SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
6000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Social Shorpy

To love him is to like him. Our goal: 100k "likes":

Syndicate content
Syndicate content
Syndicate content
Daily e-mail updates:


Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Department of Justice: 1917

Department of Justice: 1917

Washington, D.C., circa 1917. "U.S. Department of Justice, exterior, Vermont and K streets N.W." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Some architect

got paid good money to turn those clean, classic lines into a monstrosity.

DOJ Building History

This was the long-waited for replacement of the temporary offices located half a block away at 1435 K street. Congress first authorized construction of new offices for the Department of Justice in 1889. After sixteen years of inaction on this project it was eventually built amazingly quickly once a site was finally chosen.

The Federal Housing Administration took occupancy in 1934. Sold in 1953 to GEICO, the Government Employees Insurance Co. moved in in 1956. GEICO moved out in 1967. Not sure when the structure was razed/refaced to make way for current building

Washington Post, Dec 17, 1916

Built In Record Time

New Home Ready for Department of Justice January 1.

Receiving the finishing touches now, the Department of Justice building, at the corner of Fifteenth and Vermont avenue, will be ready to turn over to its future occupants before January 1, having been completed in the record time of five months from the pouring of the first concrete.

It is eight stories in height, each story being laid out for the convenience of one of the six divisions of the department, with one floor for the Attorney General, and his immediate staff, and another for the very extensive department library.

It is built entirely of reinforced concrete, with two-story facade of limestone, and the balance faced with hytex brick trimmed with stone. The floors are steel beams and concrete, the whole completely fireproof. It is equipped with smokeless boilers, [central] vacuum cleaners, and running refrigerated water, and is finished in mahogany throughout. Three elevators give service from basement to roof.

The building was started July 27 under penalty of $500 a day for overtime in delivery after January 1, has been pushed to completion under the personal supervision of Harry Wardman, who at times has had over 600 men at work on day and night shifts.

Great difficulties had to be overcome in obtaining the necessary material, owing to the existing car shortage and the demands made upon the steel companies by munitions manufacturers and for railroad and structural material by warring nations of Europe. The investment is reported at approximately $600,000, and the lease to the government is at $26,000 per year for five years from July 1, 1917.

View Larger Map

Buildings and View Cameras

First, I have to say I just discovered Shorpy's and it's absolutely marvelous! I could - and will - spend days looking through it.

In the Department of Justice shot, the odd skewing of the windows would indicate that the photographer has used the tilting front of the view camera to make sure the external edges of the buildings are vertical, which they are. Not all lenses had enough coverage to allow you to do this to any great extent, and the result was a darkening of the upper corners ("vignetting"), which has happened here. For the next 92 years, photographers often darkened the upper corners during printing. Sometimes it did a nice job of framing a print, but it's interesting to speculate how often they were imitating the older shots.

The same thing happened in landscapes - the slow glass plates meant slow shutter speeds, which turned waterfalls and rapids into a misty vapor. To this day landscape photographers duplicate that effect, even though it doesn't look anything like moving water.

I have to say...

I like Vermont Avenue better in 1917 than the way it is today. Looking at Google Street View, the DOJ building is still there, but improved into something ugly, and the lovely old buildings behind it are gone, replaced by sterile blah. Oh, 1917, where are you?!

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2018 Shorpy Inc.