The Gerald R. Ford House Office Building, acquired by AOC in 1975, is the fourth of the current office buildings occupied by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Built in 1939 as a totally new kind of federal office building, the Ford Building was economical and swiftly constructed. New Deal programs 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, D.C., 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" and was frequently described in the press as "utilitarian."

The design for General Federal Office Building No. 1 was produced in the office of the Public Buildings Administration (PBA) by architect Louis A. Simon and his staff. The PBA designed all new executive branch federal buildings except those for the Army, Navy, and Veterans Administration—mainly post offices. 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 (1928-1935) illustrates his talents with high style federal office design, while the Ford Building highlights his thriftiness.

The Ford Building is a load-bearing masonry building, six stories above grade plus a basement, containing 594,966 square feet of space behind a plain façade with relatively small windows. Its form is simple: walls rise straight from the foundation to a flat roof. Except for bronze lanterns and sparse bronze door trim, there is no architectural ornamentation. The exterior is primarily faced in brick, with limestone cladding the first floor and granite used for paving and cheek walls. All the interior decorative finishes are in the first floor entry and lobby; the finish materials in this area include marble, granite and bronze. The overall simplicity of both the interior and exterior contributed to the speed of the building's construction.

With construction continuing day and night, the structure was erected in just a few months, using prefabricated doors and windows. Construction workers also relied on innovative procedures, including mixing concrete while it was in transit to the building site—delivered 24 hours a day—and new methods for quickly curing the concrete once it was poured.

The building was one of a series of federal buildings constructed during the mid-twentieth century in the area now known as Federal Center SW. As was the case with some of the blocks where other congressional office buildings were erected, the area was targeted for redevelopment because it was "blighted" by poverty, one result of the area's ongoing segregation coupled with unequal access to economic advantages. Research on the building's first occupants suggests that the workforce was also segregated.1

The earliest occupants of the Ford Building were 7,000 employees of the 1940 census. Their stay would be temporary, however, and the building hosted the Office of Price Administration for a period during World War II. Beginning in 1947, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used the building to house fingerprint files and other records. Soon after the massive new FBI headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, opened in 1974, employees and records began moving out and Federal Office Building No. 1 was declared surplus property.

Due to the space needs of the House of Representatives, in early 1975 Congress authorized the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) to acquire the building and to rehabilitate and adapt it for congressional use. The General Services Administration transferred the building on April 7, 1975. The building was partially occupied by the AOC during the major renovations it performed to make it suitable for office space. This work included installing air conditioning, sprinklers, lights, partitions, and dropped ceilings. Four new egress stairs were added. The initial renovations were completed in 1978.

Renovations continued throughout the 1980s and included adding solar collectors to the roof to furnish a portion of the energy used by the building (the installation was removed in 2004 and 2005). The pace of renovations slowed as more staff were moved into the building, requiring work to proceed in smaller areas. Because AOC was managing the renovation, the project was completed more cheaply; in addition, there was enough flexibility to place AOC staff in the building immediately as well as meet changing congressional offices requirements over the course of the renovations. Today, the Ford Building is occupied mainly by staff of various committees of the House of Representatives, the Congressional Budget Office and the Architect of the Capitol.

First known simply as House Office Building Annex 2, the building was named for Gerald R. Ford of Michigan (House Resolution 402, 101st Congress) on September 10, 1990. Ford served as House Minority Leader (1965-1973) and U.S. president (1974-1977).

1. For more information, see Ford House Office Building: Building Preservation Guide, 2019, pp. A11-A12.