Just the Facts
Five Facts on House Office Buildings
By No Labels
August 16, 2018 | Blog
Few buildings in the United States are as iconic or recognizable as the U.S. Capitol. However, while the Capitol building is where laws are passed, the majority of the work that goes into getting these bills to a vote on the House floor takes place in the office buildings that surround the Capitol. These buildings house offices for 435 members, their staffs, and for a variety of other departments and committees that enable the House to function. Here are five facts on the House of Representatives office buildings.
The Cannon House Office Building was named after former Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon (R-IL) in 1962
Cannon was speaker of the House and chairman of the House Rules Committee from 1903 to 1911. The Illinois speaker served in Congress for 46 years, making him the seventh longest serving member of the House of Representatives. Often referred to by his peers as “Czar Cannon,” the speaker was known for being tough and commanding Congress “with an iron fist.” The Cannon office building, which was meant to complement the style of the Capitol building was built in 1908 by Thomas Hastings and is the oldest House office building. It was built to relieve overcrowding in the Capitol, where members who wanted office space would have to rent quarters or borrow space in committee rooms.
The Longworth House Office Building was named after the 38th speaker of the House, Nicholas Longworth (R-OH)
Longworth served as speaker from 1925 to 1931 before dying of pneumonia shortly after his party lost its majority during the 1930 elections. He was leader of the Republican caucus during the Progressive Republicans rise in 1923, negotiating and agreeing to their demands for numerous rule changes—including the elimination of the Rules Committee chairman’s pocket veto. The Longworth building was the second House office building to be erected and was completed in 1933, although the building was not officially named for Longworth until 1962. The 450-seat conference room, which now houses the Ways and Means Committee, remains the only room since 1819 outside the Capitol to have housed a session for the House of Representatives. It did so from June 1949 to December 1950, when the House chamber in the Capitol was under renovation.
The Rayburn House Office Building is named after Sam Rayburn (D-TX) — the longest serving speaker of the House
A representative from Texas, Rayburn served a total of 25 terms in the House. He was known as a skillful negotiator who built relationships with members on both sides of the aisle. In 1961, Rayburn orchestrated a vote to expand the House Rules Committee from 12 to 15 members in an effort to ensure that President John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier agenda, particularly its civil rights components, would be able to move through the House. Rayburn passed away later that year, leaving behind an impressive legacy; “It is as though a part of the Capitol had fallen down,” The New York Times reported. President Kennedy laid the cornerstone for the Rayburn House Office Building in 1962, and it officially opened on February 23, 1965.
The O’Neill House Office Building was named after former speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill (D-MA) in 2012
O’Neill, who represented parts of Boston, served as the 47th speaker of the House from 1977-1987. He was the only speaker to serve for five complete consecutive Congresses and the third longest-serving speaker in American history. The building was constructed in the early 1960s. Previously, the building was known as Federal Office Building No. 8 and was the home to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2002, the FDA moved out of the building due to its deteriorating condition. Federal Office Building No. 8 was then shut down in 2008, renovated, and reopened in 2014. The building is now occupied by the staff of various committees of the House of Representatives, the clerk of the House, legislative support organizations, and the Department of Health and Human Services,
The Ford House Office Building was named after former President and House Minority Leader Gerald Ford in 1990
Gerald Ford was first elected to the U.S. House in 1948 and served 25 years in the lower chamber. While Ford eventually moved on to become vice president and then president following Richard Nixon’s resignation, he left a lasting legacy in the House. The building named in his honor was constructed in 1939 as Washington’s first “General Federal Office Building.” At first it housed Census employees, but soon after it was used to house the fingerprint files and other records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In 1974, the FBI vacated the building and it was declared surplus property. The following year, the architect of the Capitol was authorized to acquire the building and adapt it for use by the U.S. House.