The first Peace Corps HQ was at 806 Connecticut Ave across from Lafayette Park and within view of the White House. It was called the Maiatico Building and immortalized in the famous Washington Post photograph showing how the Peace Corps was working far into the night in the first days of the new agency.
When the Peace Corps was “launched” JFK did so by signing an ‘executive order” to create the agency, an idea of Bill Josephson, co-author of the memo “Towering Task,” who told Kennedy he had the power to create the new agency by using the existing Mutual Security Act of 1954. Kennedy claimed that the establishment of the Peace Corps was an emergency. And it was. By doing so, the Peace Corps was created immediately without going through months of congressional debates.
With the signing to create this new agency, Shriver, with the help of Warren Wiggins, obtained three rooms on the sixth floor of the ICA building, the Maiatico Building. Both Wiggins and Josephson worked for The International Cooperation Administration (ICA). This government agency operated from June 30, 1955, until September 4, 1961, and was responsible for foreign assistance and “nonmilitary security” programs. It was replaced by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), by JFK on November 3, 1961.
The Maiatico Building was the ‘home’ of the Peace Corps for more than two decades before moving to a larger space at 1990 K Street, and then to 1111 20th St NW. It is now out of downtown DC in North East Washington in a building that is, I believe, named after one of our lesser Peace Corps Directors, Paul D. Coverdell.
Now as we have celebrated 60 years of the Peace Corps, it is time to remember our history and register the creation of the agency as a historical site by seeing if it is possible to place a plaque on the building at 806 Connecticut Avenue.
It is a job the NPCA might be able to do.
We need a simple and poignant declaration that says it all:
Ask not what your country can do for you
– ask what you can do for your country
First Headquarters of the Peace Corps
Established March 1, 1961
Director Sargent Shriver