Archive for the ‘Federal Agencies’ Category

FBIlaboratory01

The FBI Laboratory

This month marks the 88th year since the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory started processing cases.  And to commemorate this occasion, I used this weekend’s bike ride to go back to Quantico, Virginia, and ride to the current FBI Laboratory (MAP), which is on the grounds of The FBI Academy, located on Marine Corp Base Quantico.  

Established by the original FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, the Criminology Laboratory, as it was known then, was first housed in a single room of the Old Southern Railway Building at 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Downtown D.C. It would eventually move to the third floor of FBI Headquarters, before relocating to its current location back in 2003.  

The Lab’s first year of work included 963 examinations, including those that led to the capture of Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the kidnapping of the infant son of the aviator Charles Lindbergh, which became known as the “crime of the century”. (As opposed to the “trial of the center”, as the O.J. Simpson murder case would eventually be known.)

Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was kidnapped from the Lindbergh family home in Hopewell, New Jersey in March of 1932, with the kidnapper leaving behind a handwritten ransom note.  The Laboratory was equipped with only an ultraviolet light machine, microscope, moulage kit, wiretapping kit, and general office supplies.  And it had only one full-time employee, Special Agent Charles Appel. Using the limited resources available to him, Appel analyzed the handwriting of the 13 ransom notes received by the Lindberghs with samples from 300 suspects. While the process took many months, Appel was eventually able to identify Hauptmann as the perpetrator.  Sadly, it was discovered that the kidnapper killed the infant. And although Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence to the end, he was convicted of first-degree murder and executed in 1936 in the electric chair at the New Jersey State Prison.

Today the FBI Laboratory is one of the largest and most comprehensive crime labs in the world. Operating with more than 500 employees out of a state-of-the-art facility in Quantico, the laboratory’s scientific experts and Special Agents travel the world on assignment, using science and technology to protect the nation and support law enforcement, intelligence, military, and forensic science partners. Whether it’s examining DNA or fingerprints left at a crime scene or linking exploded bomb fragments to terrorists, the men and women of the FBI Laboratory are dedicated to using the rigors of science to solve cases and prevent acts of crime and terror.  

NOTE:  I was not able to take any additional photos because unauthorized photography or video recording within the FBI Laboratory is a security violation and, therefore, strictly prohibited.  The above video is unclassified public material.  

FBIacademy02

The FBI Academy

On this weekend bike outing I went to the Marine Corps Base Quantico, on the grounds of which the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Training Academy is located.  Situated on 385 acres of woodlands approximately 36 miles south of D.C. near the town of Quantico in Stafford County, Virginia (MAP), the FBI Academy is a full-service national training facility, with: classrooms and conference rooms; dormitories; indoor and outdoor firing ranges; a gym and aquatic pool; a library; a dining hall; the Tactical and Emergency Vehicle Operations Center, which teaches safe, efficient driving techniques to FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) personnel and other government and military personnel, and; Hogan’s Alley, a training complex simulating a small town for carrying out practical exercises and training.

The FBI Academy was first opened in 1972, the year in which J. Edgar Hoover, the man who was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, became its first Director, and then lead the organization for the next 37 years.  The Academy is operated by the Bureau’s Training Division, and was initially where new FBI Special Agents received their first training after being hired. One of the many changes after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 was the development of additional and specialized training for Intelligence Analysts.  Over time the training of FBI Special Agents and Intelligence Analysts became integrated into an expansive integrated curriculum currently known as the Basic Field Training Course (BFTC).

The BFTC was developed by the Training Division to meet the Bureau’s ambitious goal of training new Agent and Intelligence Analyst candidates in a way that prepares them for their collaborative work in the field.  Previously, Agents and Analysts had completely separate training.  The BFTC replaced these two distinctly separate programs with an integrated, collaborative course that uses a dedicated field office team approach mirroring the environment that they will experience in their field assignments.

