The American College of Surgeons (ACS) headquarters have been based in Chicago since the organization was founded in 1913, and since 1979 there has also been an ACS presence in Washington D.C. In the early 20th century, the American Medical Association (AMA), the biggest and most powerful medical association in the US, represented the ACS and other special medical societies in the Capital. By the mid-1970s, however, while the College sought to align itself and cooperate with the AMA on legislative matters, the AMA began diminishing the role of specialty societies, including the College, in its governance. By the late 1970s the interests of the AMA and ACS were diverging, and to remain influential and present in the Capital, the College decided to open its own satellite office in Washington.
A small staff operated out of rented offices from 1979 to 1987, and in 1988 the College purchased a building at 1640 Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. These offices were adequate for early modest advocacy efforts by the ACS, but by the mid-2000s it became clear that the organization was outgrowing the building. Staff could not be hired due to the insufficient space, and the distance from Capitol Hill made it difficult for staff to easily attend meetings, or invite legislators to the ACS offices. In 2004, Cynthia Brown, then director of the Division of Advocacy and Health Policy, recommended that the ACS find another space in Washington D.C to occupy. With the help from the real estate firm Jones Lang Lasalle, the College identified and purchased the land at 20 F Street in 2006, only half a mile away from Capitol Hill.
The primary reason for the decision to develop at 20 F Street was the desire to enhance the visibility of the College to both the Fellowship and its stakeholders. Modest advocacy efforts were becoming more substantial by the 21st century due to medicine becoming more regulated and the influence of the government over the industry. The development was a good opportunity to re-affirm the College’s influence and identity in the nation’s capital. Its intention was to be a physical representation of the College as the “house of surgery” and to present a united front to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on behalf of surgeons and their patients. At the groundbreaking event, Dr. Josef Fischer, then Chair of the Board of Regents stated “This building must never become an empty monument to what might have been, but rather a symbol of the unity of American Surgery in its effort to promote quality and care rendered by competent surgeons in a safe environment.”
The building itself is 10 stories and features a dramatic two-story atrium lobby, as well as a roof top terrace with views of Union Station, The U.S. Capitol, and Washington Monument. Ground was broken for the building in May 2008 and the official opening ceremony was held in June 2010.
D.L Nahrwold, P.J Kernahan, A Century of Surgeons and Surgery 1913-2012, ACS, p289
College Properties, 12th Edition, 1996, p24, ACS Archives
D.L Nahrwold, P.J Kernahan, A Century of Surgeons and Surgery 1913-2012, ACS, p366
Minutes of the meeting of the Board of regents of February 6,7, 2004 appendices C-12. ACS Archives
Minutes of the meeting of the Board of regents of October 12, 2006 appendices A-11. ACS Archives
20 F Street Opening Ceremony pamphlet, ACS Archives
Brief Talk Concerning the Opening of the Building, May 9 2008. ACS Archives