Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building History

Civil Service Commission

During the first 95 years of the United States' existence federal government jobs were awarded under the spoils system, wherein the president and legislature selected employees based primarily upon political affiliation. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Civil Service Act, marking the first time that any government jobs were awarded based solely upon merit. The commission lasted until 1874, when it was disbanded due to a lack of congressional funding.

In 1881 President Garfield was assassinated by Charles Guiteau, a disappointed government job -seeker. This event spurred Congress to pass and President Arthur to sign the Pendleton Act of 1883 forming the modern Civil Service Commission. Although only a few jobs came under the jurisdiction of Civil Service at first, the number continuously grew over the next several decades. Today, the vast majority of federal employees are competitively selected based upon qualifications of merit not political affiliation.

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 further defined the role of and renamed the Civil Service Commission, creating in its place the Office of Personnel Management.

Federal Office Building 9

Completed in 1963, Federal Office Building 9 was constructed to house the U.S. Civil Service Commission. Previously scattered throughout Washington DC in five buildings, the opening of the headquarters building was the first time the agency's employees had all been housed under one roof since before World War II.

The building's design was a collaboration between architecture firm Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc. (HOK) and the firm Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett. Constructed in an era of extremely austere federal buildings, the simplicity of the building's façade was critiqued by the Commission of Fine Arts upon its presentation and a suggestion was made that artwork to be added to enliven the building plaza. Artwork was never added; however, the famous landscape design firm Sasaki, Walker, & Associates Inc. was employed to complete the site design.

Theodore Roosevelt

Considered the father of the modern merit-based civil service, Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in the reform of the spoils system during his tenure as Civil Service Commissioner (1889-1895). An advocate of government hiring reform since his days as a New York state assemblyman, Roosevelt believed that government jobs should be awarded based on merit, with equal opportunity for all and no preference given based upon political beliefs. Roosevelt's reforms proved especially important during his presidency, when 90,000 new government jobs were added to the ranks of the civil service, marking the first time that merit-based civil service positions outnumbered political appointments in the executive branch.

On October 27, 1992, the Office of Personnel Management headquarters building was renamed in honor of Roosevelt's contributions to the Civil Service Commission.

print Share Icon Last Reviewed 2017-08-13