Sunday, July 5, 2015

Architecture of the National Archives in Washington DC

After a wonderful 4th of July, my family and I decided to drive to Washington DC the next day. While there I got to meet a friend face to face for the first time! We met outside the National Archives which seemed most appropriate for commemorating our Independence Day.  It also seemed quite fitting in that our sons share a common interest in their future goals for their lives. It was such a happy, happy day, so complete in many ways. Incidentally my friend and I were twin Secret Sisters one year for our prayer and Christmas ornament exchange. We had even guessed we had each other. Such fun and at such a fitting and beautiful place that is so important to our country's history.

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This lovely building has a great history of its architecture. In 1926 Congress passed the National Buildings Act which provided for the building for many new federal office buildings that were needed for the expanding government. The Department of Treasury was put in charge. Because the present federal buildings were Neo-Classical in design, it was decided that the new buildings would continue that theme with elements such as limestone facades, red-tiled roofs, and classical colonnades. However the archive building would be unique with specialized air handling systems, reinforced flooring and thousands of feet of shelving, because more than mere office space was needed. The founding documents of our nation needed to be safely housed there.  Groundbreaking began in 1931 when the old farmers market building was destroyed.  Then in 1934 Barry Faulkner was commissioned to paint the two beautiful murals of our Founding Fathers that can be seen today in the Rotunda when we view the founding documents. Upon completion in 1937, the National Archives building was the most ornate with 72 Corinthian columns, grand entrances over 35 feet high, and many allegorical figures representing destiny, history, guardianship and inspiration. Although the Bill of Rights had been moved to the National Archives in 1937, it wasn't until 1952 when the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were transferred from the Library of Congress.  They were hermetically sealed with helium in special cases. Restorations in the 1970's and early 21st century has upgraded much of the National Archives to what we enjoy today. (For more information and pictures of the construction process, read this link, which is footnoted below this post.)

For more details on the allegorical details of the piedmonts as seen in the photo above, read this from the National Archives.

For an on-line opportunity to explore the Charters of Freedom, check this link.


Of course when we got home we had to watch National Treasure! When my kids first saw this movie years ago, after having visited the National Archives the first time, they immediately knew that their copy of the Declaration of Independence was unlike the original.



Resources:

 https://www.archives.gov/about/history/building.html

http://blogs.archives.gov/prologue/?p=13960

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/

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