Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
“I have been working as a park ranger in D.C. for four years. I used to be a teacher and feel like this job allows me to teach and be outside at the same time. I grew up around the Park Service as my father works for them. This job is great as it is a progressive education on this city. They give us a lot of research time to learn about buildings and the city. During my four years, I have worked at the Washington Monument, Jefferson, Lincoln, Vietnam, FDR, and Korean War Memorials. Now, I split my time on the Mall and the Old Post Office Tower at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“The Old Post Office was built from 1892 – 1899 as an urban renewal project. It was constructed as both a post office as well as the Postal Department’s National Headquarters. This area was once known as Hookers Bay. Hookers Division stayed here during the Civil War and that brought a lot of prostitution and alcoholism. In addition, the canal connecting the Capitol to the Potomac River, used to construct the Capitol Building, had become stagnant and disease infested. The government built this beautiful to try and bring up this part of town. The style is called Richardsonian Romanesque. It is based on the work of H.H. Richardson who is known as the first major American architect. This building is almost an exact replica of the Allegheny Courthouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which Richardson thought was his best piece of work. So, D.C. has a replica of one of the most important pieces of early American architecture.
“However, when it was completed, people didn’t like this building because the Richardsonian style was then about twenty years out of date. People used to call this the old tooth. They also thought it was too decadent and an example of government waste. It was not as functional as many people would have liked. Because of that, the building was almost destroyed in the 1930′s, but because of the Great Depression the government couldn’t afford to tear it down. It stood for about forty years during which time the FBI used it as a D.C. field office as did some other government agencies.
“By the 1970′s, it had really fallen into disrepair. At that point, they were going to tear it down as originally planned, but Nancy Hanks who was the head of the National Endowment for the Arts convinced Congress to save the building as a historic landmark. It was renovated in 1983. Now, it houses the offices for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation and some other government agencies. It also became the first building in D.C. to serve the three functions of housing government offices, supporting a commercial area and food court and being a tourist destination staffed by the Parks Service.”