Where They Worked:
Notable Office Assignments in the House

Blog Post

October 23, 2014

Plastic Fantastic

Cannon House Office Building (1962–present)/tiles/non-collection/h/hob_notable_office_assignments_cannon_aoc.xml
Image courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol

Cannon House Office Building (1962–present)

Former names:
House Office Building (1908–1933)
Old House Office Building (1933–1962)

Longworth House Office Building/tiles/non-collection/h/hob_notable_office_assignments_longworth_aoc.xml
Image courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol

Longworth House Office Building

Former name:
New House Office Building (1933–1962)

Rayburn House Office Building (1965–Present)/tiles/non-collection/h/hob_notable_office_assignments_rayburn_aoc.xml
Image courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol  Rayburn House Office Building (1965–Present) 
For nearly 120 years from the founding of Congress in 1789, most U.S. Representatives conducted much of their business from their individual desks on the House Floor. That changed in 1908, when the House of Representatives opened the first House Office Building (the present-day Cannon building) and Representatives were provided work space. The advent of designated office space had profound repercussions on some of the institution’s basic functions.

A lottery held on January 9, 1908, determined the initial office assignments for 333 House Members (unlike rank-and-file Members chairmen did not receive individual offices and already had quarters in their respective committee rooms). With Speaker Joseph G. Cannon of Illinois presiding, Representatives gathered in the House Chamber, watching intently as a blindfolded House Page drew numbered marbles from a box to determine the order of room selection. Claude Kitchin of North Carolina was picked first and, amidst applause, consulted a large diagram set up in the well of the House and chose room number 430—part of present-day 414. So raucous were the proceedings that on several occasions Speaker Cannon suspended the lottery and ordered Members back to their desks. In a matter of hours, however, every room had been claimed.

Office space marked an enormous improvement in each Member’s ability to serve constituents. Prior to the opening of the Cannon House Office Building, most Representatives had only a desk and chair in the House Chamber. The availability of individual offices also gradually changed the institution’s workways. Members hired support staffs of secretaries and clerical workers to handle the increasing flow of correspondence and requests from constituents back in their districts. With offices away from the House Floor, Members spent more time out of the chamber. By 1913, the old desks were removed and the chamber renovated to provide for modern theater-style seating.

Over time, the growth of congressional offices and their staffs necessitated the construction of additional House office buildings—the “New House Office Building” (now the Longworth building) in 1933 and the Rayburn House Office Building in 1965. As new buildings opened, offices were expanded from single rooms to multi-room suites. Today, there are 441 Member offices spread across the three buildings. At the end of each Congress, as Members retire, vacant offices are reassigned to Members according to seniority.

Some of America’s most notable politicians have used these rooms. Follow these links to a guide to where Speakers of the House and presidential candidates have served their constituents’ needs and legislative agendas during their House service.

Room histories and office assignments for other notable Members of the House of Representatives are available from the Office of the Clerk. For more information, please contact the House Curator at art@mail.house.gov, or (202) 226-1300.