city hall, 1908), at 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

In 1926 President Calvin Coolidge signed the Public Buildings Act, revived the McMillan Plan, and assigned Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon to work with leading American architects to create the Federal Triangle. It stands today as the nation's largest great public project combining classical architecture and sculpture.

The U.S. Navy Memorial across the street was dedicated in 1987, the Navy's 212th anniversary.

(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
Architects at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
3. Architects at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
Shown here during work on the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, architects Daniel Burnham (far left), Charles McKim (third from right), and sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens (sixth from right) also served on the Senate Park Commission, organized by Senator James McMillan, right.
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 from "Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men's blood. Make big plans,"
1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
4. 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition
The architecture of the Federal Triangle reflects the style and scale of the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, seen here, which brought classically inspired civic buildings into vogue and launched the City Beautiful movement in American.
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.

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 2.)
 
Location. 38° 53.6′ N, 77° 1.4′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street NW, on the right when traveling east on Pennsylvania Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20408, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (within shouting distance of this marker); The United States Navy Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); America's Main Street (within shouting distance of this marker); Chief Petty Officers' (about 300
Pennsylvania Avenue - 1919 image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
5. Pennsylvania Avenue - 1919
This 1919 view of the Pennsylvania Avenue streetcar and loading platform captures the, at right,the block across the avenue where the U.S. Navy Memorial now stands.
feet away, measured in a direct line); General Winfield Scott Hancock (about 400 feet away); The Navy Memorial - from Bow to Stern (about 400 feet away); Temple for Our History (about 400 feet away); Nathan Hale (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Federal Triangle.
 
Categories. GovernmentNotable Buildings
 
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
6. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his desk in the White House, 1935. In the park to your right is a desk-sized stone memorial to the president who made the National Archives a federal agency. Roosevelt once said that if a memorial to him were built, it should be no larger than his desk, and located here. In 1997 a larger, landscape memorial to him opened along the Tidal Basin.
Federal Triangle, 1938 image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
7. Federal Triangle, 1938
Looking west at the new Federal Triangle, 1938.
Map of the Federal Triangle Heritage Trail System image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
8. Map of the Federal Triangle Heritage Trail System
Grandeur for the People Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
9. Grandeur for the People Marker
Grandeur for the People Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 13, 2016
10. Grandeur for the People Marker
The marker can be seen in front of the National Archives Building (underneath the tree).
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 13, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 634 times since then and 32 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on July 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on August 25, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   10. submitted on September 13, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.
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