And although new Agents are still typically synonymous with the FBI Academy, the Training Division also instructs many other diverse groups of people.  In addition to Intelligence Analysts, those who currently receive training at the Academy include: people in a wide variety of professional staff positions at the FBI; law enforcement officers from other Federal agencies as well as state, local and tribal police and law enforcement entities, and; appropriate individuals from the private sector.  Elite units such as the Hostage Rescue Team, Evidence Response Teams, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), and law enforcement leaders from across the world also attend the Academy and utilize its training facilities to improve on skills.

In addition to the Training Division, the Academy grounds are also host to a number of other divisions and entities.  They include the Hostage Rescue Team Complex, the Operational Technology Division and its engineering research facility, the FBI Laboratory, the Forensic Science Research and Training Center, and the DEA’s Justice Training Center.

This ride was longer and different, but just as interesting as the shorter rides I used to take during my daily lunch break at work in D.C.  And it’s this kind of ride that I hope to take often now that I’m retired.

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

1.  Hoover Road, named after the FBI’s founding and long-time Director, J. Edgar Hoover.
2.  A sign at the East Gate Security Entrance, which is the main entrance to the FBI Academy.
3.  The Academy’s Jefferson Building,which houses administrative offices and the student check-in and visitors center.
4.  A view from a distance of the Madison Dormitory building.
5. The intersection of route MCB-4 and J. Edgar Hoover Road, near the west gate entrance to the FBI Academy
6.  The sign at the West Gate Security Entrance to the FBI Academy
7.  Welcome sign at the entrance to the mock town named Hogan’s Alley
8.  Mock businesses, including a laundromat and pool hall, in Hogan’s Alley.  Interestingly, the outsides of the buildings in Hogan’s Alley simulate a small town for carrying out practical exercises and training. But the insides contain offices for Training Division personnel.
9.  A mock movie theater in Hogan’s Alley named The Biograph, named and modelled  after the theater in Chicago where FBI Agents attempted to arrest but ended up
killing gangster John Dillinger on July 22, 1934
10.  The Firearms Training Support Facility building that houses the Training Division’s Firearms Training Unit
11.  One of several outdoor firing ranges
12.  The indoor firing range

NOTE:  Due to security concerns there is currently very limited public access to Marine Corps Base Quantico and no public access to the FBI Academy grounds or facilities.

USDAfarmersMarket03

Outdoor Farmers Market at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

A farmers market is a physical retail market featuring foods sold directly by farmers and others to consumers. Farmers’ markets are most frequently outdoors and typically consist of booths, tables or stands, where farmers sell fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and sometimes prepared foods and beverages.

For such a heavily urbanized area with no actual working farms within the city limits, D.C. boasts a large number of diverse farmers markets. Both large and small markets, they offer a selection of fresh produce and numerous other products. Most are outdoors and open seasonally, like one of my favorites, the Vermont Avenue Farmers Market.  Other larger ones, like Eastern Market, are indoors and open year round.  And some are less traditional and might not even be initially thought of by most as a farmers market, like The Maine Avenue Fish Market.  On this lunchtime bike ride to end the week, I went by the outdoor farmers market at the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is located in a parking lot outside the U.S.D.A. Headquarters on the corner of Independence Avenue and 12th Street (MAP), across the street from the Smithsonian Metro stop in southwest D.C.

Celebrating its 20th summer, the U.S.D.A. Farmers Market opened for the 2015 season on May 1st, and will operate from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every Friday until the day before Halloween. Managed by the U.S.D.A.’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the U.S.D.A.’s Farmers Market is considered by the Department as a “living laboratory” for farmers market operations across the country. As a model for others, the market supports the local economy, increases marketing opportunities for farmers and small businesses, provides access to an assortment of local and regionally sourced products, and increases access to healthy, affordable food in D.C.

So regardless of whether you get there by bike, or some other way, I recommend checking out either the U.S.D.A. Farmer’s Market, or any other farmer’s market near you.  If you try some of the many free samples while you’re there, you’ll most likely buy more to take home with you like I did.

