Make No Little Plans
— Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose mission is to protect human health and the environment, has occupied the majority of offices in this block since 2001. EPA West (this building), the adjacent Mellon Auditorium, and the EPA East building share once continuous, monumental fa? designed by Arthur Brown, Jr. The projecting temple front of the auditorium, colonnades at both ends, and generous sculptures unify the complex.
Because this 1934 building originally housed the Department of Labor, its most prominent sculptures are monumental pediments showing products of American labor. In Abundance and Industry
by Sherry Fry (west end), the female figure symbolizing abundance pours from a vase of apples and pomegranates, the fruits of industry. In Labor and Industry
by Albert Stewart (east end), the male figure portraying industry sits amid corn and wheat, the fruits of the soil.
The Labor Department was created to promote the welfare of workers, improve their working conditions, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment. Frances Perkins, the first secretary of labor to occupy this building, was the nation's first woman cabinet member.
Edgar Walter's colossal Columbia
holding the torch of freedom crowns the ornate portico behind you. Six Doric columns mark the entrance to the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, named in 1987 in honor of the treasury secretary who spearheaded the creation of Federal Triangle. The auditorium hosted President Franklin Roosevelt as he read numbers drawn in the nation's first peacetime draft lottery, conducted less than a year before the United States entered World War II. After the war, the NATO treaty was signed in the same auditorium.
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.