James Thurber worked in the building as a code clerk during World War
During the inaugural of 1902, troops were quartered in the building -
accounts say the number was about 3000.
In 1899 the cleaning women (charwomen) were paid $20 a month.
Superintendent Baird bought a mechanical scrubber (roughly a bicycle with two
rotary brushes) which enabled 2 or 3 women to do the work of 8 - 12.
Considering it a threat to employment, the women resisted the machine and Baird
gave up the notion.
The usual personnel count was put at 2,260 people, but in 1918 there
were 4500 employees in the building. During the flu epidemic, twice a day, they
were marched from the building to the street for a hygienic breather. It was
about this time that the communal water drinking glasses were removed from the
Secretary of War Taft is credited with the installation of the extra
brass railings at the stairs. It is said that he asked for the installation
after slipping down the steps one day.
When Taft later became President, the family cow "Pauline" was often
seen grazing on the lawn of the State Department, now the south lawn of the
OEOB, from 1909 to 1913.
There were once wooden swinging doors on the corridor side of each
doorway. They were removed at an unknown date. Oral history leads us to a story
of Winston Churchill visiting the building, and upon arriving at one door, an
eager young staffer ran out of the office - knocking the cigar out of his
mouth. Perhaps this expedited the removal of the doors.
In the 1950s, the Eisenhower Administration conducted a survey of
office space in the building that called for tearing down the building and
construction of a new, more space-efficient one. The cost of tearing it down
was too large, and the plan was scrapped.
From 1885 until 1936, a time-ball located on the flag pole of the East
Center roof of the building operated to signal noon. It was similar in action
(although smaller and not as flashy) as the one seen on New Year's Eve in Times
Square. It was once considered a customary feature of ports - navigators could
use the ball to check chronometers.
Telephone and telegraph lines were first installed in the building in
1881 by the Army Signal Corps.
Length of corridors: 1-1/2 miles
Number of inside doors: 1314
Number of windows: 1572
Number offices approx. 550
Peak occupancy: 4500 in July 1918
Total years for construction: 17 (1871-1888)
Cost of construction, 1988: 10 million dollars
First lightbulb used in bulding: 1893
First televised Presidential Press Conference ever made: January
19, 1955 in Room 474, President Eisenhower
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places: 1971