Facts on the Pentagon


Located just outside of Washington, D.C. in Arlington, Virginia, the Pentagon is the most discernible facility of the United States military. As the official headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, this massive complex gets its names from its distinctive five-sided design. Although it is one of the most recognizable buildings in the nation’s capital, the Pentagon has a few unique features and historical originations not known to many:


RECORD-TIME CONSTRUCTION: With a construction time of only 16 months, the Pentagon beat all building time estimations. More than 15,000 contractors worked around the clock to ensure that the building was up and running as quickly as possible. However, the rapid construction did not come without an astronomical cost. Although the complex was estimated initially to cost about $35 million, the construction ended up costing the government $63 million.


60th ANNIVERSARY TRAGEDY: The groundbreaking ceremony for construction was held on September 11, 1941. Tragically, the 60th anniversary of the site’s construction start was marked with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Construction workers at the military complex were wrapping up a massive renovation when American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the building’s east side, resulting in the loss of almost 200 innocent victims.


HISTORICAL SETTING: The site of the Pentagon is located on a piece of land that used to be occupied by the descendants of former slaves. The settlement, known as Freedman’s Village, was where slaves escaping to the north settled. Eventually, this land was established into predominantly black areas known as Queen City and Hell’s Bottom and was then annexed by the government for the eventual Pentagon complex.


THE EVENTUAL SITE WAS NOT THE ORIGINAL CHOICE: When President Franklin D. Roosevelt originally commissioned the new military complex, the intended location was a plot of land just to the east of the venerable Arlington Cemetery. However, the site was changed to its current location after people expressed concerns of housing the Department of Defense so close to the nation’s most sacred burial site. Because the original location was limited by irregular access roads, the pentagon design had been the staple of the initial building prototype. Rather than start from scratch, designers and engineers chose to keep the original blueprint for construction.

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