NBS Workers, 1940s
Originally called the National Bureau of Standards, this a measurement standards laboratory, which is a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. The name was changed in 1988. (It is also sometimes known as the National Metrological Institute (NMI)).
In 1938-40, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) did extensive work on the facilities. WPA relief labor was employed around the Bureau of Standards site to:
“Rehabilitate buildings and improve facilities and grounds at the National Bureau of Standards Reservation. The work includes improving roofs and gutters; placing footings and floors; relocating and remodeling doors, windows, and skylights; replacing doors and window trim; painting buildings; rearranging storage in attic; dismantling, rehabilitating, moving, and resetting machinery, equipment, and materials; relocating and extending storm sewers; reconditioning and extending plumbing, heating and electrical systems; laying bricks and providing walks; removing masonry walls; erecting fence; sub-grading and placing ballast for road; surfacing roadways; excavating and removing dump; clearing and grubbing wooded areas; grading; landscaping; planting and transplanting trees; placing topsoil; and performing incidental and appurtenant work.” (National Archives)
The Washington Post reported in 1941 that these improvements were underway (Washington Post, August 3, 1941). It also reported that the WPA had constructed a high voltage laboratory for $500,000, using a mix of federal and private funds, yet that type of major funding was more typical of the Public Works Administration (PWA), not the WPA – a common mistake made by the press at the time.
The photo above depicts Bureau of Standards employees at work at the facility, perhaps in the improved buildings themselves.
National Archives, Record Group 69, Records of the Work Projects Administration, “Newspaper clippings file, 1935-1942.”
“Capital’s Biggest Building Program Promises A Boon By Spring: Expenditures May Reach $200,000,000,” Washington Post, November 27, 1938.
“Navy Yard here to be extended,” Washington Post, August 3, 1941, p. 6
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee - wpatoday.org on June 16, 2013.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.
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