USDAfarmersMarket02     USDAfarmersMarket01
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

FBI Headquarters

FBI Headquarters

Tomorrow marks the 43rd anniversary of the death of J. Edgar Hoover.  After nearly five decades as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), his death left the powerful government agency without the administrator who had been largely responsible for its existence and shape. It was on May 2, 1972, as the Watergate affair was about to explode onto the national stage, that Hoover died of heart disease at the age of 77.  After laying in repose in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building, he was buried in a full state funeral on my 10th birthday.  And even though I was very young at the time, I remember this happening.

It was in recognition of this event that, as part of this bike ride, I rode from FBI Headquarters, which was named after him, back to Director Hoover’s final resting place in Historic Congressional Cemetery, just a mere three miles away. Hoover was born on New Year’s Day in 1895 in D.C., where he lived his entire life. In light of the recent controversy over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, it is interesting to note that a birth certificate was not filed at the time Hoover was born, despite the fact that it was required.  His two siblings had birth certificates, but Hoover’s was not filed until 1938, when he was 43 years old.

Hoover then grew up near Eastern Market in D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood (where I stopped at one of my favorite places for lunch on my way back to my office today). Educated as a lawyer and a librarian at George Washington University in D.C., Hoover joined the Department of Justice in 1917 and within two years had become special assistant to the Attorney General.  Appointed in  1924 as the Director of The Bureau of Investigation – the predecessor to the FBI – he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935.  He then ran the FBI for an additional 37 years.

Because Hoover’s actions came to be seen by many in Congress as an abuse of power, FBI directors are now limited to one ten-year term, subject to extension by the U.S. Senate. Late in life, and especially after his death, Hoover became a controversial figure as evidence of his secretive actions became known.  His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI.  Additionally, rumors have circulated that Hoover was homosexual, which had a distinctly different connotation during his lifetime.  Despite the criticisms and rumors, however, Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.

The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters building is located at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), occupying a full city block of prestigious real estate approximately halfway between The White House and the U.S. Capitol Building in D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood. Unfortunately it has not been accessible to the public since 2001 when the Bureau immediately suspended public tours in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Among its many amenities the brutalist 2,800,876 square-foot structure contains, or has in the past contained: an auditorium and theater; three below-ground floors, which include a gymnasium and a two-story basketball court; an automobile repair shop, an eighth-floor cafeteria with outdoor rooftop patio dining; an indoor firing range;  a pneumatic tube system and a conveyor belt system for handling mail and files; a film library as well as developing laboratories for both still photography and motion pictures; a cryptographic vault; an amphitheater; jail holding cells; classrooms; 80,000 square feet of laboratory space; a printing plant; a medical clinic; a morgue, and; a gravel-filled dry moat which parallels the sides and back of the building.

Unfortunately, the public may never again get the chance to tour the building inasmuch as plans are being made to abandon it and move to a new headquarters building outside of the city.  Structural and safety issues with the building starting becoming apparent in approximately 2001 when it is rumored that a large chunk of cement broke off and fell within the interior of the building. It is said to have landed on and damaged an employee’s desk during the night, and was found the next morning when the employee arrived at work.  Chunks of falling concrete remain a danger, which is why many parts of the building are wrapped with netting, and scaffolding covers some sidewalk walkways. Later that year an engineering consultant found that the building was deteriorating due to deferred maintenance, and that many of the building’s systems such as heating and air conditioning, its elevators, etc. were nearing the end of their life-cycle. The consultant rated the building as in “poor condition” and said it was not at an “industry-acceptable level.” Four years later, another consultant reported that due to the building’s inefficient interior layout, it could no longer accommodate the FBI’s workforce, which by that time was scattered in 16 additional leased properties throughout the D.C. metropolitan area. This problem was compounded by the need for recommended security upgrades, building systems replacements, and other necessary renovations. At that time, the General Services Administration estimated that it would take three years to develop a replacement headquarters and identify a site, and another three years for design, construction, and to move-in. The FBI began studying the costs and logistics of moving its headquarters later that year. It has been a decade since the estimated six-year process was initiated, and current estimates are that it will take another ten years before the FBI will be able to move into a new headquarters building.

