Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building History
In the post-World War II era of government expansion, southwest Washington DC was targeted for extensive redevelopment by the federal government. Much of the areas housing was in poor condition; many alley slums featured no electricity or running water. Sitting in the shadow of the Capitol, southwest was seen as a blight on the capital city and was promoted as the perfect grounds for experimenting with large-scale urban renewal.
Utilizing eminent domain, the federal government purchased and demolished existing residential and commercial structures beginning in 1954. Federal Office Building #6 was one of the first federal office buildings planned for the redevelopment of southwest. Built in the International Style of modernism, with little architectural ornamentation or adornment, the building is considered by many to be the first truly modern federal office building.
In March 2005, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission selected the plaza in front of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building as the future site of a new national memorial to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower as "the Supreme Allied Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and the 34th President of the United States." In 2009 the Commission selected architect Frank Gehry to design the memorial. Gehry's design has since proven controversial and is still under review.
Design & Construction
Constructed between 1959 and 1961, the Department of Education building was originally known as Federal Office Building #6 (FOB6). Prior to World War II, government office buildings were designed for use by specific agencies, which are reflected in the architectural design, decoration, and naming of the buildings.
The first of its kind, FOB 6 was not built with a single occupant in mind. Its design embraced the principles of contemporary modern architecture and was devoid of any architectural ornamentation or symbolism linking it with a particular institution. Designed by firms Faulkner, Kinsbury & Stenhouse and Chatelain, Gauger & Nolan, the building is an excellent example of the International Style of Modernism. The building’s setting, including its plaza, was designed by the landscape architecture firm of Collins, Simonds & Simonds to be integral to the building.
Upon its completion, the building was shared by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). In 1979, when HEW split to form the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education (DoEd), occupancy of the building was given over to the newly formed Department of Education.
Lyndon Baines Johnson
In March 2007, President George W. Bush signed legislation into law, naming the U.S. Department of Education building in honor of the former President Lyndon Baines Johnson. President Johnson, often referred to as the ‘teacher who became President’ served his country in numerous, distinguished ways, including as Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy during World War II, as a Member of both houses of Congress, Vice President, and as the 36th President of the United States.
More than sixty distinct education initiatives were part of the Great Society Legislation pursued by Johnson during his tenure as president. On occasion of the building's renaming, his daughter, Luci Baines Johnson said, "My father believed education is the best passport out of poverty and a quality education is mankind's greatest hope for tomorrow. No honor would have meant more to Lyndon Johnson than to be remembered for improving educational opportunities for all Americans."