Make No Little Plans
— Federal Triangle Heritage Trail —
This is the Federal Trade Commission Building, home of the agency that defends the public against unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices. One of the older independent Federal agencies, the FTC was created in 1914 and has occupied this site since the building was completed in 1938. It works to protect the competitive marketplace and interests of consumers through litigation, consumer and business education, public hearings, and enforcement of regulations such as the Do Not Call rule.
Considered the capstone of the Federal Triangle project, the FTC building stands at the apex of the Triangle. As the Great Depression deepened in the 1930s, Congress twice cut funding for the project, which originally called for costly Beaux Arts embellishments similar to those on other Federal Triangle buildings. Eventually Congress funded Edward H. Bennett's simpler, less ornamented "stripped classicism" designs.
Softening the building's severity is artwork illustrating trade activities. Exquisitely detailed aluminum night gates depict the maritime industry's evolution, while bas-reliefs above each entrance show forms of commercial exchange. (Bas-reliefs, popular in Art Deco design, are sculptures slightly raised from their backgrounds.) Man Controlling Trade
, the dramatic limestone figures flanking this end of the building, symbolize the FTC's role in protecting competition. The well muscled men represent government and the wild stallions represent unregulated business. New Yorker Michael Lantz was a 19-year-old struggling artist when he won the 1938 competition to design these sculptures. Lantz was the younger brother of Walter Lantz of "Woody Woodpecker" fame.
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.