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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)

The Annex – “400 Feet by 225 Feet”

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One of the long standing missions of Inside Adams is to publish posts about the Adams Building. It’s been a while since we’ve done that, and I think National Library Week is a great time for another post.

features two image the top is a an unfinished building with three floors covered and 2 still being constructed the other is a drawing of what the building would look like finished.
Evening Star. September 20, 1936, Page A-15

By happenstance, a recent post about the Ben Franklin University in Washington, D.C. linked to a page in the September 20, 1936 edition of the Evening Star that also included an article about the construction of what is now the John Adams Building with a nice photograph.  It seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.

One of the enduring refrains here at the Library is a constant need for space for the collections – the subtitle for the article “almost will be outgrown when occupied” testifies to this. There were a lot of notes about the structure itself, as well as what would be in the new Annex, but it was some of the numbers that I wanted to highlight.

The new Annex Building is of fireproof construction with five floors above the cellar, the top floor being set back 35 feet from the outer walls of the floors below. The ground area of the building is approximately 400 feet on the north and south dimensions and 225 feet on the east and west dimensions. The central portion of this building, 147 feet wide by 322 feet long, will be occupied entirely by bookstacks. The various offices and reading rooms are being built surrounding these bookstacks.

A feature of the architecture is the absence of columns, as in other new Government buildings. Six kinds of marble – all domestic – from as many States, are being used.

The article notes that there were going to be 12 decks of bookstacks, each of which was going to hold about 850,000 volumes.  And of course, the building was going to include all sorts of modern conveniences:

This annex building will be equipped with the most modern facilities for buildings used for library purposes, elevators, pneumatic tubes, book carriers, vacuum cleaning apparatus, improved fire protection, air conditioning and general heating and ventilation. A tunnel will connect the annex building with the main library building.

In 1934 the Evening Star had run a few aerial shots of the Capital area that included where the building was going to be, and while the images in Chronicling America are dark, you can see that work had begun. The Library began moving into the building in 1939 and later that year the Evening Star again ran a series of aerial views but this time the Annex was right there!

image taken from the Jefferson Building across the street shows a finished 5 story building gleaming white
Library of Congress (John Adams Building). Library of Congress Annex from roof of Main Library. Theodor Horydczak Collection.

If you want to read more about the building, we have written many different posts that are gathered into the John Adams Building category, but here are a few more articles from the Evening Star if you are interested in contemporaneous news stories from the time of the building’s construction and opening.

Evening Star, June 20, 1938

Evening Star, November 13, 1938

Evening Star, June 25, 1939

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