The Original PlanYou are standing on Pennsylvania Avenue, the nation's symbolic Main Street. Known for inaugural and other parades and civic demonstrations, its importance dates back to Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 plan for the city of Washington. L'Enfant designed this broad, diagonal boulevard to connect the city's two most prominent buildings, the Capitol and the President's House (the White House). He envisioned as the nation and its government grew, that permanent public buildings of dignified design would line Pennsylvania Avenue. As the limestone facade on the International Revenue Service Building in front of you demonstrates, it would take almost two centuries to implement L'Enfant's original plan.
The Federal TriangleThe map that forms the background to this exhibit represents the 1928 plan developed by the National Capital Parks and Planning Commission. Based on the work of the McMillan Commission of 1901, it shows the proposed location of prominent government buildings collectively known as the Federal Triangle.
Washington as a National Work of ArtBy 1900, the United States was ready to take its place on the world stage and efforts were renewed to restore L'Enfant's plan for the capital city. In 1916 Congress proclaimed its mission to create a "unified, organized and magnificent capital city to express by its permanence and grandeur, the power and stability of the Republic." Renowned architects were hired to design a monumental complex of executive office buildings in the triangle area between Pennsylvania Avenue and the newly restored Mall. Beginning with the IRS Building, most of the Federal Triangle was built between 1927 and 1939. But construction continued into the 1990s, as grand plans responded to political, social, and financial realities.