National Geographic : 1935 Apr
WONDERS OF THE NEW WASHINGTON Efficient Modern Structures Rise in the Biggest ernment Building Program Since the Capital City Was Founded in a Wilderness Gov- BY FREDERICK G. VOSBURGH FROM a cruising blimp a quarter of a mile above the Potomac we gazed down upon the new Washington. As always, the simple grandeur of the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the towering Washington Monument, now freshly washed with soap and water, drew the eye and made the heart beat faster. But near them new wonders had appeared. Quietly and steadily, with so little fuss that residents were hardly aware of it, thousands of carloads of stone and metal whole mountains in the aggregate-have been hauled into the city and reared into monumental buildings. Acres and acres of old, unsightly struc tures have been razed on Capitol Hill, around its base, and along broad, historic Pennsylvania Avenue. In their place stretch parks, wide boulevards, or long, handsome houses of government. In the angle formed by the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and the new Con stitution Avenue, beautiful Champs-Elysees or Rue de Rivoli of Washington, rises a mighty wedge of masonry, the famed "Fed eral Triangle," eight blocks long (page 483). TWENTY MILES OF CORRIDORS In this single group is the most amazing collection of Government buildings that the world has seen. They make their own weather. In hottest summer the air inside is cooled to the temperature of a fine spring day. Beneath the roofs of this Triangle, I knew, worked 17,700 Government em ployees, about as many as the entire popu lation of Batavia, New York, or Daytona Beach, Florida. Every day dozens of peo ple get lost in its 20 miles of corridors. In sheer size the cluster of buildings was staggering, even from high above. It was as if half a dozen or more of New York's tallest skyscrapers had been laid on their sides, formed into a blunted arrowhead, and cut and twisted to make courts and wings. One unit-the Commerce Department-is longer than the Chrysler Building is tall. But it was not merely an impression of bigness that we had in the wandering blimp. Long ranks of majestic columns, graceful arcades, a wide plaza, and solid rock walls give a beauty and simplicity that make these enormous newcomers fit companions for the classic White House and Capitol. "How long will these new buildings last?" I had asked the man in charge of them. "It is just a question of how long lime stone will withstand the elements," was the reply. A MARBLE TEMPLE OF THE LAW The airship turned, and far off in the distance, beyond the Capitol dome, ap peared a gleaming white marble temple, comparable in beauty even to the noble Lincoln Memorial. This is the new United States Supreme Court Building, the only real home of its own that the Nation's highest court has had (pages 458 and 462). For the first time in American history a citizen now might gaze upon the separate, permanent abodes of the three branches of his Government-legislative, the Capitol; executive, the White House, and now, for the judicial, long sheltered in the old Sen ate chamber, this temple whose dignity and impressiveness match the majesty of the law itself. How America has grown, and is growing still! New offices have been added to the White House. They are even talking about enlarging the Capitol, carrying out a plan envisioned more than 70 years ago (see page 458 and Color Plate V). In those huge new buildings downtown, thousands of brains and hands are needed to help do the work of a modern President. The 136 clerks who made up the entire staff of em ployees when first the American Govern ment moved to the new Federal City by sloop and stagecoach in 1800 could be tucked away and lost in a single wing.