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picture of a white building from the corner
Exterior view. Library of Congress John Adams Building, Washington, D.C. . (Carol M. Highsmith Collection/Library of Congress)

What’s in a Name?

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photograph of the plaque on the Adams Building with the buildings name The Adams Building is often a topic of blog posts at Inside Adams and I thought it was time for a post about the building’s various names.

When the Adams Building was opened to the public in 1939 it was called the Annex.  This was its name until 1976 when it was given a new one – the Thomas Jefferson Building. According to John Cole’s Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress, on Jefferson’s birthday (April 13), President Gerald R. Ford signed the bill into law that renamed the Annex to the Thomas Jefferson Building at a ceremony held at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Text of Public Law 94-264 from April 13, 1976

This new name was fitting, because the South Reading Room is a tribute to Thomas Jefferson and was referred to as the Thomas Jefferson Reading Room.  His image is captured in a lunette overlooking the reading room, and his quotes are included in murals dedicated to the themes of freedom, labor, education, and democratic government.text of public law 96-269 from June 13, 1980

However, this name was short-lived.  A new name change was in the works with the completion of the Madison Building in 1980.  On June 13, 1980 Congress passed a law that changed the names of both of the older existing Library buildings – the main building was named the Thomas Jefferson Building, while our building became the John Adams Building after the 2nd president, John Adams, who signed the law  that established a library for Congress in 1800.

Comments (2)

  1. Thanks! I really enjoy reading the history and love your posts!

  2. Interesting information
    Thank you very much

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