But then again, despite all the studies and money already spent, the move may not happen after all. In January of this year the U.S. Congress passed the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015.” In a brief and mostly overlooked portion in Section 517 of the Act, wording was slipped in which specifically states, “Any consolidation of the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation must result in a full consolidation.” In order to comply with this requirement of the new law, the FBI will have to consolidate all of the employees and functions that are currently located in the headquarters building as well as the other 16 leased properties into any new building. The problem is, plans for the new building are that it will be approximately 2.1 million square feet. So a new building is being pursued because the current building is inadequate for the size of the FBI workforce. But the proposed new building will be 700,000 square feet smaller than the current building.   I guess we will just have to wait and see whether or not the FBI will be able to move its headquarters.

On the bright side, though, if the Bureau is not relocated to a new headquarters building it will give them the chance to finally finish construction of the one they’re in.  The construction of FBI Headquarters was nearing completion at the time Director Hoover passed away. And in what some say was intended as a slight toward the former Director after his death, funding was never appropriated to finish construction on the exterior of the building that was to bear his name. As a result, the façade of the J. Edgar Hoover Building is riddled with hundreds of holes where sheets of polished granite or marble cladding were to have been attached, and the crude concrete exterior of the building has remained in an unfinished state ever since.

 

[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

United States Institute of Peace

United States Institute of Peace

Congress has the power to create, organize, and disband all components of the Federal government. But there is no complete official government list, and even experts can’t seem to agree on the total number of Federal government departments, agencies, commissions, offices, bureaus and institutes. Most estimates suggest there are probably more than two thousand, each with their own organizational structure and areas of responsibility and authority. However, their duties often overlap, making administration and keeping tracking of what your tax dollars are supporting even more difficult.

On this bike ride, as I was riding in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, I happened upon a modern, glass-fronted building which upon further exploration turned out to be the headquarters for one of the Federal entities that I had never heard of before – The United States Institute of Peace.  Located at 2301 Constitution Avenue (MAP), just a block west of The Albert Einstein Memorial, and near the northwest corner of the National Mall near The Lincoln Memorial, their headquarters is a LEED-certified building which was designed to house the Institute’s offices and staff support facilities, library, conference center, auditorium, classrooms, and a public education center, all while serving as symbol of this country’s commitment to peacebuilding.

The United States Institute of Peace is a non-partisan, independent, Federal institution that provides analysis of and is involved in conflicts around the world.  It is relatively new, having been established by an act of Congress that was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. The Institute’s staff of approximately 275 is split among its D.C. headquarters, as well as field offices, and temporary missions to conflict zones.  It is governed by a board whose members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

In this city that often seems to thrive on it, the Institute and its headquarters building are not without controversy.  The Institutes board members have historically had very close ties to the American intelligence community, and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency may assign officers and employees to the Institute.  And critics assert that the Institute’s peace research looks more like the study of new and potential means of aggression through trade embargos, austerity programs, and electoral intervention.

Further, the Institute is funded annually by the U.S. Congress, and during its first 30 years its official funding has increased almost tenfold. However, it also receives funds transferred from other government agencies, such as the State Department, USAID, and the Department of Defense, making its actual operating costs unknown.

The controversy and criticism of the Institute also affected the construction of its headquarters building. Officials broke ground for the new headquarters in June of 2008 at a ceremony that included President George W. Bush. However, by 2011 Congress voted to eliminate all funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace, including for the construction of its headquarters. Funding for the building was eventually restored the following year by both the House and Senate.

