Posts Tagged ‘J. Edgar Hoover’

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Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity

On this bike ride I was able to see a public sculpture that most people are no longer able to see.  The sculpture is entitled “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity” and was created by Frederick Charles Shrady, an American painter and sculptor who is best known for his religious sculptures.  Most people can no longer see it because it is located in the courtyard of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters building, which was once accessible to the public but was closed off years ago due to security concerns.

In January 1975, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI passed a resolution to create a memorial to J. Edgar Hoover. The memorial, which cost $125,000, was funded through private contributions.  The artist was selected through a design contest, and the sculpture was dedicated on October 13, 1979.

The statue, made of bronze, is 15 feet 7 inches wide and 5 feet 7 inches deep.  The sculpture rests on a rectangular base 2 feet 6 inches by 10 feet 3 inches by 7 feet 4 inches made of slabs of black marble and mortar. The front of the base is carved and painted with the words “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity”.

The piece depicts three figures which represent Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.  These are intended to not only represent the acronym of the FBI, but the core values of the Bureau.  The figures are placed against a backdrop of a large United States flag, which appears to be waving in the breeze.  Fidelity, a female, is on the right, seated on the ground and looking up at a male figure of Bravery. To the left of Bravery is Integrity, a male figure who kneels on one knee, with his left hand on his heart. He looks towards Bravery, who stands flanked by the two other figures. The figures are simple with little detail, but none the less evocative based on their pose and appearance.

In 1993, the piece was surveyed as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Save Outdoor Sculpture! program and was described as needing conservation treatment.

It’s unfortunate that the public no longer has access to view the sculpture and other displays in the courtyard of the FBI Headquarters building.  Much like the old FBI tour, which was one of the most unique and popular tours in the city prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it has succumbed to the need for greater security to protect FBI personnel.  But I’m glad I was allowed the opportunity to see the sculpture, and to share what I learned about it with you here on this blog.

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

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.

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

Mary Ann Hall and Her Brothel

Mary Ann Hall and Her Brothel

On this bike ride I rode to one of D.C.’s brothels, which are also sometimes known as a bordellos, dens of iniquity, houses of ill repute, cathouses, houses of ill fame, bawdy houses, call houses, houses of assignation, and houses with red doors.  However, it was closed.  Actually, it closed well over a hundred years ago, but I stopped by the location where it once stood.

Despite being single and in just her early twenties, Mary Ann Hall settled, started a business, saved her money, and eventually built a large, three-story brick home at 349 Maryland Avenue (MAP) in the downtown area of southwest D.C., about four blocks west of the U.S. Capitol Building.  A 19th century entrepreneur, Mary Ann ran a successful brothel from the 1840s through the 1880s at this address, which was located on the site where the National Museum of the American Indian is currently located.

During a time when D.C. was largely devoid of economic opportunities for single women, Mary Ann’s business was very successful.  Of the 450 registered brothels in D.C. employing almost 5,000 prostitutes during the Civil War (with several thousand more in Georgetown and Alexandria), Mary Ann employed far more prostitutes than any other brothel in the city, and was the most successful.  It was also considered one of the finer establishments of its kind in D.C.

Life was good for Mary Ann.  From everything that is known about her, she enjoyed a varied and nutritious diet, including substantial amounts of meat, poultry and fish, as well as exotic fruits like coconuts and berries, foods which were for the most part unavailable to most people at that time.  She was also known to enjoy large quantities of French Champaign, and often vacationed at her summer home in Virginia’s “Alexandria County,” which is present-day land in Arlington where Marymount University is now located.

Mary Ann died where she lived her life here in D.C. in 1886 at the age of 71.  She never married nor had children, and because she had no heirs, a family feud erupted over her estate.  It is because of this that we have a detailed account of Mary Ann’s possessions.  D.C. court records show that at the time of her death, Mary Ann had no debts and was worth well over two million in today’s dollars. The records also show a list of her belongings, which included Belgian carpets, oil paintings, an ice box, numerous pieces of red plush furniture, as well as an inordinate number of sheets, mattresses, blankets, feather pillows and comforters.

