Municipal Center – Washington DC

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As Matthew Gilmore writes for The InTowner, attempts at constructing a municipal center in Washington, DC had preoccupied city officials for over a century. Plans were finally effected under the New Deal.


“As reported in the September 4, 1938 Evening Star, the PWA allotted $5,700 million for construction of the Municipal Center, and on the same day a headline in the Washington Post proclaimed ‘District’s Municipal Center Now Raised from Realm of Myth.’ But the plans for spanning John Marshall Place had not changed and the CFA continued to disapprove; however, Wyeth had taken his plans to the NCPPC for approval without informing NCPPC of CFAs disapproval. Telegrams were exchanged between commission chairmen, and much maneuvering went on behind the scenes. Later that month, on the 29th, Wyeth and the NCPPC backed down and two buildings rather than one were approved by CFA and jointly with NCPPC. By November 19th Wyeth was presenting models and plans for NCPPC approval.

“Eleven months later, on August 27, 1939, the Washington Post featured a headline announcing ‘Police Expect New Home to Be Amongst Best; Municipal Center Quarters Will Have Latest Innovations.’ Details on the new amenities included the crime lab, document room, ballistics chamber, riot gear (including tear gas), holding cells, interrogation rooms, ‘huge gymnasium’, parking garage, and fireproof storage for valuable police records It would be welcome change from the Civil War-era, 462 Indiana Avenue, about which a congressman was quoted, ‘It’s the worst structure I’ve ever seen.’


“Construction was underway by February 1939 and District government employees moved in 1941. Despite all the years of planning, only this one of the original four proposed buildings would be built as part of the Municipal Center. Surface parking lots covered much of the remaining area. An administration building for the Public Library was built on Pennsylvania Avenue (the rest of the planned new central library building was never funded and ultimately replaced by Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library).”


Currently, the city’s Department of Motor Vehicles also resides in the building.

Source notes

Project originally submitted by Matthew Gilmore on May 19, 2012.

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

Location Info

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300 Indiana Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001

Location notes:
The building's tenants currently include the Washington DC Police Department.

Coordinates: 38.894807, -77.015576

2 comments on “Municipal Center – Washington DC

  1. Maria Edmonds-Zediker

    One of the architects for this project was my first cousin twice removed, Louis Mollenkopf. He was also one of the architects for the Union Terminal in Cincinnati, now a major museum in that city.

    I heard that a developer wants to tear down this building to make room for a soccer field. That would be wrong on so many levels. The building is beautiful, it is historic and it is still functioning as intended, providing municipal services. Some of the offices of the DC police are found in that building.

    • Maria,
      If you hear more about the threat of demolition and any public effort to save the building, please send us news that we can post.

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