The Agriculture Complex in Washington D.C.
On April 12th 1861, Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter.   Northern troops retreated in disorder after the first Battle of Manassas, VA on July 21, 1861.   During 1862, Grant captured two forts in Kentucky, the ironclads (Monitor and Merrimack) fought to a draw, the Union fleet under Farragut captured New Orleans, and the Union was determined to move forward by enacting legislation that fulfilled three of Lincoln's campaign promises.   In a six week period in 1862, the People's Department (the Department of Agriculture) was established, the Homestead Act was passed, and the Morrill Land Grant Act became law.   The Department of Agriculture started with 9 employees and was housed in the basement of the Patent Office.   Lincoln signed the Land Grant Act on July 2, 1862, which had a major impact on education in the United States and around the world.


Construction was started on the first building to house the Department of Agriculture in 1868.   This picture was taken in the mid-1880's.   The original photograph is an albumen print in a format known as a cabinet card, and is about the size of a modern postcard.

James Wilson became the Secretary of Agriculture in 1893, and served 16 years.   His 16 years has been the longest term in history.   In 1904, he requested 2.6 million dollars to build a new office building for USDA.   Congress provided him with 1.5 million dollars, and he proceeded to build the East and West wings of the Administration building (these wings have the reddish rooves in the picture below).   His thinking was that Congress wouldn't leave the building without the center portion and would appropriate the other 1.1 million dollars that he had requested.   It was 23 years later when the center section was built.

USDA is currently housed in 4 buildings adjoining the Mall in Washington, DC.   There is a large complex in Beltsville, MD which includes the Ag Library.   In addition, there are hundreds of USDA service centers all around the country.   The view, to the right, was taken from atop the Washington Monument and shows the 4 buildings.   The South Agriculture Building is the building in the center of the picture with 7 parallel wings, and two arches over Independance Avenue used for foot traffic between the South and Administration buildings.   It was the largest office building in the world until the Pentagon was built.

The Cotton Annex is located diagonally across the street from the furthest away corner of the South Building, and is barely visible in this picture.

The historic Auditors Building (which is what most employees know it as) is the red brick building at the lower right and is now home of the Forest Service.   It's official name is The Sidney R. Yates Federal Building and dates back to the 1870's.

Prior to the Civil War, United States paper currency was issued by commercial banks though out the Nation. The Bureau of Printing and Engraving was established in 1861 by President Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, Salmon P. Chase, to help fund the war effort through the issue of Federal notes. By 1878, the Bureau had outgrown its quarters on the top floor of the Treasury Building. Plans were drawn up and funding appropriated for a “plain, substantial fireproof building” at the corner of 14th and B Streets in the southwest quadrant of Washington, D.C.

James B. Hill, the Treasury Department’s Supervising Architect, designed the red brick building in the Romanesque style. The concrete foundation was poured on September 27, 1878, and the Bureau moved in between June and July 6, 1880. During the 1880’s, the building functioned as a printing and engraving factory, with visitors watching money being made from behind wire screens. Electrical lighting was installed in 1888 to supplement existing gas lighting. By 1890, the Bureau was again outgrowing its quarters and several additions were added over the years. The Bureau continued to grow and in 1911 construction of a new building began. The red brick building was vacated by the Bureau in 1914.

Sidney R. Yates Representative Sidney R. Yates from the Ninth Congressional District of Illinois, was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1909. The sixth and last child of Russian immigrants, Yates completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago in 1931 and went on to receive a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1933. As a college student, Yates was renowned as a basketball player with a nearly perfect sense of timing and was selected for All Big Ten honors. He worked as an assistant general for the Illinois Commerce Commission and then went into private practice. Yates served in the U.S Navy During World War II.

Yates was first elected to the U.S House of Representatives in 1948 and served there continuously until 1963. That same year, after an impressive challenge to the tenure of Senator Everett Dirksen, President John F. Kennedy appointed Yates as Ambassador to the United Nations on the Trusteeship Council, where he worked with Adlai Stevenson. In September 1964, he left this position to run again for Congress. He was reelected as the representative for the Ninth District and continued to serve until his retirement at the close of the 105th Congress at the age of eighty-nine.


Below is another view of the Administration Building.   It was completed in 1930, and is currently known as the Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building.   This picture was taken in 1934.


On April 27, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt put ink to paper to create the Soil Conservation Service. Because of what happened on that day, Americans and people the world over now enjoy the benefits that can only come from healthy and productive natural resources.

   Started Sept. 28, 2000 and last updated July 1, 2006 by Owen P. Lee