Friday, May 23, 2008

Buildings: Government Provided


In reading about the country's first interest group, the Grand Army of the Republic (basically Northern Civil War veterans), I came across a fantastic description of the Pension Building in Washington, D.C., which came as a result of the G.A.R. lobbying for, and eventually getting, pensions for Civil War vets.

"The Pension Building was, and remains, 15.5 million bricks in search of an identity, and arguably, such a Tutankhamenesque creation could have been built only in nineteenth-century America (or, perhaps, in twentieth-century Moscow). Meigs (MR: the designer)...adored Corinthian columns...[t]hus there are soaring Corinthian columns inside the Pension Building, seventy-five feet high, larger than...[any] that exist anywhere else in the world, including Corinth."

The quote is from The Wages of War, describing the post-war scenarios for soliders throughout America's history, divided up by ordeal. They cite the cost of the building at $866,614.04, which, according to AIER's cost-of-living calculator, comes to over $18,000,000 in today's funds. (Well, that's from 1913 dollars to now, I do know the value of the dollar didn't change a whole lot from 1880 to 1913, gold standards tend to do that.)

The website for the Pension Building is here, check out the inside of this place, and look at this picture for a minute...then notice the people in it.

2 comments:

Dana said...

Wow... what a waste. Think of all the other things we can be doing with such a building... like setting up a LAN party and playing some StarCraft.

Matt Masten said...

Dana - I'll be there for that Starcraft LAN party! This is an awesome building, like many of the buildings in DC.

Of course, that doesn't mean it's not also a testament to government waste and extravagance. Ironically, when I visited this building a few years ago, they had an exhibit on the design and planning of DC which discussed how the gov't swept all the poor people out so the politicians could build their dream city.