New Secretary; New Quarters

John Foster Dulles resigned in April 1959 because of ill health and died of cancer soon afterward. Secretary of State Christian A. Herter, who served mostly from a wheelchair because of his severe arthritis, replaced him. With the death of Dulles and the approaching end of Eisenhower’s second term, U.S. foreign policy initiatives became less significant. The Department more often found itself responding to crises or explaining foreign policy failures. Negotiations with the Soviet Union on a test ban treaty collapsed, the shoot down of a U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union allowed Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to cancel a planned 1960 summit, Fidel Castro introduced communism into Cuba, and the U.S. Government began planning for a covert invasion of Cuba. In Southeast Asia, the Eisenhower Administration committed additional U.S. resources and advisers, although not U.S. combat troops.

Secretary of State Christian Herter

In early January 1961, the Department of State moved into its new headquarters, which it continues to occupy today. Secretary Dulles and President Eisenhower had laid the cornerstone of the new building in September 1957; using the same trowel that George Washington had used to lay the cornerstone of the Capitol. The new building was an extension of the Department’s quarters in the old War Department building and was about four times as large. The architects designed the building on a vertical/pyramid plan, placing different offices of bureaus on multiple floors connected by elevators. The higher the job, the higher the floor. Assistant secretaries were on the sixth floor; the Secretary and his immediate staff occupied the seventh floor—the top working level of the building. The eighth floor was reserved for diplomatic reception rooms.

The new building was in the stark modern architectural style of the 1950s. What it lacked in aesthetics, it attempted to compensate for in efficiency and use of space. The Department had two large conference rooms and a number of smaller rooms available for meetings. Most of the 7,000 employees of the Department, previously housed in the old State building and 29 separate annexes, moved into new offices.