Visiting One of the World’s Largest Office Buildings
Built during the initial rush of World War II, the Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. As you might assume from the name, the Pentagon is a gigantic, 29-acre, five-sided building. The entire structure was built in just 16 months by a crew of 4,000 people working around the clock, with everything completed on January 15, 1943. The finished building contains five concentric rings of five floors (plus two below ground), and there is a 5-acre courtyard at its center. At maximum, the building holds almost 33,000 workers.
If you are interested in seeing the interior of one of the world’s largest office buildings, tours are available for free, although tickets are required. The tickets can be requested on the Pentagon’s website anywhere from 14 to 90 days before your visit. Tickets will not be issued if your visit is less than 14 days from the time of your request. The tour involves facts and history on the four branches of the military, a look at the indoor September 11th memorial, an opportunity to examine a Medal of Honor, as well as other exhibits related to the building and the United States Military.
The Pentagon was struck by American Airlines flight 77 during the attacks of September 11, 2001, exactly 60 years to the day that construction on the building began. The plane penetrated three of the five rings on the building’s west side, killing 184 people on the airplane and in the Pentagon. A memorial to those 184 victims is found on the west side of the Pentagon, with elegant benches dedicated to each one. It is an open and serene yet solemn space.
For those taking a tour, be aware that there is no parking at the Pentagon. Parking is available at the Pentagon City Mall, a short walk away, but taking the Metro is your best bet. You also are advised to check in for your tour one hour prior to its start, for security screening purposes. It probably won’t take the full hour, but the security process is very strict and will not be rushed.
The Pentagon can be visited weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on all federal holidays. The closest Metro station is Pentagon (Blue, Yellow; for Orange, Silver, Green, transfer at L’Enfant Plaza; for Red, transfer at Gallery Place). Admission is free, although a timed-access ticket is required. Reserve tour tickets here.
For more interesting sites to visit in Washington, D.C., check out The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. by Eve Zibart, Renee Sklarew, and Len Testa.
Guided tour: By English: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Memorial: By The U.S. Army [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons