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General Accounting Office

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1951, Gilbert Stanley Underwood. 441 G St. NW
  • (Theodor Horydczak Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Covering an entire city block and rising seven stories, the General Accounting Office is significant as the first block-shaped federal government office structure in the capital city. The block form was a direct result of the invention of fluorescent lamps in the 1930s, which allowed for glareless, uniform, and comfortable lighting for office workers without relying on natural light. Earlier government office buildings had to capture natural illumination through light courts or skylights. Air-conditioning throughout ventilated the interior spaces.

Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who served as Supervising Architect in the Federal Works Agency before the federal architectural functions were transferred to the General Services Administration, was responsible for the design. It recalls his pre—World War II work such as the State Department Building in Foggy Bottom. The long stone facades are articulated with a polished granite base and slightly projecting walls extending up to the fifth floor. A modest cornice frosts the projecting wall sections. Simple casement windows are placed at equal intervals throughout the elevation. On either side of the entrance are bas-reliefs by Joseph Kiselewski illustrating people performing various occupations. The building exemplifies the straightforward nature of the agency it houses.

Writing Credits

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee


What's Nearby


Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "General Accounting Office", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 186-186.

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