The CIA Museum … Artifacts: E Street CIA Complex Sign
The CIA Museum is home to many interesting artifacts associated with the Central Intelligence Agency’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services; foreign intelligence organizations; and the CIA itself. The following article is the fourth in a series that will explore the Agency’s amazing history through the artifacts in the CIA Museum. This article focuses on the E Street CIA complex sign.
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Before the famous CIA Headquarters portrayed in the movies existed, the civilian intelligence organization was housed in downtown Washington, D.C. Major elements of it were located in the city’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood at 2430 E St. NW in the complex that had been used by the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), during World War II. The complex consisted of four buildings, including the East Building in which William Donovan, the OSS chief, had his office, and the South Building, which would become home to CIA's Office of National Estimates. The buildings were situated directly across from the U.S. State Department.
For several years there was no sign at the entrance of the original CIA Headquarters Buildings and the lack of signage caused problems for Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Allen Dulles. In the early 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower wished to drop his brother Milton off at CIA Headquarters for a meeting with DCI Allen Dulles. Milton was the former associate director of the Office of War Information during World War II and served as presidential adviser to his brother.
Because there was no sign, the White House driver had great difficulty finding the entrance, much to the annoyance of the President. The following day President Eisenhower called Mr. Dulles and ordered an identifying sign placed at the entrance. It was the President’s opinion that the E Street address was well known as CIA Headquarters and that the absence of a sign fooled no one.
The immediate result was that a sign bearing the Agency name and seal was hung on the fence at the entrance to 2430 E Street NW. When the fence and the North Building adjacent to the entrance were demolished to make room for the present freeway, the sign was preserved and ultimately installed in the CIA Museum at Headquarters.
The CIA Museum currently has the sign on display in the Directorate of Intelligence Gallery.
To view a picture of the sign and see other artifacts, visit the CIA Museum Virtual Tour.
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