Veera Korhonen

discovering rhetoric

The Unsightly Truth About the J. Edgar Hoover Building

The Unsightly Truth About the J. Edgar Hoover Building

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters, or the J. Edgar Hoover Building, sits on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, a worn-out building surrounded by security and FBI cop cars. I was slightly startled to realize that the fascinating, enthralling organization that has been spoken about in major T.V. shows like Criminal Minds was held in a building that looked like it was about to crumble. The main visitor entrance is in the center of the block, with a sign that claims it is for “business”, and a revolving door with only two security guards. Other entrances are not visible, except for an entrance on the side for cars, which appears to be completely surrounded by security.  The few people that stroll by the building seem to be unfazed by the building, as if it does not play a vital role in society.  A building that is known for its exclusivity doesn’t appear to be anything special, and I am slightly awed by how ordinary it seems. There is a miniscule sign that reads ‘J. Edgar Hoover FBI,’ and there is no dramatic evidence that this is anything more than a worn out building.

img_7094From taking a seat at the cafe outside the Headquarters, I am able to easily observe the people walking in and out of the building, as well as the officers who slip quickly into the cafe for a coffee and then walk right back into the building like they’re in a hurry. From my initial observations, while these people look busy, they don’t look like they’re about to work on a huge case involving suspects, and crimes, and murders. They look tired, and worn out, with dark circles under their eyes and exhausted facial expressions. The officers especially don’t seem to be friendly, as they don’t greet anyone, and the security officers merely open and close the gates, without so much as a smile.

Since the headquarters is near other important landmarks, such as the White House, the Department of State, and is across from the Department of Justice, the people in the area seem quite professional and used to being around a place that hold a certain aura of importance. There are very few tourists taking pictures, since only the FBI Education Center is open to the public for tours, not the FBI Headquarters. It is obvious that this site is strictly functional, used just for those working there and those guarding what is inside. The function of the Headquarters is only clear to me from what I’ve learned through the media, but this old building doesn’t seem like it could possibly hold the forensics labs and crime fighting offices that I’ve heard about.

The Headquarters is a light brown color, with ridges and windows that stick out unattractively. While large in size, the building blends into the city. This could be on purpose, in order to keep the secrecy of the FBI intact, but from reading articles on the architecture of the building, it seems to simply be a very old building, with plans already created to rebuild it in the near future. An article named, “The FBI’s Headquarters Is Falling Apart” written by Jonathan O’Connell especially speaks about how this specific building could be suspect to attacks on it, because of how worn out and broken it is. The idea that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is an organization meant to be fighting against crime and keeping the country safe, can’t even keep their own headquarters at top safety and priority, makes me feel unsafe and unhopeful for the United States as a country.

Workers with identification badges hanging from their necks will occasionally enter and exit the unflattering building, giving it an prominent flair of importance, yet the surroundings overpower that.  Although, if it was not for the FBI cops everywhere, there is not much to look at. The security surrounding the entrances is probably the most exciting that the exterior of the building has to offer, and from reading about the Headquarters, I understand why it has been spoken about as unfit to represent an organization known for its top secret crime fighting, as the building looks like it is about to crumble.

Still the sense I get from being outside the J. Edgar Hoover building is still one of awe, knowing that the building I am standing outside of holds information that very few people in the world have the possibility of knowing.  The amount of security adds to the uneasy but exhilarating mindset of being in the presence of a building that has been given such a heavy reputation in the media and the movies for being so ‘top secret.’  If I had not have known what this building was, I would not have had any idea that it was anything special, which in a way, adds to the secrecy of what is inside the Headquarters. But if the building itself is unfit to keep these secrets safe, is there really any importance to it? Can the Headquarters of such a prominent and crime-fighting organization really work well under these undesirable circumstances?  

Works Cited

O’Connell, Jonathan. “The FBI’s Headquarters Is Falling Apart. Why Is It so Hard for America

to Build a New One?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 14

Nov. 2016. <>

“History of FBI Headquarters.” FBI. FBI, 02 July 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.


“Criminal Minds.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 Nov. 2016. <>

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