Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Federal Building History

Old Southwest

In 1791, when Pierre Charles L'Enfant planned the city of Washington, Southwest DC was carved from farmland owned by a Maryland planter, Notley Young. Located along the eastern bank of the Potomac River, Southwest offered a prime location near both vital river docks and the planned site of the U.S. Capitol. Starting with early speculative development in the 1790s, Southwest became a lively neighborhood, home to a busy wharf and shipping industry, factories, commercial ventures, and a large residential development

The site of the O'Neill Federal Building was most notably once home to a vibrant 19th century middle- class neighborhood; composed of a myriad of small-scale residential, religious, and commercial buildings. According to historic maps of the area, the block now occupied by the O'Neill Federal Building included the Metropolitan Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church, the Watts and Brothers Coal and Wood Yard, and a large stable complex.

Federal Office Building 8

Between 1954 and 1960, over half of Southwest DC was razed in the name of urban renewal. Overcrowded and "outdated," Southwest was seen as an ideal location to experiment with large-scale urban renewal. After being cleared, the building site temporarily served as a parking lot before become part of the Southwest Federal Center.

Constructed in 1965, Federal Office Building #8 was built to house a large laboratory for the Food and Drug Administration. Designed by Naramore, Bain, Brady, & Johanson, FOB 8 was an austere, utilitarian building clad in limestone. Over two-thirds of the original building was dedicated to working laboratory space, with the remaining portion housing related FDA offices.

Located at 3rd & C Streets, the cornerstone of Federal Office Building #8 features the name of President John F. Kennedy, marking it as one of the only federal buildings completed during his short tenure as president from 1961-1963.

Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Federal Building

In 2002 the FDA laboratory vacated Federal Office Building #8, moving to become part of the new FDA campus in White Oak, Maryland. Occupying prime real estate near the U.S. Capitol, the General Services Administration explored many different options for redeveloping the outdated building. In 2010 construction commenced, implementing a building-modernization designed by Boggs & Partners Architects, a firm which has received international acclaim for its innovative design and planning solutions.

The building has been transformed into a naturally lit and open planned office space via a few simple yet precise architectural decisions which allowed over 95% of the existing structure to remain intact. Two atria were cut into the existing floor place to create a six story entry atrium and a seven story central interior atrium. Glass curtain walls replaced solid limestone at the east and west façade in order to let natural light into the building and create views of the Capitol Dome and surrounds. The tall glass atrium at the front of the building, which invokes the lines and massing of a waterfall, is central to the newly revitalized pedestrian plaza, formerly a surface parking lot.

In December 2012, 47 years after it was constructed, Federal Office Building #8 was renamed in honor of Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. (1912-1994), a Massachusetts Congressman and the second-longest serving Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Last Reviewed 2016-06-30