Make No Little Plans
— Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —
The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center honoring the 40th president, filled the last open space in the Federal Triangle. When former First Lady Nancy Reagan dedicated it in 1998, the redevelopment of this area of Pennsylvania Avenue, begun by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, was complete. The Reagan Building's 3.1 million square feet of space make it the second-largest federal building. Only the Pentagon is larger.
The only Federal Triangle building with both private and government offices houses the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Customs Service. James Ingo Freed of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, New York, designed the limestone exterior as a modern re-working of its neighbors' neoclassical style. The public is encouraged to explore this landmark building featuring a contemporary soaring atrium; conference, exhibit, and event spaces; and a tribute to President Reagan.
Planners of the Federal Triangle originally envisioned a "Great Plaza" here, designed as a formal French garden. However as the Federal Triangle began to take shape, construction workers parked on the site. Federal employees and their cars soon followed. With war looming in the late 1930s, the government shelved the Great Plaza idea. The parking lot lingered for six decades.
In 1947 President Harry S Truman dedicated a memorial here to diplomat and former Secretary of Commerce Oscar S. Straus (1850-1926). Appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt, Straus was the first Jewish cabinet member. Visible behind you on the plaza, the privately funded memorial by Adolph Weinman displays two cast-bronze sculptures: Liberty of Worship
and The Voice of Reason.
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 fa?ades, red-tiled roofs and classical colonnades. Their architectural features, following traditions of the Parisian School of Fine Arts (?cole 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 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.
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.