The U.S. General Services Administration Building, originally designed for the U.S. Department of the Interior, was the first truly modern office building constructed by the U.S. Government and served as a model for federal offices through the early 1930s.
New York architect Charles Butler (1871-1953) designed the innovative building in his capacity as consultant to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Supervising Architect Oscar Wenderoth (1873-1938). Butler’s design, patterned after private office buildings in New York and Washington, DC, allowed for the substantial amount of natural light necessary for the many architects, draftsmen, pressmen, and scientists working in the building. Construction of the restrained Neo-Classical building began in 1915 and was completed in 1917 at a cost of $2,703,494.
The U.S. Department of the Interior occupied the building from 1917 until 1937, a period significant in the department’s history. The activities of the National Park Service were conceived in the sixth floor offices of Interior Secretary Franklin K. Lane. The U.S. Geological Survey, the largest tenant in the building, determined which public lands would be closed to development and conserved for their mineral and water resources. In 1921-1922 the building was the locus of the "Teapot Dome" scandal involving Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall. Fall was convicted and imprisoned for accepting $400,000 in bribes from oil magnates Harry F. Sinclair and Edward L. Doheny in return for secretly granting them rights to drill for oil on Federal lands. Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, oversaw construction of dams, fully developed the National Park Service to provide recreational needs, and served as the first Federal Administrator of Public Works.
In 1939 the Federal Works Administration (FWA) became the building’s primary occupant. FWA activities were subsumed into the newly created U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in 1949 and the building was renamed the U.S. General Services Administration Building. In 1986 the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It continues to house GSA including the Public Buildings Service—the largest and most diversified real estate organization in the world.