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As part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Beal plan to restructure the economy in the wake of the Great Depression, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), under provisions of the National Housing Act, chartered the National Mortgage Association of Washington as a subsidiary on Feb. 10, 1938. Two months later, the name of the new entity was changed to the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA)--better known as Fannie Mae, a folksy name suggested by its initials.

Sam Husbands, an RFC official, was Fannie's first president, a position he held from 1938 to 1948. The agency's first home was the RFC's headquarters in the Lafayette Building, at 811 Vermont Ave. in Washington, D.C.--also headquarters for the Export-Import Bank of the United States (which is still in the building today).

As Fannie Mae's purpose and staff grew, so did its need for space. It eventually relocated to rented space in a Modernist building designed by Vlastimil Koubeck at 1133 15th St.

In the 1970s, Fannie Mae President Allan Oakley Hunter was ready for a move to grander offices. According to "The Fateful History of Fannie Mae," by James R. Hagerty, he narrowed his choices to two existing buildings--a former creamery near the Georgetown section of...

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