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

Preserving the Past

Make No Little Plans

 

—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —

 
Preserving the Past Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
1. Preserving the Past Marker
Inscription.
This massive granite building was completed in 1899 to house the U.S. Post Office Department and the busy city post office. Designed by the U.S. Treasury Department architects under Willoughby J. Edbrooke, it was Washington’s first steel-frame building.

Three decades after opening, this building almost fell to the wrecking ball. Its Romanesque Revival architecture did not match the Beaux-Arts style planned for the Federal Triangle, and it blocked construction of a wing of the IRS building and grand circular court on 12th Street. Demolition was delayed, however, after the 1929 world economic crash. In 1934 the Post Office Department moved across 12th Street, and other federal agencies relocated here.

Another attempt to raze the building, in 1971, was stopped by local citizens united as “Don’t Tear It Down” (later the DC Preservation League). Their protests resulted in the building’s listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. This also persuaded Washington’s city council to adopt the DC Historic Landmark Preservation Act of 1978, one of the stronger preservation laws in the nation.

In Washington, only the Washington Monument and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception are taller than the Old Post Office tower.

The statue of Benjamin Franklin, behind you, originally
Old Post Office under Construction image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
2. Old Post Office under Construction
The 1894 Labor Day parade passes the Old Post Office as its steel-trussed roof nears completion. Library of Congress
faced the Washington Post building at Tenth and D Streets (replaced by the FBI Building). But this is a fitting spot for the tribute because, although Post founder Stilson Hutchins commissioned the statue to honor Franklin as a publisher and printer, Franklin also served as America’s first postmaster general.

(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
Postal Workers image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
3. Postal Workers
A postal worker loads parcels on the steps of the building, while another operates an “opening machine,” around 1915. Library of Congress
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 Triangle buildings, please visit www.gsa.gov. For more information on DC neighborhoods
Don't Tear it Down Demonstration image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
4. Don't Tear it Down Demonstration
Members of Don’t Tear It Down demonstrate to save the Old Post Office from demolition, 1971. The U.S. General Services Administration later redeveloped it with federal offices above a ground-level shopping arcade. The Washington Post
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 4.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Postal Mail and Philately marker series.
 
Location. 38° 53.677′ N, 77° 1.675′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 12th Street, NW and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW on 12th Street, NW. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1000 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20004, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Appointed Rounds (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Permanence and Grandeur: Building the Federal Triangle (about 300 feet away); U. S. Post Office Department (about 500 feet away); Daniel Patrick Moynihan Place (about 500 feet away); Arts and Artists (about 500 feet away); Pennsylvania Avenue
Preserving the Past Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
5. Preserving the Past Marker
(Left): Visitors enjoy the view from the Old Post Office tower’s observation deck. Photograph by Kristen Fusselle, U.S. General Services Administration
(Right): Jacques Jouvenal’s 1899 Benjamin Franklin statue in its original location where D Street once intersected with Pennsylvania Avenue at Tenth Street. The FBI building now occupies the site. Library of Congress
(about 500 feet away); G-Men and G-Women (about 600 feet away); Freedom Plaza (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Federal Triangle.
 
Additional keywords. Nancy Hanks Center; National Park Service;
 
Categories. Notable Buildings
 
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
6. Back of Marker
Maintaining the Old Post Office Clock image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, May 19, 2012
7. Maintaining the Old Post Office Clock
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
Preserving the Past Marker: visible, lower left - at the curb off 12th Street, NW image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, May 19, 2012
9. Preserving the Past Marker: visible, lower left - at the curb off 12th Street, NW
Preserving the Past Marker in front of the Old Post Office image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, June 9, 2012
10. Preserving the Past Marker in front of the Old Post Office
The Old Post Office Building image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, May 19, 2012
11. The Old Post Office Building
Benjamin Franklin: statue by sculptor Jacques Jouvenal, 1899 image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, May 19, 2012
12. Benjamin Franklin: statue by sculptor Jacques Jouvenal, 1899
 
 
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 408 times since then and 28 times this year. Last updated on May 15, 2013, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos:   1. submitted on July 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on August 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   7. submitted on July 10, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   8. submitted on August 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   9. submitted on July 10, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   10. submitted on August 6, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   11, 12. submitted on July 10, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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