Additionally, the Institute is prohibited by law from receiving private funding and contributions for its program activities. However, the restriction on private fundraising was lifted for to construct the massive headquarters building which I visitied on this ride.

Peace01a

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Robert Francis Kennedy, who was born on this day in 1925. Commonly known as “Bobby” or by his initials RFK, he was the seventh of nine children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. Bobby was more than eight years younger than his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and more than six years older than his other brother, Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy.

In addition to being a Senator from New York and a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1968 election before being the second member of the Kennedy family to be assassinated, Bobby also served as the 64th U.S. Attorney General from 1961 to 1964, having been appointed to the position by and serving under his older brother, President John F. Kennedy.

In recognition of today’s anniversary of his birth, on this bike ride I went by the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, which was renamed in his honor on what would have been his 76th birthday, in a ceremony conducted by President George W. Bush in 2001. Serving as the headquarters of the Justice Department, the building is located at 950 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), on a trapezoidal lot which is bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue to the north, Constitution Avenue to the south, 9th Street to the east, and 10th Street to the west, in the Federal Triangle area of downtown D.C.

Completed in 1935, the building was design by Zantzinger, Borie, and Medary utilizing influences from neoclassical and Art Deco architectural styles. The original facades, lobbies, corridors, library, Great Hall, executive suites and private offices retain their original materials and design, including the extensive use of ornamental aluminum. Today the building retains exceptional historic integrity, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site.

The building’s design is similar to other Federal Triangle buildings, with an Indiana limestone facade over a steel frame, red-tile hip roof, and colonnades, as well as interior courtyards to provide natural light and ventilation. However, it distinguishes itself from other Federal Triangle buildings by its Art Deco elements and the innovative use of aluminum for details that were traditionally cast in bronze. For example, all entrances to the building feature 20-foot high aluminum doors that slide into recessed pockets. Interior stair railings, grillwork, and door trim are aluminum, as are Art Deco torchieres, doors for the building’s 25 elevators, and more than 10,000 light fixtures.

The building houses the Department of Justice, a cabinet-level executive department led by the Attorney General and responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice in the United States. Several Federal law enforcement agencies are currently administered by the Department of Justice, including the United States Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Office of the Inspector General. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also a component of the Department of Justice, and was originally housed in the same building, until 1974 when it moved into its own headquarters at the J. Edgar Hoover Building directly across the street on Pennsylvania Avenue.

RFK01     RFK-DOJ02

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Day is an official Federal holiday intended to honor all men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, who are also known as veterans. It occurred earlier this week, and is observed every year on November 11th. Veterans Day coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day, which is observed in other parts of the world and marks the anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. The United States also originally observed Armistice Day, but in 1954 it was changed to the current Veterans Day holiday.

Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.

In recognition of Veterans Day, on this bike ride I went by the offices for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is located at 810 Vermont Avenue (MAP), just north of The White House and Lafayette Square in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood.

The Department of Veterans Affairs employs nearly 280,000 people at hundreds of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, clinics, and benefits offices throughout the country, and is responsible for supporting Veterans in their time after service by administering programs of veterans’ benefits for veterans, their families, and survivors.

The Department has three main subdivisions, known as Administrations. They are: the Veterans Health Administration, which is responsible for providing health care in all its forms; the Veterans Benefits Administration, which is responsible for initial veteran registration and eligibility determination, and oversees benefits and entitlements, and; the National Cemetery Administration, which is responsible for providing burial and memorial benefits, as well as for maintenance of 147 veterans and nationally important cemeteries, the most well-known of which is Arlington National Cemetery.

Among its other responsibilities, a current initiative in the Department of Veterans Affairs entitled “The National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans” is underway end and prevent homelessness among veterans. The number of Veterans experiencing homelessness exceeds 100,000 former service men and women on any given night. Though 96 percent of homeless Veterans are male, the number of female Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans experiencing homelessness is increasing as is the number of homeless Veterans who have dependent children. In general, veterans have high rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury, and sexual trauma, which can lead to higher risk for homelessness. About half of homeless veterans have serious mental illness and 70 percent have substance abuse problems. Veterans are more likely to live outdoors, and experience long-term, chronic homelessness.

