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Love at the Ford Building

Louise and Robert Pearl at the exact moment of their engagement in front of the Ford Building.

AOC's Michael McDonald is an IT specialist and amateur photographer who works at the Ford House Office Building.

For 10 years, I have walked through the doors of the 3rd Street entrance to the Ford House Office Building, never knowing that right outside those very same doors — 72 years ago — something happened that greatly influenced my life.

3rd street entrance to the Ford House Office Building
Louise and Robert Pearl met while working at the U.S. Census Bureau which occupied the Ford Building from 1940-1942.

Then last year, as I was going through old family photos I discovered a small negative print of my father-in-law, Robert Pearl, proposing to my mother-in-law, Louise Pearl. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet my in-laws, they passed away before I married my wife in 2004. I was excited about finding these images so I wanted to restore them to a larger size. When I scanned the images I realized there was something very familiar about the vaulting in the ceiling behind the young couple in the first photograph.

The second photograph (pictured above) just confirmed my suspicions — you can clearly see the old hinges on the windows, and the distinctive brass railing and lantern behind Robert and Louise. My in-laws had in gotten engaged outside of the 3rd Street entrance to the Ford Building 62 years before I started working here!

Robert and Louise met in 1940 when they were both working on the 1940’s census as employees of the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, the Census Bureau was the first tenant of the Ford Building, which occupied the facility from 1940-1942.

The couple married in 1941 and Robert served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, they settled in Washington, D.C. and my wife, Margie, was born nearly 20 years after these photos were taken. Robert eventually retired as a senior executive for the Commerce Department.

Now, I can’t enter through these same doors of the Ford Building without thinking of the young couple whose decision all those years ago had such a great impact on my own life. When I walk around the Ford Building, I sometimes wonder what else in the building looked the same to my in-law. It’s possible that young people working on Capitol Hill today could have children and grandchildren working in the exact same building — 70 years in the future!

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