Celebrating 67 years of American service

Part three of a three-part look at GSA’s history

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Last week, we shared our second blog of this three part series, highlighting some unique facts about the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Today we are proud to release our final edition of this series, by revealing interesting and unique facts about our agency. Since its inception on July 1, 1949, GSA has evolved in ways that President Harry S. Truman probably never imagined, becoming a driver within the federal government of technology, sustainability, efficiency, cost savings and economic development for communities and cities across this great nation.

Without further ado, here’s the final round of interesting and unique facts about GSA:

  • Appointed in 1947, the Hoover Commission identified the need for a centralized support service for the federal government and recommended the creation of an Office of General Services.
  • In 1948, the Hoover Commission was appointed by President Truman to improve the process of providing supplies, workspace, and services to agencies that resulted in the creation of GSA.
  • The Public Buildings Act of 1949 authorized the appropriation of $40 million for the purchase of sites and planning for federal buildings and empowered the commissioner of public buildings to employ private firms for building projects. During the 1950s, the role of the GSA Public Buildings Service evolved from designer to administrator.
  • The Public Buildings Construction Act of 1959 stipulated that funds for building construction required separate legislation. GSA embarked on its biggest building program since the Great Depression, and between 1961 and 1962 more than 7.7 million square feet of federal office space was added.
  • In 1962, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, a forward-thinking pronouncement on how the government should further the interests and aspirations of the American people in its public buildings. More than 50 years later, these directives still shape and form the mission of the Public Buildings Service and have become the cornerstone of GSA’s Design Excellence Program.  
  • This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which established the framework for evaluation and identification of historic places and declared that “the spirit and direction of the Nation are founded upon its historic heritage.”
  • GSA is the steward of 482 historic buildings, comprising approximately 31 percent of our owned inventory.
  • Between the 1850s and 1930s – before GSA was created – the Office of the Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department designed and oversaw federal building projects throughout the country. Many of the buildings created by this prolific office are now under GSA stewardship.
  • GSA’s 1915-1917 headquarters building in Washington, D.C., was originally constructed for the U.S. Department of the Interior.
  • Jess Larson was GSA’s first administrator.
  • In 1979, GSA’s Mid-Atlantic Region formed by combining the field offices of the National Capital Region.
  • GSA coined the term “telecommunications” in 1957 to describe phone service.
  • GSA helps the U.S. Coast Guard find new owners for lighthouses that are no longer critical to their operations. Through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, GSA has transferred ownership of 67 lighthouses to new stewards, and sold 45 lighthouses to new owners.
  • Created by renowned artist Alexander Calder, Flamingo was installed at the Chicago Federal Center in 1974. A frequent sight-to-see for tourists and residents alike, the sculpture is recognized around the world and is quite possibly the most well-known piece in GSA’s Fine Arts Collection.
  • The former U.S. courthouse in Detroit, constructed in 1896, was set to be demolished in 1931 to make way for what is now the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse. At the time, Chief Judge Arthur J. Tuttle appealed to the Treasury Department to save his district courtroom from demolition. This courtroom was constructed with more than 30 different types of marble that were collected from many states and foreign countries (at the time, estimated to be worth $1 million). The courtroom was taken apart in sections, photographed, inventoried, and stored. When the new courthouse was constructed, the courtroom was reassembled in the new building, and GSA continues to preserve this unique piece of history.
  • The Great Lakes Region completed green renovations to the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building in Fort Snelling, Minn., enabling the agency to modernize the facility and significantly reduce energy costs. One of the project’s most unique features is the installation of geothermal ground source. The 800 vertical heat exchangers provide the heat transfer area needed to heat and cool the building, reducing the use of fossil fuels. With a network of more than 76 miles of piping under the building’s parking lots, this is one of the largest geothermal installations of its kind in Minnesota, and one of the largest installations for GSA.
  • As a way to preserve a Mid-Century Modern building, GSA constructed a state-of-the-art double glass curtain wall at the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building in Cleveland. This solution preserves the integrity of the building’s existing facade, while regulating the building’s temperature throughout the year. The use of this technology is the first of its kind in GSA’s inventory. Learn more in this documentary.
  • Located in Battle Creek, Mich., the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center, formerly the Battle Creek Federal Center, successively served as a sanitarium and military hospital, and now houses several federal agencies. The Seventh Day Adventists established the Western Health Reform Institute in a cottage on the site in 1866. In 1876, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg renamed the property Battle Creek Sanitarium and expanded the facility to include a hospital, central building, and other cottages. The sanitarium was used primarily as a spa by the rich and famous, and guests included Henry Ford and President William Taft. The U.S. Army purchased the property for $2.25 million in 1942 and converted it into a hospital to treat World War II soldiers. In 2003, the complex was renamed to honor three U.S. Senators who were patients there during World War II: Philip Hart of Michigan, Robert Dole of Kansas, and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.
Last Reviewed: 2019-07-23