Visit to the Capitol – Main State

By DJ Nelson, Staff Writer

For fall break this past weekend, I went on a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit a friend from my undergrad. She had been living overseas for the past few years, and is now settled into a new job, calling the northeast home. For my journey there, I flew direct on a red-eye with American. It took just over four hours and landed around 7:30 AM ETA. From the Ronald Reagan airport, our first stop was a visit to Main State (with a coffee stop along the way), formally known as the headquarters for the United States Department of State, located in the Harry S. Truman Building in downtown D.C. It is adjacent to the National Mall, closest to the Lincoln Memorial.

Courtesy of M. Ferguson

Main State was originally constructed as a War Defense Building in the late 30’s. Offices were needed as the department kept growing leading up to World War II. Plans for constructing the Pentagon were passed in 1941, so it became home to the State Department. It is second to the Pentagon for the number of offices it hold. Delays in its expansions for the State Department and funding agreements in Congress kept the department from completion until 1960. The building was later named after former President Truman in 2000.

We entered the building at the east entrance and went through a security checkpoint much like an airport, but on a miniature scale. We then visited the front desk where a lovely gentleman with a large white mustache, and former professor, issued us bright red visitors badges and gave directions to the Diplomatic Reception room. Since we had not stopped for breakfast we decided to find the famous cafeteria before the ceremony. Weaving our way through a maze of hallways we came to the south entrance where we ran into another security checkpoint. This lobby had high ceilings, a wall lined with each country’s flag, and a large windows for a view of the courtyard. The south courtyard contained the fountain and sculpture The Expanding Universe by Marshall M. Fredericks.

I had not been officially invited to the ceremony so I waited in the courtyard until my friend came back to retrieve me. We then wandered back to the eighth floor where the reception had taken place. In the elevator there was an attendant sitting in front of the buttons and taking our requested destination floor.

We were instantly transported to a different world stepping out of the lift. The halls we had wandered before were reminiscent of an old high school with quotes and motivational posters on the walls, but without the lockers. This floor’s high ceiling architecture, American Queen Anne furniture, and historic artworks made you feel like you were visiting the Palace of Versailles. The rooms are lit by glistening chandeliers, the wood floors are laid with grand, unimaginably large rugs, and there are about 5,000 pieces of American decorative and fine art. For more details, and before and after photos, pertaining to each room follow the links below:

Courtesy of M. Ferguson

The Entrance Hall

The Gallery

The Thomas Jefferson State Reception Room

Edward Vason Jones Memorial Hall

The Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room

The John Quincy Adams State Drawing Room

The Martha Washington Ladies Lounge

The Walter Thurston Gentleman’s Lounge

Additional photos can be found here.

These rooms have been used for the past five decades by the Secretary of State, Vice President, and Members of Cabinet to manage business and oversee diplomacy including: signing of treaties, negotiations, ceremonies, trade agreements, and more.

Courtesy of M. Ferguson

Not only are the Diplomatic Reception rooms and their contents breathtaking, so are the views from the Secretaries of State Terrace. From here you can see a majority of the National Mall. Closest and almost directly south of the building you can see a portion of the Lincoln Memorial and the Potomac River. Gazing towards the southeast you can see the Washington Monument and a glimpse of the Capitol Building, as well as other landmarks.

After taking an abundance of photos of the rooms and views from the terrace, we toured the monuments and memorials on the National Mall via Bird scooters (which I highly recommend), and later grabbed lunch near the Wharf Marina. I could not have asked for a better way to start my trip.

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