The Pentagon: There’s Five Sides to this Origin Story.


Nothing is ever simple in the Nation’s Capital. Washington DC is a city that runs on the fuel that is politics, so rarely will one find a spade being called for what it is, a spade – that is unless you are referring to the Pentagon.

The United States Department of Defense (DOD) is often goes by its metonymic nickname, the Pentagon. The name was given in reference to the massive pentagon shaped structure that serves as the DOD’s headquarters.

So, just how did this peculiar five-sided national treasure get its shape? Lets find out…

In 1941 with a world war looming over America, the War Department requested larger office space to conduct its range of affairs and rising responsibilities. President Roosevelt agreed and a selection process for the new headquarters began immediately.

The Federal government initially eyed a sprawling stretch of federal land adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, known as the Arlington Experimental Farm. In an effort to maximize available space, the planners intended to design the structure in the shape of the property lines, which happened to be that of an oddly shaped pentagon. But the story does not end there…

President Roosevelt ultimately scraped the Experimental Farm proposal due to concerns that constructing a military headquarters right across from the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Centenary would appear insensitive and improper. Moving forward, their eyes landed on the nearby Hoover Airport site.



Pentagon - Map

Though the Hoover Airport property was more spacious than the previous site, thus allowing a more traditional shaped building to be constructed, the pentagon shaped design remained. The reason? Roosevelt loved the unusual design. Also, the government was concerned that the costs of a full redesign were too high. With that decision, the irregular shaped pentagon’s shape was evened out and refined into the perfectly shaped pentagon building we know today.

Some interesting facts about the Pentagon Building:

  • The Pentagon building was designed with 284 bathrooms – twice the amount needed for anticipated occupancy levels. Seems a bit excessive, no? The reason for all the extra plumbing was due to segregation policies. Blacks and Whites had their own separate restrooms throughout the facility. This accommodation would not be needed for long. In June of 1941, President Roosevelt would sign Executive Order 8802, prohibited segregation among federal employees.
  • The U.S. Capitol Building could fit into the length of one of the Pentagon’s five sides.

Pentagon - Size Comparison

  • With its 5,100,000 square feet, the Pentagon has double the amount of office space as the Empire State building.
  • For those who are disabled or have difficulty walking the long hallways of the Pentagon, the DOD offers the service of complimentary self-propelled vehicles (SPV’s). These scooters can be heard humming around the building at an exhilarating 3 mph.

Pentagon - Hallway






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