Great Expansion of Federal Work
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, May 30, 1915 [p. 5]
Evidence of the great progress of the United States is seen in the necessity for the construction of a building between 18th and 19th and F and G streets northwest of the "accommodation of the Interior Department. It calls to mind that the department as such did not exist until about the middle of the last century, when the entire departmental service in the District numbered about one-fifth of the present force of that department. In the sixty-five years of its existence there have come into being the departments of Agriculture, Justice and Commerce and Labor, with other bureaus. Before its erection-even from the foundation of the government-the germs of the Interior Department, the patent office, Indian affairs, public lands and pensions, were to be found in the old State, Treasury, War and Navy departments.
When the government office with their employes arrived here in the summer of 1800 the work of the two office buildings on each side of the White House was well under way, and the Treasury building, known in the early part of the century as the East Executive building, was about ready to be occupied. These were about on a line with the south front of the White House, at 15th and 17th streets. That they were intended to accommodate the entire clerical force in about forty rooms in each building is explainable by the fact that there were less than 200 clerks in all.
"East Building" Opens
Rented quarters were provided for other government office. The War Department located in a house on the south side of Pennsylvania avenue near 22d street, but it was there but a short time when, November 3, 1800, it was destroyed by fire, with many valuable papers, the home of the messenger being also burned. The Post office Department found lodgment at the house of Dr. Crocker, at the northeast corner of 9th and E streets.
Old Departments Give Way to New
For robbing the mails the penalty had been hanging, but flogging was eventually substituted therefore. At that time it took forty days by the mail coach for a person in Maine to receive an answer from a letter addressed to a point in Georgia. The Postmaster General was not then regarded as a cabinet officer and it was not until 1825, when the several postal acts were made into one act, that he was so regarded. It remained for President Jackson to invite Gen. Barry to a seat at the cabinet table, in March, 1829, and since that date the Postmaster Generals have been advisers of the President. By act of April 30, 1798, the Navy Department was organized, relieving the War Department of jurisdiction of naval affairs. June 18 of that year Benjamin Stoddert of Maryland, then residing in Georgetown, entered on his duties as a secretary.
Business Indicated by Titles
This led to a flow of emigration to points beyond the Ohio river. The pension affairs as well as the bounty land office was originally under the War Department, and the patent office until the creation of the Interior Department was one of the bureaus of the State Department, and it was easily, to be seen, from the number of patents applied for on improvements in agricultural machinery, plows, etc., that the collection of agricultural statistics would follow. This eventually led, first, to the establishment of a bureau of agriculture and seed depot and finally to the establishment of the great department on the Mall. In the State Department the miscellaneous or home department work was so increased that before the Interior Department was organized its clerical force was as large as the diplomatic and consular force.
By act of April 28, 1810, $20,000 was appropriated to erect or procure a building suitable for the accommodation of the post office and the office of the keeper of patents, and the old Blodgett Hotel property was purchased. Besides those officers the city post office and the office of the superintendent and surveyor of Washington were removed from the west executive building to the hotel property and the structure was repaired, finished and occupied in 1812. The office of superintendent general was also located here and an engine house was provided for in 1820. This was on 7th street north of the east end of the hotel building. This engine was manned by a company of which Mr. Coyle, the chief clerk of the post office, was president, and it was known as the Washington fire company.
Buildings Burned by British
The auditors were spread around among the buildings. The land office with the general of the army, paymaster general and fifth auditor were located in the northeast or State Department building. In the northwest building, or War Department, was the bounty land office and the pension bureau, Attorney general and second auditor. In the southwest, or Navy Department building, was the second controller, third and fourth auditor.
The southeast or Treasury building was entirely occupied by the clerks of the Treasury Department, including those of the first auditor.