Like many FBI agents of his time, E.J. Connelley worked in offices all over the country. J. Edgar Hoover liked to move his young executives around (it seemed a way to test their loyalty to the Bureau and also a way to bring consistency to field offices). Connelley’s “flying squad” cases had him crisscrossing the country from New York to Chicago to Florida to the West Coast. Here is a look at a few Bureau offices that he operated out of and the cases handled there.
When the Weyerhaeuser case broke in Tacoma in May 1935, the nearest office was in Portland. Portland was one of nine divisional headquarters in the years before J. Edgar Hoover assumed control and reorganized the department. It was located in the US Court House. The Portland office briefly closed between 1930 and 1932, but then reopened when the Seattle office closed.
Seattle had its office in the Douglas Building at 4th Avenue and University Street, beginning in 1914. It relocated to the Northern Life building in 1930 (when the Portland office closed) but then Seattle closed in 1932 (reduced funding for the Division of Investigation caused what is now called “downsizing”). It wouldn’t be until 1937, after two major kidnapping cases, that the Seattle office would be reestablished.
Cincinnati became Earl Connelley’s home. The Bureau office operated there until 1926, before temporarily being moved to Columbus, before moving back in 1929. When Connelley became SAC, the office was housed in the U.S. Customs and Post Office building.
Occupying the southwest corner of Fourth and Vine Streets, the building looked every bit of its nineteenth century age. Built in 1885, the four story building bore stone columns and thick stone ornamentation. The steep rooflines seemed out of a French castle. The Bureau occupied offices on the fourth floor until the building was demolished in 1936.
The FBI held a dedication ceremony for E.J. Connelley at the Cincinnati office in the 1960s. A plaque was hung in the lobby in memorial of Connelley’s career. When the Bureau moved offices, however, the plaque was lost and to this day, has not been recovered.
Of course in Chicago the Bureau’s offices in the 1930s were located in a 41 story skyscraper designed by the Burnham brothers. And it was ideally located – right across the street was the Federal Courthouse. The entire exterior was brick. Controversy exploded in December 1934 when Hoover sent a confidential memo to all offices; “E.J. Connelley has been placed in charge of the investigations of the above entitled cases [Hamm and Bremer kidnappings] and is maintaining an office in the New York Life Insurance Building.” It was a divisive move that split SAC Melvin Purvis’ power. The buildings were only two blocks apart, but they could have been miles.
When Connelley arrived in Jacksonville in January 1935, he met with SAC Alt. The only Bureau office in Florida was located there on the fourth floor of the U.S. Court House building on Monroe Street. The building was all straight lines and stone, the going trend with federal buildings of the time.
Connelley returned to Jacksonville several times in his career. Once for the Cash kidnapping case in 1938 (though he only passed through, the field work was in Miami) and then again in June 1942 when a group of Nazi saboteurs were arrested. They had arrived by submarine off the Florida coast, and cached weapons, explosives, and supplies in the sand at Ponte Vedra Beach.
Connelley worked a famous case in the early 1920s, shortly after he began as a special agent. Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor had been murdered. The office would assist in the capture of kidnapping fugitives Thomas Robinson and Peter Anders. Connelley returned to California in the 1940s to investigate the kidnapping and death of Thora Chamberlain and Marc de Tristan.
The Main Post Office building was newly built in 1934 when the Bureau relocated its offices here. Glimpse of modern construction were seen in the building, with glass being incorporated into the exterior. The building sat on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Being one of the popular gangster hideouts, Connelly spent time in St. Paul on several cases. The office was ten blocks away from the Federal Courthouse where he would get the pleasure of seeing Alvin Karpis tried for his crimes after Connelley had arrested him in New Orleans.
The New York office was located in a 20 story skyscraper, that true to New York character, exuded modernity. From the 14th floor up, the building narrowed as it stair-stepped to a peak. The office was located in the heart of New York – a block from the Grand Central terminal and from the Chrysler Building.
Headquarters (“The Seat of Government”)
Until 1934, the Bureau of Investigation was located in the Denrike Building at 1435 K Street. Offices occupied the third and fourth floors. Hoover’s office was at the nexus of all communication – directly across from the mail room.
The Department of Justice building opened on October 25, 1934. The entire block between Ninth and Tenth Streets and Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues was consumed with the 7 story building.
The Bureau occupied three floors, and Hoover’s office on the fifth floor looked out on the corner of Ninth and Pennsylvania. The FBI laboratory occupied the seventh floor and a firearms range was in the basement.