About the OHB Cornerstone
In May 1959, with the site under security surveillance and contractors wearing security badges, work began on the Original Headquarters Building. On November 3 of that year, President Eisenhower came to Langley to place the time capsule and to lay the cornerstone. But that November ceremony was largely symbolic. The box and cornerstone were later removed and held for safekeeping until they were permanently installed more than a year later. (The silver-engraved trowel the President used can be found in the CIA Museum Collection.)
When the press asked Dulles after the ceremony what was in the box, he smiled and said, “It’s a secret.” Despite the DCI’s joke, everything in the copper-covered steel box was unclassified. In addition to the items mentioned below, the National Security Medal, the Distinguished Intelligence Cross, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the Intelligence Star, and the Intelligence Medal of Merit were added to the box later.
Contents of the cornerstone box include:
Memorandum for President Franklin D. Roosevelt from Major General William J. Donovan, director of the Office of Strategic Services, dated November 18, 1944, regarding the establishment of a permanent centralized intelligence service; and Memorandum from President Roosevelt to General Donovan, dated April 5, 1945, directing that General Donovan discuss his plan with the appropriate officials of the Government.
President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Letter of January 22,1946, establishing the National Intelligence Authority and the Central Intelligence Group.
Statement of General (then Lieutenant General) Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Director of Central Intelligence, before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, on April 29, 1947, in support of the sections of the proposed National Security Act of 1947 to establish the Central Intelligence Agency.
Text and Explanation of Statutes and Executive Orders relating specifically to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including Enabling and Appropriations Acts for the construction of the new CIA building.
Reproduction of the CIA seal and its official description.
“William J. Donovan and the National Security,” a speech by Allen W. Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence, to the Erie County Bar Association, Buffalo, New York, May 4,1959.
An aerial photograph of the CIA building site.
Drawings of the CIA building as it would appear when completed.
Invitation to the Ceremony, the Program, a recording, and photographs of the Cornerstone Ceremony.
Microfilm copies of daily and weekly newspapers of 3 November 1959.
The Debrief: Behind the Artifact – Cornerstone
In 2021, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of CIA’s Original Headquarters Building.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower joined Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles here, to lay the cornerstone right where I’m standing. On November 3rd, 1959 President Dwight D. Eisenhower used this trowel to lay the cornerstone of our new headquarters building. Just 12 years old at the time, the CIA was one step closer to finally having a permanent headquarters.
CIA’s Original Headquarters Building was designed in the 1950s, the designers used the vision of Allen Dulles who really wanted officers to work in a college-like campus setting, but wanted us in a secluded and safe area as well, but the key was we needed to be by US policymakers. Construction was completed in 1961 and officers began moving in 1962.
In preparation for the move into the headquarters building, the CIA gave officers a book entitled “Your New Headquarters Building” which laid out all of the new things that they were going to encounter once inside. It gave an idea of what the facility was like and the services within it. The publication emphasized the up-to-date nature of the new campus.
Words such as “new” and “modern” and “latest” appear repeatedly throughout the booklet in phrases such as “modern air conditioning and ventilation system”, “2 modern self-service cafeterias”, and “an automatic dial switchboard of the latest design”.