The U.S. General Services Administration believes that our nation’s historic public buildings—similar to family heirlooms, chronicling the passing of eras—are monuments to the strength, spirit and longevity of our government, forever preserving a place in time.
Since May is National Preservation Month, a celebration of the diverse and unique legacy of our country’s cities and towns, it is a great time to recognize the heritage and history of our nation’s historic public buildings.
Architectural treasures such as the Tomochichi Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Savannah, GA; the U.S. Custom House in San Francisco; and the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., all share a common thread. They’re all part of GSA’s building legacy and represent just a few of the agency’s 301 historic buildings that have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
GSA currently manages 482 historic properties, 107 National Historic Landmarks and two National Historic Sites. From stately Greek revival monuments to bold modern masterpieces, GSA’s buildings reflect 200 years of architectural excellence. They include custom houses, courthouses, post offices, border stations, and federal agency offices across the United States and its territories. Many are grand structures with ceremonial spaces that symbolize the permanence and stature of the federal government, and serve functional purposes.
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, GSA has been entrusted to spend $5.5 billion on approximately 250 building projects nationwide. More than half of this funding will be spent on historic properties.
These buildings not only stand the test of time, each has a rich history. Among GSA’s inventory of historic buildings is the oldest operating federal building in the nation, the Robert C. McEwen U.S. Custom House in Ogdensburg, N.Y., built in 1810. It is closely linked to the development of Ogdensburg and shipping along the St. Lawrence River. Over the years, the building was used for customs offices; patrol assembly; radio, record, and customs files rooms; a dormitory for immigration officers; and detention facilities. The U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marines also maintained offices there.
GSA’s Center for Historic Buildings provides national leadership for compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act and other stewardship directives. To help GSA accomplish these goals, the center develops strategies and promotes best practice sharing to support the viability, reuse, and integrity of historic buildings GSA owns, leases, or has an opportunity to acquire.
To celebrate National Preservation Month, GSA’s Center for Historic Buildings has unveiled a new Web site, www.gsa.gov/historicbuildings, which features interactive exhibits about the history, geography and architectural style of GSA public buildings in the United States.
GSA also offers the 2009 Historic Building Poster and Brochure Series online at www.gsa.gov/historicbuildingposters. The series highlights more than 100 of GSA’s most significant historic buildings.
Source: Common Cents, by Paul Prouty. Prouty is Acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration.