The Federal Triangle section of Washington exudes the power of our democracy. Wedged between 6th and 15th Streets and Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues, the ten buildings of Federal Triangle are exactly what you’d expect from structures that are meant to convey strength, confidence, and stability. Influenced by the neoclassical style of the Louvre in Paris and Whitehall in London, the Federal Triangle project was to create more efficient operations at the same time show the permeance of government.
But Federal Triangle was not always this majestic. In fact, it wasn’t always Federal Triangle. This used to be the site of a neighborhood called Murder Bay.
It was a rough neighborhood. Overcrowded, crime ridden, with no sewers, it smelled terrible. Its muddy streets were lined with bars, gambling establishments, and houses of ill repute. And during the Civil War you’d find many soldiers frequenting these establishments.
And if you didn’t belong here or got on the wrong side of a knife, which happened often, it was easy to get rid of your body since its southern boarder was the old Washington Canal. The canal was fetid, stagnant, and disease-ridden making it the perfect place for a corpse to disappear. Today it’s Constitution Ave.
If Washington was ever going to become a respectable city, Murder Bay would have to go. So, between 1927 and 1938 Murder Bay was razed and Federal Triangle was built. It was all for the best. But I do think Murder Bay would make a better metro stop name than Federal Triangle.