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The central rotunda.

A few days after I likened the American Pharmacists Association headquarters on Constitution Avenue to a “mausoleum,” I got a slightly hurt-sounding email from the APhA’s Senior Management Knowledge Specialist, Gwen Norheim. Subject line: “2215 is a great place to work.” She invited me on a tour, and I felt it would be callous to refuse.

The original building, fronting onto Constitution, was designed by architect John Russell Pope, who also did the National Archives, among other prominent D.C. buildings. But at first, he wasn’t designing it with the pharmacists in mind: The plans had been originally drawn up for a memorial to Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois. When that didn’t work out, and the APhA asked for a building in the early 1930s, Pope took the plans off the shelf, fixed them up, and was hired. By acting early, the Association secured what would become the only privately-owned building on the Mall.

By the late 1950s, the APhA had outgrown the squat Pope building, and decided to build an annex on land just north of it. And in the late 1990s, the Association started planning something much bigger on the annex site: A six-floor office building that would multiple their available space ten times over. Now, they lease the vast majority of the space to the neighboring State department, meaning that the APhA’s 110 employees—who moved back into their new building in May—all have to go through State-level security on the way in. And now, for security reasons, nobody can use Pope’s original front door either.

Cool features of the new building include, but are not limited to:

  • A fitness room and shower facilities.
  • A “Women in Pharmacy” conference room and a “Federal Pharmacy Conference Room,” dedicated to women in pharmacy and pharmacists serving in the military.
  • A quilt of the Pope building and various pharmacological symbology, housed in the basement library.
  • Coca-Cola's apparently on there for its ability to calm stomachs.

    The Robert Thom “Great Moments in Pharmacy” collection, donated by Pfizer.

  • A medicinal herb garden.

The building is not open to the public, since they used to have problems with unstable people coming in off the mall. But if you’re a pharmacist and want to see what your dues have built, I’m sure Norheim would be happy to oblige.

Great moments in American pharmacy!