Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Happy 75th Anniversary to the Pentagon

At six and a half million square feet, the Pentagon is one of the largest office buildings in the world. Designed by American George Berstrom and built by contractor John McShain, the facility was dedicated on January 15, 1943. Originally slated to be located on Arlington Farm, Bergstrom had to work around existing roads to fit the structure onto the property, hence the five-sided design. The building was deemed too small and a new site selected across the Potomac. Time was tight, so the original design was kept.

Architect George Bergstrom
Construction began on September 11, 1941 and headed up by the Army Corps of Engineers. After the  attack on Pearl Harbor, the project was accelerated and the number of workers rose from 3,000 to over 10,000, at one point peaking at nearly 15,000. Shifts worked round the clock to meet the deadline, and the first employees were able to move in during April 1942.

Here are some fun facts:

  • 410,000 cubic tons of concrete were used, made from 700,000 tons of sand dredged from the Potomac River.
  • The site on which it is built was part of Robert E. Lee’s farm.
  • There are 17.5 miles of corridors, and the central plaza is five acres in size.
  • It has twice as much office space as the Empire State Building, and the Capitol could fit into just one of the Pentagon’s five sides
  • There are 284 bathrooms, twice as many needed because segregation was still in effect. However, FDR signed an executive order prohibiting segregation, and the facility became the only integrated building in Virginia.
  • In order to conserve steel (in short supply because of the war), there are no elevators. 

I lived in the Washington, DC area for almost twenty-five years and often passed this intriguing site. However, I was never fortunate enough to participate in a tour. What is your favorite federal building?

Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, blogger, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a Trustee for her local public library. Active in her church Linda serves as treasurer, usher, and choir member. She has written a number of historical romances and mysteries. To find out more about Linda and her books visit www.LindaShentonMatchett.com.


  1. Interesting history about the building of the Pentagon. I cannot name a favorite federal building. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks for these interesting facts about the Pentagon. Many years ago, on my Senior Class trip to Washington, we visited the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. We were in the balcony overlooking the production floor and could see the paper money being produced.

  3. My pastor is an Army Chaplain and was recently deployed to the Pentagon. He enjoyed it. I’m surprised at how big that place is. It is interesting to note that the ground was broken on Sept. 11. I wonder if that is one reason it was targeted on that day! Thanks for the history lesson!