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BUILDING FOR WAR DEPARTMENT.
JUNE 3, 1840.
WAR DEPARTMENT, May 22, 1840. SIR: In compliance with a resolution of the Committee on Public Buildings of the House of Representatives, calling upon the Secretary of War to furnish answers to certain interrogatories relative to the number of buildings rented for the accommodation of the War Department, and ask, ing what would be the cost of a building, made fireproof, which would enable the War Department to dispense with these buildings, I have the honor to submit the accompanying report of the Chief Topographical Engineer, and the plan therein referred to, to which I invite the favorable action of the committee.
1 concur in every part of the plan, excepting, that I would advise the lower and first stories to be built upon groin arches, and the upper part of the building, as proposed in plan No. 3, sustained on iron joists and sinal! arches. I do not believe the cost of such a building would exceed sixty thousand dollars, and it inight be erected and fit for use in the summer of 1841. Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
J. R. POINSETT. Hon. Levi LINCOLN, Chairman Committee m Public Buildings
and Grounds, House of Representatives.
BUREAU OF TOPOGRAPHICAL ENGINEERS,
Washington, May 21, 1840. SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge your direction, to report upon a communication from a committee of the House of Representatives, in the following words.
" On motion of Mr. Petrikin,
“ Resolved, That the chairman of the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds, request the Secretary of War to furnish the committee with answers to the following interrogatories:
"1. What number of buildings are rented for the accommodation of the War Department, and what bureaus occupy those buildings?
“2. What is the amount of rent paid annually for those buildings? "3. Are any of them fireproof?
"4. What would be the cost of a building, made fireproof, which would enable the War Department to dispense with those buildings?
“5. Have you a plan of such a building that you can furnish to the committee ?"
In reference to these inquiries I have the honor to state: That there are now under rent, for the accommodation of the War Department, six three-story brick buildings, at an aggregate annual rent of $3,000. These buildings are occupied by the following bureaus:
1. Bureau of Pensions ;
None of these buildings are fireproof, or built with any precautions or guards against fire, beyond what is customary in dwelling-houses
. The enumeration of the bureaus which occupy them, will sufficiently indicate the importance of the documentary matter intrusted to them, and the consequent exposure of the same in buildings of such a character. Referring merely to the records of this bureau, I find them to contain no less than 2,155 sheets of topographical maps and plans, the greater part of them original
, and results from the labors of the corps. Also 42 atlases and portfolios, several of them extremely rare and valuable.
In addition to the exposure of so much valuable matter, the buildings are deficient in many conveniences necessary to the execution of public business, and to the proper arrangement of the public property. The fourth question is in reference to the cost of a suitable building
, which would enable the department o dispense with those buildings now rented. The objects desirable to accomplish in such a building, as you did me the honor to explain to me, are :
1. That it should furnish sufficient space for the several bureaus now in the occupation of rented buildings.
2. That it should admit of being completed at an early period, so early that it could be occupied in the course of the next year. 3. That it should be planned so as to connect iselt
conveniently with the existing buildings denominated the War and Navy Departments. 4. That it should not be costly, so that
when, at any future period, Con. gress might think proper to arrange all the public offices on a different plan, the sacrifice would not be great, in dispensing with the one now contemplated.
It has appeared to me that all these objects can be accomplished, better than in any other way, by the erection of a simple fireproof three-story brick building, without ornament or decoration, having solely in view the public objects for which it is to be érected ; and that its position should be between the two central projections of the present War and Navy Departments. Except that the building would be somewhat wider than those projections, it might be considered as a nwre extension of the same from one department to the other ; furnishing, throughout the whole
, an in-door communication.
Such a building would furnish; in the cellar-basement, six good rooms for offices, the opposite six being required ns store rooms for winter fuel;
twelve good rooms on the first, twelve on the second, and twelve on the third floor, thus yielding forty-two good office-rooms, exclusive of the garret. But it is contemplated, on the third floor, to dispense with the partitions at the points a, b, and probably at c, d, so as to have two or four large rooms on this floor, for drawing and engineer purposes. This would reduce the number of rooms to forty or thirty-eight, according as the third floor might be arranged. As in either case, however, the whole space is preserved, it would not lessen the public accommodation of the building; and, from the best estimate which I have been able to make, such an addition as the one represented, connected with the present war and navy buildings, would furnish ample accommodation, at the present time, and probably, for twenty years to come, for both the War and Navy Departments, and their necessary adjunct accounting offices.
