Federal Triangle in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Preserving the Past
Make No Little Plans
—Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —
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
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
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
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 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 •
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 426 times since then. 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.