William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building
William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building
The Clinton Building. The tower of the Old Post Office can be glimpsed in the background.
|Location:||12th Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
|Architect:||William Adams Delano, Chester Holmes Aldrich|
|Architectural style:||Classical Revival|
|Governing body:||General Services Administration|
|Part of:||Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site (#66000865)|
The William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building is located in the Federal Triangle in Washington, D.C., across 12th Street from the Old Post Office. The New Post Office, as the Clinton Building was originally known, housed the headquarters of the Post Office Department until that department was replaced by the United States Postal Service in 1971. The building, which now houses the headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was renamed on February 5, 1985, in honor of Ariel Rios, an undercover special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who was killed in the line of duty on December 2, 1982. The federal government renamed the building for former President Bill Clinton on May 13, 2013.
The Clinton Building was constructed in the early 1930s as part of the redevelopment of the Federal Triangle area. At that time one of the city's most blighted neighborhoods, this area was known as "Murder Bay" and was a center of crime and prostitution. The plan for the area's redevelopment was laid out as part of the 1901 McMillan Plan, the first federally funded urban redevelopment plan, and the redevelopment of Federal Triangle began in earnest in the 1930s under the leadership of Treasury Secretary Andrew W. Mellon. Construction on the Clinton Building was completed in 1934.
The Clinton Building was a central feature of the redevelopment. The neoclassical building was designed by architects William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich, who took as their inspiration the Place Vendôme in Paris. The central section of the tri-unit building consists of two huge, back to back, semicircular units with side wings. The semicircle formed by the building's curve on its eastern façade was to be mirrored by a similarly curved façade built across 12th Street on the site of the Old Post Office Building.
Secretary Mellon's building commission actively sought the demolition of the Old Post Office to fulfill that plan, but preservation efforts—which continued over the course of 50 years—saved the Old Post Office. The second half of the grand plaza was never finished as designed, save for a curve in the northwest corner of the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service. (The Ronald Reagan Building, completed in 1998, does mirror, to some degree, the semicircle of the west façade of the Clinton Building.)
The Clinton Building has been refurbished with the architectural details of the hallways preserved in the style of the 1920s and 1930s. A seven-story marble spiral staircase is a prominent element of the building's interior. A chandelier hangs in the center of the staircase and has exposed bulbs to illuminate each floor. It terminates in a dramatic chrome and brass globe.
In December 2012, both houses of Congress voted unanimously to rename the Rios Building as the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building, after Bill Clinton, the 42nd president. In a statement, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, said Clinton, through his environmental policies, "not only protected the environment, which saved thousands of lives, he also maintained a strong economy and created jobs." The General Services Administration administratively renamed the building for Clinton on May 13, 2013.
The building contains 25 murals created under the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture (an art commissioning program similar to the Federal Arts Project operated by the Works Progress Administration). This was among the first locations for the integration of murals in federal buildings for New Deal Era federal art programs.
Visitors and federal employees at the Clinton Federal Building have expressed concerns about the appropriateness of six of these murals, including complaints that the murals stereotype Native Americans and that they contain images that are inappropriate for the workplace. Controversy over the murals is not new: The nudity depicted in the murals led to complaints when the murals were originally created.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- "GSA Renaming D.C. Building After Former President." Washington Business Journal. May 13, 2013. Accessed 2013-05-13.
- "Ariel Rios Building, Washington, D.C.". (General Services Administration official site). Retrieved May 18, 2008.
- "Ariel Rios Murals". (General Services Administration site regarding the controversy, including images of the disputed murals). Retrieved May 18, 2008.
- Fern Shen, "History and the EPA's Big Picture; '30s Mural Draws Stares and Criticism", Washington Post, November 10, 2005, at A01. Retrieved May 18, 2008.