Calling All Local History Fans…
While answering a reference question, we came across this interesting passage describing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original plans for a War Department building in Arlington:
…The new building in Arlington would not be the War Department’s permanent headquarters. Ultimately, the department would return to Foggy Bottom in Washington. “Now, my thought is that this new War Department building [in Arlington] would be built on extremely simple lines, and that when this emergency is over, and the War Department… reverts to a peacetime status, they will be able to come back here to their regular place,” he said…
As for the building in Arlington, Roosevelt said, it was perfectly suited for another pet project of his: He wanted a central home for the old files that now used up space in government offices around Washington. He had millions of records in mind, ranging from the individual files of three million Civil War soldiers to the public-land records charting the development of the great West to obscure State Department consular reports on the history of Mongolian ponies. “So I hope that this new building, when this emergency is over, will be used as a records building for the government,” Roosevelt said. – from “The Pentagon: A History” by Steve Vogel, p. 97
What do you think?
What would have happened to Arlington’s development – and history – if FDR’s vision had been carried out?
- Would the smaller building have allowed the Queen City neighborhood, which was demolished to make room for Pentagon parking and car traffic, to have survived?
- How would a smaller National Archives building have impacted neighborhood traffic patterns, or the planning of 395 and the metro lines?
- Would Arlington and Arlington’s post WWII growth rate have changed?
- What would have been the impact on military contractors, if the military headquarters had moved back to Foggy Bottom?
Share your thoughts in the comments!
Images of the Pentagon in the 1940s, from the Center for Local History collection:
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