Explore by Timeline: The Great Depression (1929-1940)
Cass Gilbert Commissioned to Design Foley Square Courthouse
In 1931 Cass Gilbert (1850-1934) was commissioned to design a new federal courthouse at Foley Square in New York City. His earlier works, including New York's 1907 U.S. Custom House at Bowling Green, were primarily of the Beaux Arts tradition. Later designs embraced the revival of Neoclassicism, a more restrained style.
Construction of the courthouse began in July 1932 and lasted three and one-half years. One of Gilbert's last great works, it was among the first federal skyscrapers ever constructed. The design, combining an elegant square tower with a six-story base, met the substantial space requirements of the courts without visually overwhelming the nearby buildings.
Public Works Branch Created
In June 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6166, creating the Procurement Division within the Treasury Department. The Office of the Supervising Architect was transferred to the Procurement Division, and renamed the Public Works Branch. The Treasury Department was relocated from its more prestigious offices in the Treasury Department Building to a former warehouse in Southwest Washington.
During the New Deal era, 1300 federally funded buildings were constructed throughout the nation.
Louis A. Simon Succeeds James A. Wetmore as Supervising Architect
When James A. Wetmore retired, Louis A. Simon had worked in the Office of the Supervising Architect for more than thirty years, overseeing all architectural work. Although the office was now called the Public Works Branch, Simon still held the title of supervising architect.
Public Works Branch Removed from Treasury Department
In 1939, the Public Works Branch was removed from the Treasury Department and made part of the Public Buildings Administration in the Federal Works Agency. Louis A. Simon remained Supervising Architect. The Public Buildings Administration was responsible for all new federal building construction, except for that of the Veteran's Administration and Navy and War departments.
The Treasury Department's lengthy governance over federal architecture was over.