Wilbur J. Cohen Building
The Wilbur J. Cohen Building is a historic building located in downtown Washington, DC. Known previously as the Social Security Administration Building, the Wilbur J. Cohen Building was built in 1939 as part of an effort to help house emerging branches of the United States Federal government. The building still hosts a number of occupants, the most noteworthy currently being Voice of America. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June of 2007.
Backstory and Context
In August of 1935, as a part of the continuing expansion of the United States Federal government, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act and activated the Social Security Board. The newly-formed board needed housing of its own, but it was not until 1938 that Congress approved the use of funds to construct a proper headquarters for the Social Security Board. Land was appropriated for the construction of the building, and the process of demolition and construction started the following year in 1939. Construction on the building finished rather swiftly, and the building was opened in 1940. However, with World War II well underway, it was decided that the National Defense Commission and the War Department would be the first tenants of the Social Security Building. The Social Security Board itself never occupied the building, however, as after World War II had ended, the Federal Security Agency took up residence in the building.
In the following decades, the Social Security Building changed its main tenants numerous times, beginning in 1953, when the Department of Health, Education and Welfare became the new primary resident of the building. Shortly after this, Voice of America also took up residence in the Social Security Building in 1954 and has remained as a major tenant of the building since then. The Social Security Building retained its name through the years up until 1988, when it was renamed in honor of the Social Security Board’s founding employee, Wilbur J. Cohen. Cohen also went on to serve in later years as the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. On July 6th, 2007, the Wilbur J. Cohen Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.