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Ford House Office Building

Ford House Office Building

Outside view of the Ford House Office Building.
Location: 

Southwest of the Capitol on a site bounded by Second Street, D Street, Third Street and Virginia Ave, S.W.

Date Occupied: 1975

Area: 594,966 square feet

Overview 

The Ford House Office Building was constructed in 1939 as Washington's first "General Federal Office Building," which was conceived as an economical, all-purpose facility to house New Deal workers. After being used by the FBI for years it was declared surplus property and acquired by Congress in 1975. Today it is occupied mainly by staff of various committees of the House of Representatives, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Architect of the Capitol.

Designed in 1939 as a totally new kind of federal office building, the Ford Building was economical, quickly constructed, and quickly available for the use by a rapidly expanding federal workforce. The programs of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal fueled an unprecedented increase in federal employees and resulted in the demand for more office space. While noble and expensive office buildings were being built in the Federal Triangle and elsewhere in Washington, it was clear these buildings would not solve the space shortage soon enough. It was decided to create a new class of office building, one that could be built cheaply with the "speed of a warehouse," and could be used by any agency needing space. This new class of building would be called the "General Federal Office Building."

The design for the Ford Building was produced in the office of the Public Buildings Administration by architect Louis A. Simon and his staff. The PBA was in charge of designing all new executive branch federal buildings except those for the Army, Navy, and Veterans Administration: post offices were its main work product. Simon was a long-time employee of the office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury and held its top position from 1934 until it was disbanded and moved to the PBA in 1939. His Internal Revenue Service Building of 1928-1935 illustrates talents at high style federal office design, while the Ford Office Building shows his skill at thriftiness. It is a load-bearing masonry building, six stories above grade, containing 585,532 square feet of space. Except for bronze lanterns and sparse bronze door trim, there is no architectural ornamentation.

The first occupants of the Ford Building were 7,000 employees of the 1940 census. Their stay would be temporary, however, as the building would later house the finger print files and other records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Soon after the massive new FBI headquarters opened in 1974, employees and records began moving out and the building was declared surplus property.

In 1975 the Architect of the Capitol was authorized to acquire the building and to rehabilitate and adapt it for use by the House of Representatives. On September 10, 1990, it was named in honor of long-time House member and former President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford of Michigan.

Last Updated: September 25, 2014