While this initiative is admirable, it still has a long way to go, as evidenced by the number of homeless veterans actually living on the sidewalk outside the Department of Veterans Affairs offices here in D.C.

VeteransAffairs02     VeteransAffairs03

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing

On this day in 1956, two years after successfully pushing to have the phrase “under God” inserted into the pledge of allegiance, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law declaring “In God We Trust” to be the nation’s official motto. The law also mandated that the phrase be printed on all U.S. paper currency. The phrase had already been placed on U.S. coinage starting in 1867, when the “Union” side during the Civil War started the practice.

In recognition of the anniversary of our official adaptation of this motto, on this ride I went by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  Paper currency is printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which is a component of the Treasury Department.  The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is located at 300 14th Street (MAP) in southwest D.C.  Coins, however, are produced separately by the United States Mint.  So I also rode by the headquarters for the U.S. Mint, which is located at 801 9th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.  Although the headquarters for the Mint is in D.C., production facilities are no longer located here. The production facilities are located in Philadelphia and Denver. Production of proof coin sets and commemorative coins also take place in San Francisco and West Point, New York.

Although some historical accounts claim Eisenhower was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, most presidential scholars now believe his family was Mennonite. Either way, Eisenhower abandoned his family’s religion before entering the Army, and took the unusual step of being baptized relatively late in his adult life as a Presbyterian. The baptism took place in 1953, barely a year into his first term as President. He is the only president to be baptized while in office.

Although Eisenhower embraced religion, biographers insist he never intended to force his beliefs on anyone. In fact, the chapel-like structure near where he and his wife Mamie are buried on the grounds of his presidential library is called the “Place of Meditation” and is intentionally inter-denominational. At a Flag Day speech in 1954, he elaborated on his feelings about the place of religion in public life when he discussed why he had wanted to include “under God” in the pledge of allegiance: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

The first paper money with the phrase “In God We Trust” was not printed until 1957. Since then, religious and secular groups have argued over the appropriateness and constitutionality of an official national motto that mentions “God.” “In God We Trust” also became the official motto of the state of Florida in July of 2006, where the same arguments take place on the state level. The debates will continue, and may someday result in a change to the motto and our national currency.  However, more important than what constitutes our national motto or a state motto is what constitutes your personal motto.

USMintHQ01        USMintHQ02

The Federal Election Commission Headquarters

The Federal Election Commission Headquarters

Election Day in the United States is the day set by law for general elections, and occurs on the day after the first Monday in November. (Note that the “day after the first Monday” does not equal the “first Tuesday” in a month when the first day of the month is a Tuesday.) The earliest possible date is November 2nd and the latest possible date is November 8th.   On this bike ride, in recognition of today being Election Day, I stopped by the headquarters for the Federal Election Commission. It is located at 999 E Street (MAP), across from FBI Headquarters and next door to the Hard Rock Café in northwest D.C.

Historically, when an election day for a Presidential election falls on today’s date, November 4th, it was generally very good for Republicans throughout the 20th century. The streak began when Election Day fell on November 4th back in 1924, and Calvin Coolidge was elected to the country’s top office. Coolidge was already in the office of President, having to complete the term of Warren G. Harding, who died while in office. This time, and on this day, he was voted into office by the people of the U.S., and served another four years. History repeated itself in 1952 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was running against Democrat Adlai Stevenson. Once again, Election Day was on November 4, and “Ike” won. It was the first Republican presidential victory in 24 years. Eisenhower became the 34th U.S. President. When Election Day fell on November 4th again in1980, it was a good year for Republicans all around. Most of those Republicans running for seats in the U.S. Senate were victors, winning a majority of the seats. And in a landslide, Ronald Reagan won the race for President against the Democrat incumbent, Jimmy Carter.

