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Highway History


An Imaginary Tour of Pennsylvania Avenue

Photos from Tour of Pennsylvania Avenue

Photos courtesy of Sonquela "Sonnie" Seabron

The United States Capitol sits at the eastern end of Pennsylvania Avenue. (photographed from the Bell Tower of the Old Post Pavilion). In the center of a small traffic circle is a statue honoring the U.S. Navy for its role in the American Civil War. A statue honors General Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union forces to victory in the Civil War. From 1st to 3rd Streets, Pennsylvania Avenue is a parking lot that opens onto the ceremonial road sometimes called the "Main Street of America"
The National Gallery of Art is on Constitution Avenue where it intersects Pennsylvania Avenue. Today sculpture by Frank Stella is on view along Pennsylvania Avenue on the grounds of the National Gallery of Art, East Wing. Today a sculpture by Frank Stella is on view along Pennsylvania Avenue on the grounds of the National Gallery of Art, East Wing. This statue of General George Meade, who commanded the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg, is located in front of the U.S. Court House.
This statue of two men playing chess sits along a walk in Marshall Park, named after John Marshall, who served as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835.  An unknown passerby placed a scarf around the neck of the man on the right. The Maple Leaf flag of Canada flutters in the wind on the Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue. A fountain and statue honoring Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury from 1921 to 1932, are part of a mini-park at the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues. With the Washington Monument in the background, a duck enjoys the morning on the rim of the Mellon fountain.
The Federal Trade Commission is shown on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets.  The statue alongside the building symbolizes humanity harnessing trade. The old shops on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue, including the "Ladies Shoe Shop" that was going out of business in 1989, have been replaced by a modern office building with shops lining the street. This statue, depicting "What is Past is Prologue," sits on Pennsylvania Avenue at the National Archives Building. For many years, this marble block, sitting on the west corner of the National Archives grounds, was the only memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States from 1933 to 1945.  A more fitting memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997.  The expansive, multi-chambered Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is located along the Cherry Tree Walk on the western edge of the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial.
This statue at Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street honors the Grand Army of the Republic.  The name refers to the Union Army during the Civil War. Near the Grand Army statue at 7th Street, a statue honors General Winfield Scott Hancock for his efforts during the Civil War. This sculpture called "Temperance," located near the Civil War statues at 7th Street, has been called the ugliest statue in Washington. The entwined fish of "Temperance" enhance the statue's reputation at the ugliest in the city.
This life-size statue of a young sailor is part of the U.S. Navy Memorial on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets.  The waterfall that lines the memorial was not in operation on the day this photograph was taken. The Pennsylvania Avenue side of the J. Edgar Hoover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Building no longer displays the presidential panels that were shown in 1989.  Hoover headed the FBI from 1924 until his death in 1972. The historic Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue at 12th Street was near destruction when preservationists succeeded in saving it.  Today, it is an office building with a food and tourist court on the lower level.  The Victorian bandstand that once stood alongside the building is no longer there The small food and souvenir shops that comprise the Old Post Office Pavilion make it a popular lunch spot for tourists enjoying hamburgers, pizza, deli sandwiches, ice cream, and other treats.
From the Bell Tower of the Old Post Office Building, a visitor has one of the best views of Washington, DC. The Washington Monument is nearby, with the Lincoln Memorial just beyond it in this photograph. Just beyond the Lincoln Memorial across the Potomac River is Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington House is visible on the hill to the left of the Lincoln Memorial. This statue of Benjamin Franklin, a postmaster during the Colonial period, sits in front of the Old Post Office Building. The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, named after the President who served from 1981 to 1987, was dedicated on May 5, 1998.  At 3.1 million square feet, the Center is the second largest Federal office building in the Nation after the Pentagon (6.5 million square feet). The District Building, home of the city government, has been renamed to honor John A. Wilson, the former Chairman of the City Council who took his own life in May 1993.
This photo, taken from the Bell Tower at the Old Post Office Building, shows Freedom Plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue.  The United States Treasury is seen at the top of the photo.  On the left, the circular structure sits atop the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. A statue honoring General Casimir Pulaski, a hero of the Revolutionary War, is located on the eastern edge of Freedom Plaza. This sign near the Pulaski statue is supposed to warn visitors that "NO" skateboarding, roller blading, or roller skating is allowed in Freedom Plaza, but one of those visitors used a sticker to change the "NO" to "GO." The ornate Willard Inter-Continental Hotel, with its offices and commercial strip, is the latest version of the Willard Hotel, which can trace its roots to 1816. The hotel is on the north side of Freedom Plaza.
A statue of General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War I, is the centerpiece of Pershing Park across from Freedom Plaza at 14th Street. At Pershing Park, this pool and waterfall attract visitors to relax. Pennsylvania Avenue disappears at 15th Street for a detour around the Department of the Treasury Building.  With renovation of the building underway, the grounds in the rear of the building are taken up by a construction staging area, seen here. Pennsylvania Avenue from 15th to 17th Streets is being reconstructed, as shown here.  In the foreground, a statue of Albert Gallatin, a former Secretary of the Treasury (1801 to 1814), sits in front of the Treasury Building.  The top of White House is visible behind the line of trees.  (Photo courtesy Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division)
Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania from the White House is named after the Marquis de Lafayette, depicted atop this statue, who joined with George Washington during the Revolutionary War.  When Lafayette returned from his native France in 1825, he was greeted as a returning hero and honored with a parade along Pennsylvania Avenue In 1995, following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, President Bill Clinton closed Pennsylvania Avenue to traffic in front of the White House as a security precaution. After years of debate about the future of this portion of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Federal Highway Administration is administering contracts for its reconstruction, as shown here The White House as seen from beyond the green construction fence erected for the project to reconstruct Pennsylvania Avenue in 2004. Because Pennsylvania Avenue is being reconstructed in front of the White House, protesters moved their signs to the center of Lafayette Square in front of the statue of General Andrew Jackson who was President from 1829-1837.
Former President George H. W. Bush visited the Pennsylvania Avenue construction zone in March 2004.  This photo was taken on Pennsylvania Avenue next to the west entrance to the White House.  From left to right:  Chris Dupont (consultant inspector), John Roddy (Project Manager for Lane Construction Company), Mike Tyree (FHWA), former President Bush, Jorge Alvarez (FHWA Project Engineer) and Gerald Rench (consultant inspector).  (Photo courtesy Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division.) Blair House, the white building seen across the Pennsylvania Avenue construction zone, is operated by the Department of State as a residence for visiting foreign visitors.  It was built in 1824.  In 1950, a gun battle erupted on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Blair House when Puerto Rican nationalists attempted to assassinate President Harry Truman. The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution remains open during reconstruction of Pennsylvania Avenue. The Old Executive Office Building was renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building.  President Bill Clinton approved legislation changing the name on November 9, 1999.  President George W. Bush participated in a rededication ceremony on May 7, 2002.
Beyond the Renwick Gallery, ceremonial Pennsylvania Avenue comes to an end.  The avenue becomes a major city street, lined by offices and commercial properties.
Updated: 06/27/2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000