How the CIA headquarters broke ground in Langley, Va.

How did the Central Intelligence Agency make it to Langley, Va.? It wasn't all that seamless, one historian points out. (Photo Courtesy Central Intelligence Agency)
Dwight Eisenhower President Dwight Eisenhower picks up the first scoop of mortar as he lays the cornerstone at the new headquarters building of the Central Intelligence Agency on Nov. 3, 1959 in nearby Langley, Virginia, outside Washington. Allen Dulles, CIA director, stands beside the engraved stone. The professional stonemason is Buford Stocksbury of Concord, Tenn. (AP Photo)
Dwight Eisenhower President Dwight Eisenhower shades his eyes from a bright sun as he reads the inscription after helping lay the cornerstone for the new Central Intelligence Agency building in Langley, Va., near Washington, on Nov. 3, 1959. CIA Director Allen Dulles does the same. Man in white is Buford Stocksbury, Concord, Tenn., stone mason. (AP Photo)
Dwight Eisenhower President Eisenhower speaks briefly on Nov. 3, 1959 at Langley in Virginia, a suburb of Washington, where he participated in cornerstone laying ceremonies at the new headquarters building of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Part of the eight-story building now under construction is in the background. (AP Photo)
A view of the extension of the George Washington Parkway between Chain Bridge Road and the CIA taken in 1959. President President Dwight Eisenhower cut the ribbon for the parkway's five-mile extension the same day as the cornerstone laying for the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Courtesy CIA)
President Dwight Eisenhower departs by helicopter after the cornerstone laying in 1959. He cut cut the ribbon for the George Washington Parkway expansion on the same day. (Courtesy CIA)
President Dwight Eisenhower departs by helicopter after the cornerstone laying. He cut cut the ribbon for the George Washington Parkway expansion on the same day. (Courtesy CIA)
The Original Headquarters Building cornerstone was laid on Nov. 3, 1959. Construction was completed in March 1961. The original building consists of 1.4 million square feet of space. (Courtesy CIA)
In the 1950s, CIA obtained 225 acres of Federal Highway Administration property — including this home, Scattergood-Thorne House, to house its new headquarters, with the proviso that Margaret Scattergood and Florence Thorne would be permitted to remain on the property until their deaths. Miss Scattergood passed away in 1986 at the age of 92, and the CIA assumed control of their acreage the following year. The CIA now uses this former residence as a conference center. (Courtesy CIA)
The Headquarters Auditorium, called the "Bubble" by CIA employees, got its nickname for its bubble- or igloo-like shape. The auditorium was part of the CIA Headquarters design in the mid-1950s. The Bubble is the largest conference area at the CIA. It measures 7,000 square feet of floor space, can accommodate 470 people. (Courtesy CIA)
A courtyard provides provides an outdoor transition from the glass-enclosed New Headquarters Building to the traditional architecture of the Original Headquarters Building. The courtyard features a fishpond and flowering plants and trees. (Courtesy CIA)
By the early 1980s, the agency needed to expand. The new building consists of two, six-story office towers built into a hillside behind the original headquarters. The groundbreaking ceremony for the New Headquarters Building took place on May 24, 1984; the building was completed by March 1991. (Courtesy CIA)
CIA HEADQUARTERS This is a 1979 file photo of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, seen from an aerial view. (AP Photo)
U.S. Virginia Cities Langley CIA Building Construction This is an aerial view of the new Central Intelligence agency building under construction near Langley, Va., about eight miles from downtown Washington on March 5, 1961. The office building, scheduled for completion in fall of 1961, will cost an estimated $46 million. (AP Photo/Henry Burroughs)
2430 E Street NW was the address of the original CIA Headquarters in downtown D.C. The agency took over the site of its wartime predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services. The E Street Complex is across from the present-day State Department.

For several years, the entrance of the original CIA Headquarters buildings had no sign. President Eisenhower was on his way to church one Sunday morning. He wished to drop his brother Milton off at CIA for a meeting with the Director of Central Intelligence, Allen Dulles. Because there was no sign, the White House driver had trouble finding the entrance, which upset the president. The following day, Eisenhower called Dulles and ordered a sign be placed at the entrance. The President believed that the E Street address was well known as CIA Headquarters and that the absence of a sign fooled no one.

When the fence and North Building bordering the entrance were demolished to make room for the present-day E-Street Expressway, the sign was preserved and is now on display in the CIA Museum.(Courtesy CIA)

WASHINGTON — In the mid-1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency — then located in the Navy Hill complex at Foggy Bottom — was bursting at the seams after only eight years in existence.

“We’d also spread out to some of those infamous temporary buildings that had been built on the National Mall during World War II, and had lingered for a while afterwards,” CIA Curator Samuel Cooper-Wall tells WTOP.

CIA Director Allen Dulles wanted to move across the street to the Potomac waterfront — which, at the time, was home to a brewery that went out of business.

“President Eisenhower said ‘absolutely not,'” Cooper-Wall recalls, “and the brewery site became home to the gorgeous Kennedy Center instead.”

On Monday, the agency will celebrate the 55th anniversary of Eisenhower’s laying of the cornerstone of the main building.

As Cooper-Wall puts it, Eisenhower was concerned with Washington’s traffic, which was “terrible even back then.” From there, officials searched beyond the city for a new CIA home: Greenbelt, Fort Belvoir, Bethesda, even the area near Arlington Cemetery where the Iwo Jima Memorial now stands.

But it was in Langley, Virginia, where an expansive site stood out. It was large enough to be made very secure and private. And the government had already bought much of the land about seven years earlier, since it was so close to D.C.

But after the agency was built there in the early, tense days of the Cold War, there was great consternation about identifying it.

“When we moved out here and the GW Parkway was extended past CIA headquarters, signs went up right away saying Central Intelligence Agency and [Attorney General] Bobby Kennedy, who lived near here in McLean, didn’t like having the signs out there on the parkway, because he thought it was a security risk,” Cooper-Wall recollects.

In the discussion over what to do about road signs identifying the CIA facility, proponents of the move recalled that the signage at the original Foggy Bottom location identified the building as the Government Printing Office. That led to an embarrassing story about Eisenhower’s security detail not being able to find the headquarters.

At one point, Cooper-Wall says, President John F. Kennedy — after having previously ordered the signs down — called CIA director Dulles and said, “Allen, if you don’t get those signs down, I’m going to come out there and do it myself.”

The signs came down for about a month, Cooper-Wall continues, “until people noticed they were gone and the Washington Post came out with the headline

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