Before 1924, it was a different story: Democrat Grover Cleveland made it to the top in 1884; and Democrat James Buchanan was elected President of the U.S. on November 4, 1856. Unfortunately, the Republican victory streak did not continue into this century either. It ended five years ago today, on November 4, 2008, in the first presidential election held on November 4 in the 21st century. In that election, Democrat Barack Obama was elected President. The next November 4 Presidential election will be in 2036.

However, there is not a presidential election this year. The general elections being held today are considered “mid-term elections.” These elections include all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate; along with the governorships of 36 of the 50 states and three U.S. territories, 46 state legislatures (except Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia), four territorial legislatures, and numerous state and local races.

Voter turnout in national elections varies in countries throughout the world. In Belgium, which has compulsory voting, and Malta, which does not, participation reaches 95 percent. Voter turnout in this country averages only 48 percent. And voter turnout in this country decreases for midterm elections. Only 39.9 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot during the last mid-term elections, and estimates indicate voter turnout could be even lower this time around. So if the predictions are correct, more than 6 out of 10 eligible voters will not participate in today’s elections. That makes each vote even more important. So make sure you vote early. And as is the tradition if you’re in Chicago, vote often.

FEC01a        FEC01b

The U.S. Department of the Treasury Building

The U.S. Department of the Treasury Building

The Treasury Building in D.C. is a National Historic Landmark which was built over a period of 33 years between 1836 and 1869. Composed of five stories on five acres of landscaped gardens, the Neoclassical-style building is located at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), next door to The White House in northwest D.C. This building, which serves as the headquarters of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, was the destination for this lunchtime bike ride.

The Department of the Treasury, a U.S. Cabinet department, was established by an Act of Congress in 1789 to manage government revenue. The Treasury Department prints and mints all U.S. paper currency and coins through the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the United States Mint. The Department of the Treasury also collects all federal taxes through the Internal Revenue Service, and manages U.S. government debt instruments.

The initial portions of the Treasury Building, the east side and central wing, were designed by architect Robert Mills, and built between 1836 and 1842. The South Wing of the building was designed by Ammi B. Young and Alexander H. Bowman, and continued the basic Mills scheme. Construction of the South Wing occurred between 1855 and 1861. Isaiah Rogers designed the West Wing, which was built between 1862 and 1864. And the North Wing, designed by Alfred B. Mullett, was built between 1867 and 1869, completing the building.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The Treasury Building is the third oldest federally occupied building in D.C., after the U.S. Capitol Building and the White House. It would have been the oldest, but the original building and subsequent restorations were destroyed by fire on several occasions, including an accidental fire in 1801, an attack by British troops during the War of 1812, and arson on the night of March 30, 1833. The fire of 1833 was set by Richard H. White, a former clerk, in an attempt to destroy fraudulent pension papers. Although destruction of documents was kept to a minimum, the fire completely destroyed the building. The fire might have been contained if it had been discovered earlier. But at that time, the building had only one night watchman, who was allowed to sleep after making a round of the building at ten o’clock. After four separate trials, however, White was not convicted because the statute of limitations had expired.

The origins of the current Treasury Building has an interesting history. In the early days of the national capital city, the White House and the Capitol Building faced each other at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. However, President Andrew Jackson’s relationship with the Congress were so contentious that it was rumored that he had the Treasury Building placed in its present location so it would block his view of the Capitol. After a prolonged fight with Congress over the location of the new Treasury Building, President Jackson is said to have walked to the site on 15th Street near where the former building had been, drove his cane into the ground, and commanded, “Put the damned thing right here.”

If you’re unable to visit the actual  Treasury Building in D.C., you can see an image of the building any time you want inasmuch as it is featured on the back of the ten-dollar bill.  A portrait of the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, is on the front of the bill. 

TreasuryBuilding01a