Fort Lesley J. McNair (Army War College) Improvements – Washington DC


Formerly known as the Army War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair is a U.S. Army post located at the confluence of the Potomac and the Anacostia Rivers. The site has been an army post for more than 200 years.

During the New Deal, both the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) made extensive improvements to the post.

In 1933-34, the CWA did everything from sewer construction and building renovations to adding a bandstand and repairing the bowling alley. Records in the National Archives provide these details:

“Building concrete coal bin & retaining walls, south of incinerator; Making necessary branch connections from lines now in place to the storm sewer being constructed on the west side of the reservation; Making necessary connections from the Army War College Bldg. & Signal Corps Lab. To sanitary sewer being constructed to connect with D.C. trunk line sewer; Construction of canopy of fort exchange filling station; Building new porch entrance & cellar & wall at Quarters 16B; Taking out skylight, extending roof, building brick wall & installing new triple window frame in Quarters 27B; Construction of concrete floor in driveway in wagon shed & post garage; Repairing heating plant & building new chimney in Post Chapel; Painting Chapel, garages, boat house, fire house & frame buildings 42-A, 43-A, & 12-B; Building raised platform – Bandstand in Music Room; Constructing Storm Sewer; Painting exterior of the Army War College Building; Building retaining wall & floor – The Army War College Heating plant; Building golf greens & improving grounds; Painting Army War College Barracks; Rebuilding bowling alleys.”   (National Archives)

Next, the WPA entered the scene at war clouds brewed in 1940, upgrading utilities and roads, buildings and grounds throughout the Army War College. The work is described in detail on project cards at the National Archives:

“Construct, rehabilitate, and improve buildings, structures, and facilities, including appurtenances, systems, drainage facilities, utilities, roads and walks at Army War College; grade grounds; and perform appurtenant and incidental work; Make general improvements to buildings, facilities, and grounds at the Army War College, including rehabilitating and improving barracks, quarters, storehouses, and other miscellaneous public buildings, transportation systems and public utilities, including distribution systems, sanitary and storm sewers, and water supply and purification facilities; improving parks and recreational facilities, and airports and other transportation facilities; landscaping and grading grounds and installing drainage facilities; appurtenant and incidental work.”

The archival records for the WPA generally list approved projects, but there is no reason to think they were not carried out. The current status of both CWA and WPA improvements is unknown, but it is clear that the New Deal had a large impact on the facility.

Source notes

National Archives, Record Group 69, WPA Microfilm, District of Columbia, Box 969.

National Archives Record Group 69-N

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee - on May 25, 2013.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Fort Lesley J. McNair
Washington, D.C. 20319

Coordinates: 38.8686, -77.0169

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