Cannon House Building 101
The Cannon House Office building is the oldest congressional office building. It is named after Joseph Gurney Cannon who was Speaker of the House of Representatives during the authorization and completion of the building.
Completed in 1908, the Cannon House building provided fresh new space for members of the House of Representatives. Previously, overcrowding was a severe problem in the capital as committees fought over meeting space. Finally, in 1901, the Sundry Civil Appropriation Act authorized plans for a new building near the Capitol to be used as office and storage space.
After the Cannon House Office building’s opening, all US House of Representative members had their own office space for the first time in history. Each representative was given a room 15 feet wide, 23 feet long that contained a desk, chairs, wardrobe and filing cabinets. These modest offices were also supplied with telephones, lavatories, heat and ventilation. The building also contained a barbershop, restaurant and telegraph office.
Architecturally, the Cannon building is characteristic of the Beaux Arts style of architecture. Covered in limestone and marble, the exterior of the building is similar to the Colonnade du Louvre in Paris. 34 Doric columns line the side of the building facing Independence Avenue while pilasters face the New Jersey Avenue side. The building is built in the shape of a hollow trapezoid. It was designed this way to allow light to reach the inner rooms. Upon completion, there were 397 and 14 committee rooms offices constructed within to hold each member of the 61st Congress.
The building was immediately used by the 60th congress after it opened in 1908. However, by 1913, the House once again had maxed out on allotted space and more offices were required. Thus, 51 more rooms were added to the structure of the building with the construction of a fifth floor. By 1924, the building was renovated again and an additional building constructed to house the growing number of representatives.
Today the Cannon Building is still being used as office space for current representatives. Since 1908, the Cannon building has been joined by the Longworth and Rayburn buildings on the Representative side of the Capitol.
– Grace Zhao
Sources: House of Representatives Archives, Architect of the Capitol
Photo: Visiting D.C.