When Mary Ann’s mother died in 1860, she was buried in Congressional Cemetery, where previously only members of Congress had been allowed to be buried.  Mary Ann’s highly ranked political connections from the brothel arranged for this.  When Mary Ann died six years later, she was also buried at Congressional Cemetery, near her mother, as well as her sister and other family members, at a family plot marked by “large and dignified” memorials.  So on today’s bike ride, I also stopped by Historic Congressional Cemetery (MAP) to visit her gravesite, located in section 67, not far from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s grave.

There are no known photographs to know exactly what Mary Ann looked like. And she didn’t keep a diary or write a memoir, nor did she leave a collection of personal or business correspondence, so that we could know her personality.  What is known about Mary Ann was learned from court records, census bureau documents, newspaper articles, and an archeological analysis of the area where her home once stood when it was excavated in 1999 so that the American Indian Museum could be built.

So although we know a lot about her life, we know very little about the person she was.  We do, however, get a glimpse of her from her obituary published in D.C.’s Evening Star newspaper, which sang her praises.  It reads, “With integrity unquestioned, a heart ever open to appeals of distress, a charity that was boundless, she is gone; but her memory will be kept green by many who knew her sterling worth.”

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J. Edgar Hoover’s Gravesite

Arguably one of the most powerful men in the history of D.C, he was never elected to public office.  He was born in D.C., but no birth certificate or public record was ever filed, despite the fact that it was legally required at the time.  He went through the D.C. public school system, and attended college in D.C. as well at The George Washington University, where he obtained both a Bachelor of Laws degree and a Master of Laws degree.  He lived his entire life in the nation’s capitol, died here, and is now buried at Historic Congressional Cemetery in D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood (MAP).  That man was J. Edgar Hoover.

Hoover was born on New Year’s Day in 1895, and died on May 2, 1972.  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, where he became its first Director.  He remained the Bureau’s Director for 37 years, until his death in 1972 at age 77.

Hoover’s professional legacy at the FBI is mixed.  He was noted as being capricious in his leadership.  He singled out FBI Agents who he thought “looked stupid like truck drivers,” or that he considered “pinheads.”  He frequently fired FBI Agents, and also relocated Agents who had displeased him to career-ending assignments and locations.   And it is because Hoover’s actions came to be seen as an abuse of power, FBI directors are now limited to one ten-year term.  However, Hoover is also credited with building the FBI into a premier crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modernizations to law enforcement technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.

Hoover’s private life is also subject to interpretation and speculation, and opinions of the man are varied as well.  Beginning decades before his death rumors began circulating that the lifelong bachelor was a homosexual.  Some historians speculate that Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s second in command at the FBI, and who also never married, may have been his lover.  Other scholars dismiss rumors about Hoover’s sexuality, and his relationship with Tolson in particular, as unlikely.  Still other scholars have reported the rumors without expressing an opinion.

Clyde Tolson is best known as the protégé and companion of Hoover, who described Tolson as his alter ego.  The men worked closely together during the day and, both single, frequently took meals, went to night clubs, and vacationed together.  Hoover bequeathed his estate to Tolson, who moved into Hoover’s house upon the FBI Director’s death, and also accepted the American flag that draped Hoover’s casket.  Tolson’s gravesite is just a few yards away from J. Edgar Hoover’s grave.

Despite the varying interpretations of Hoover and the disagreements that will never be settled, most would agree that during his era he was a very powerful man.  Perhaps exemplifying this was the opinion of President Harry S. Truman, who once said that “J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.”

Even after his death, Hoover’s presence loomed large in D.C.  By regulation and custom, only Presidents, military commanders, and members of Congress are granted the honor of lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Building‘s rotunda.  Of the 31 people, including 11 Presidents, who have been granted this honor, there has been only one exception.  That exception was J. Edgar Hoover.

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