C Street entrance, Udall Department of Interior Building - Washington DC
The Department of the Interior was the first federal building in Washington, D.C. fully authorized, designed, and built under the Franklin Roosevelt Administration. It was the brainchild of Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, probably the most powerful member of FDR’s cabinet, and later renamed for former Secretary of Interior, Stewart Lee Udall, in 2010.
The Department had outgrown the old Interior Building (now the General Services Administration Building) and its agencies were scattered at 15 different sites in the District of Columbia. Funds were allotted by the Public Works Administration (PWA) in 1934, construction began in April 1935 and was completed in December 1936 – a record time for the building of a structure of its size and complexity.
The project was officially carried out by the Public Buildings Branch of the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department, which was responsible for all federal buildings before the creation of the GSA after World War II. But Secretary Ickes took a close personal interest in both design and construction.
The building is huge, covering almost 5 1/2 acres bounded by C, E, 18th, and 19th Streets. It rises 6 stories on C Street and 5 stories on E Street. The design is Art Moderne along strict classical lines and the exterior walls are faced with limestone. The architect Waddy B. Wood, a prominent Washington DC designer, was known to be conservative in his approach.
The Department of the Interior building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
The Department of Interior building contains an astonishing array of New Deal artworks, over 40 murals and bas-reliefs by more than twenty notable artists of the time, including several Native American painters. For more information on the Interior building, its art and the artists, see Look and Perrault 1986 (below – available online). Artworks begin on p. 110.
The Department of Interior Museum offers regular mural tours; check their for information and registration. Department of the Interior
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Short, C. W. and R. Stanley-Brown, 1939. Public Buildings: A Survey of Architecture of Projects Constructed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies Between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
"The New Deal: A 75th Anniversary Celebration." Kathryn Flynn with Richard Polese.
“District gets $325,000 fund for building,” Washington Post, September 8, 1933, p. 22
Look, David and Carole Perrault. The Interior Building: Its Architecture and Its Art. Washington DC: US Department of Interior, National Park Service, 1986. pp. 110-172. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015029850214&view=1up&seq=1
https://www.gsa.gov/real-estate/gsa-properties/visiting-public-buildings/stewart-lee-udall-department-of-interior-building. It has a good overview, plus numerous construction, architectural, historical, and aerial images.
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on December 4, 2011.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.
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