The D.C. area is not only home to the largest library in the world, it is also home to the world’s largest office building. Located just outside of D.C., across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia (MAP), that building is The Pentagon, and it is where I rode on this bike ride.
The Pentagon was dedicated on January 15, 1943, after ground was broken for construction two and a half years earlier, ironically on September 11th. It is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, although it was not initially intended to be. In the 1930’s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned another building for the War and Navy departments, but they quickly outgrew that space. That’s when a new building was commissioned. The old War Department building is now the State Department.
The Pentagon also serves as a symbol of the U.S. military. “The Pentagon” is often used metonymically (which is today’s vocabulary work of the day, and is defined as “a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept”) to refer to the Department of Defense, rather than the building itself.
Although it remains the world’s largest office building, The Pentagon currently ranks only 12th in the world, and 2nd in the U.S., of all buildings in terms of floor area, with approximately about 6.5 million sq ft, of which 3.7 million sq ft are used as offices. (Dubai International Airport is the largest in the world, and The Palazzo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is the largest in the U.S.)
Over 23,000 military and civilian employees and non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. It has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 miles of corridors. It is thought of as one of the most efficient office buildings in the world. Despite the 17.5 miles of corridors it takes only seven minutes to walk between any two points in the building. The Pentagon covers 34 acres of land and includes a five-acre central plaza, which is shaped like a pentagon and informally and ironically known as “ground zero,” a nickname originating during the Cold War and based on the presumption that the Soviet Union would target one or more nuclear missiles at this central location in the outbreak of a nuclear war.
The Federal government paid just over $52 million for the land and to construct the massive building. And under the oversight of General Leslie R. Groves, who also oversaw the Manhattan project, building of the Pentagon was accomplished in just two years. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, it cost $501 million dollars just to repair the damage. And it has had one major renovation since it opened its doors in 1943. That renovation was completed in 2011, cost $4.5 billion, and took 17 years to finish.
Some other interesting facts and figures about The Pentagon include the following. If you chopped off the Empire State Building at its base and laid it across the top of the Pentagon, it would not reach from end to end. And the Pentagon has twice as much office space as the Empire State building. The Pentagon has 284 rest rooms, twice the number needed due to being built when racial segregation laws requiring separate facilities still existed. It also has 691 drinking fountains, including the legendary “purple water fountain.” The building was originally designed without elevators, to save on steel, but has 131 stairways and 19 escalators. The Pentagon has 16,250 light fixtures which require 250 new bulbs daily. It has its own post office, dry cleaner, barbershop, nail salon, shoe repair shop, gymnasium, clinic, florist, and even a DMV. It also has a CVS, a Best Buy and an Adidas store. The Pentagon has plenty of dining options as well, including two Starbucks, three Subways, and a restaurant staff of 230 persons who work in 1 dining room, 2 cafeterias, and 6 indoor and 1 outdoor snack bars. The Pentagon also has: 4,200 clocks in the hallways; 7,754 windows, and; 16 parking lots with approximately 8,770 parking spaces. Over 200,000 telephone calls are made daily through phones connected by 100,000 miles of telephone cable. The building’s Post Office handles about 1.2 million pieces of mail monthly. And, out of 210 countries in the world, the Pentagon consumes more oil per day than all but 35 countries.
The public can access The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, which is located on the grounds to the southwest of the building. However, because it is a military facility, access to the building and other areas can be restricted. But guided tours are available. The Pentagon Tour includes a 60-minute presentation and a 1.49 mile walk through the building, and it is well worth the time.