In the capital, two buildings oblige us to remember two men. Squatting in mid-city is a fortress named for J. Edgar Hoover. A giant ho-hum edifice that wipes out yet another of Washington's grass plots is named for Ronald Reagan.
But a hop across the Potomac are two striking, contemporary structures. They're called the "Old Headquarters Building" and the "New Headquarters Building" of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Outside these buildings stand three slabs of the Berlin Wall, plus a steel caltrop - a tank barrier. They're symbols of the CIA's part in the cold war.
Inside the buildings hang canvases of modern art. On a patio is James Sanborn's Kryptos, an 8-foot-high, S-shaped copper sculpture into which is cut a coded dispatch. The director of Central Intelligence holds the decoded message in a tripled-sealed envelope.
The CIA has celebrated its 50th anniversary. Now isn't it time to remember greats of American intelligence by naming these striking and significant buildings after them?
Are tucked-away, indoor bas relief busts and statues the way to honor the likes of Col. William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan, who was appointed head of the new Office of Strategic Services in the 1940s?
Or Allen Dulles, one of the eminent, early directors of the CIA?
Is a statue of American spy Nathan Hale showing him bound hand and foot, seemingly ready to repeat his famous words of 1776: "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" the way to remind ourselves of him?
If such names are not candidates for the CIA's buildings, look to the 70 stars cut into the marble Memorial Wall in the agency's entrance. They represent CIA staffers who "gave their lives in the service of their country." Only 29 are named; the others must remain secret.
Perhaps among the 29 are names to replace the uninspiring, prosaic designations, "Old Headquarters Building," "New Headquarters Building."
* Angus MacLean Thuermer was assistant to four directors of Central Intelligence. He lives in Middleburg, Va.