Did you know why the Pentagon has an unusual number of bathrooms?

Aerial view of the Pentagon
(Photo: David B. Gleason / Wikipedia)
The Pentagon, built between 1941 and ’43, during World War II, is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. The headquarters of the Department of Defense (formerly the War Department) is a massive and complex edifice covering over 6.6 million square feet (620,000 square meters) with numerous construction features little known by the public. One such feature is the presence of 284 bathrooms, which is twice what would be required for the nominal number of employees. The reason for such extravagance goes back to the circumstances of the construction.
The Pentagon under construction in January 1942
(Photo: Office of the Secretary of Defense History Office)
The Pentagon is located in Virginia, and the state still had racial segregation laws during World War II. Separate cafeterias were constructed for black and white construction workers, and the large number of black people working as “skilled workers” rather than “laborers” due to wartime manpower shortages caused regular hostilities between work brigades.
The Pentagon under construction
(Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
In March 1942, with construction already underway, War Department engineers were told to include separate bathrooms for colored people due to Virginia laws, which doubled the number of restrooms that needed to be built. The extra toilets were constructed, but never used in a segregated manner. During a visit, President Roosevelt inquired about the unusually large number of bathrooms, and, when given an explanation, insisted on desegregating them. The governor of Virginia might not have been happy about that, but he was informed that while the Pentagon stood on Virginian soil, it fell under the exclusive jurisdiction of the War Department (which the governor previously agreed to), and an earlier executive order forbade discrimination against government employees.

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Soldiers decorate a Christmas tree in Germany, December 1944
(Photo: U.S. Army)
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