T'here has not yet been sufficient time to have the contemplated building exhibited on paper, in elevation, and in all its details of plan for every story. But the plan now submitted of the first floor, will, probably, be sufficient; as each succeeding floor will be similar to the first, with the exception of the larger rooms, as before stated, on the third floor.
The probable cost of such a building will depend entirely upon the kind of fireproof plan adopted.
No. 1. If the basement is made, as in the present War Department, with the first a paved floor, resting on groin arches, and the rest of the building erected in the usual way, but of good materials, with a slate-roof, its cost would not exceed $20,000. Yet such a building would not be fireproof.
No. 2. The basement the same as the first, the superstructure similar, but the floors of coarser material, sanded, and paved with brick ; stairways incombustible, of iron or stone, slate-roof. Such a building might well be considered fireproof, as all its combustible parts would be protected from fire by plàstering or paving, or by the nature of the material ; and, it could not be burnt without manifest design, and labor in breaking through the covering to get at the combustible parts, hardly a probable event, under the supposition that the usual guard to the buildings will exercise an ordinary degree of vigilance. The most accessible and exposed parts of the build. ing, the cellar basement, will be perfectly fireproof, and all communications with it, and the stories above, will be intercepted by the archwork.
Such a building, with more than the usual precautions and care in its structure, to guard against the possibility of fire by accident, would not, in my judgment, exceed a cost of $30,000.
No. 3. Cellar-basement as before ; floors paved, sustained on iron joists and small arches, stairways incombustible, of iron or stone, slate-roof upon an iron frame.
We have, as yet, had no experience in buildings of this kind, although they have been much adopted in Europe. They are undoubtedly fireproof. Atter, however, having given to the subject all the consideration which accessible means would enable me, I feel well assured that its cost would not exceed $50,000.
No. 4. Cellar-basement as before, and all the floors of the superstructure paved, and sustained by arches of masonry ; stairways of stone, roof of copper. This would be a regular fireproof building, of massive brick-masonry and arches. Its cost would be about $80,000.
From the foregoing remarks, it will appear that there are three plans of constructing the proposed building, which may be considered fireproof, and
all of them similar in materials and structure to the first floor. To this exs tent, therefore, there is no difference between either plan; all differences will exist in the character of the superstructure above the basement.
The plan No. 2 could be erected in the least time, and would cost the least. It is, however, exposed to the objection of not being completely fireproof against deliberate design, as its combustible parts may be reached by removing the plastering or paving.
The plan No. 3 fulfils all the ideas of a fireproof building, being equally protected by its materials against design as well as accident. It has, on this account, a preference, in my judgment, over No. 2, and, also, over No. 4, because it will cost less, will be equally efficient, can be completed and occupied in less time, loses less space by massive dead masonry, its walls having to sustain no lateral thrust, and it admits, with greater facility, of modifications, in the connexions and sizes of the rooms of the upper floors, which future convenience may require. There is no doubt with me that a building of this kind may be completed and occupied during the course of the next year, if an appropriation should be granted in time to make a judicious beginning in the present, and to secure a delivery of the requisite materials for its continuation on the opening of the ensuing season.
The plan No. 4 is that of an undoubted fireproof building, of massive brick-masonry. It will be much more costly than either of the others, and will take inuch longer time before it can be completed, and be in a condition to be occupied. To these objections, it may be added, that it wastes valuable space by its massive walls, and admits, with extreme difficulty, of any future modification in the connexions and sizes of the rooms.
The plan No. 3 may be so arranged as to throw, at a future day, the whole of one side of a story into one room, if it should ever be desirable, at a trifling cost, and without injury to the strength of the building or of its fireproof character.
But, as it is extremely doubtful if any greater extent of the building can be put up during the present season than the basement and its groin arches, and as this much is common to all the plans which have been spoken of, might it not be advisable that the law should not contain any other specifications than that the building should be fireproof, and the superstructure, above the basement, be according to some one of the plans submitted, as the War Department should decide, after a full investigation of the details of each. In the meantime, the necessary drawing of the building in plan and elevation, and the details of every story, upon a suitable scale, could be made. Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
J. J. ABERT,
Colonel Topographical Engineers. Hon. J.R. POINSETT,
Secretary of War.