The Massachusetts State House Annex is one of the few settings in the novel used for almost entirely satirical purposes. It is the site of a late November meeting between the United States Office of Unspecified Services chief Rod “the God” Tine—think Karl Rove meets J. Edgar Hoover—and representatives from important corporate allies: InterLace TelEntertainment Networks, Glad Flaccid Receptacle Corporation, producers of the children’s television show Mr. Bouncety-Bounce and, of course, Tom Veals of Viney and Veals. Their meeting is one of a few scenes rendered not as straight prose, but as a kind of playlet, in which they discuss using the popular children’s show to warn children not to take entertainment cartridges from strangers.
Although this scene stands alone, our first tentative visit occurs much earlier, in a passage immediately following the one which describes the draining of the pond in the Public Garden, as we look over the shoulder of R. Tine himself,
standing with his hands at the small of his back at a window on the eighth floor of the State House Annex on Beacon and Joy Sts., looking southwest and down at the concentric rings of pond and crowd and trucks…
Of two buildings to be found at the corner of Beacon and Joy, across the street from Boston Common, only the one at right in the first photo above has an eighth floor—its top floor—therefore it stands to reason that this is the building Wallace intended. As far as I know, this particular Beacon Hill building is residential, not governmental (nor commercial, and in the novel’s near future, the two are, familiarly, not separated by much). Although I’m sure a man whose unironic nickname is “the God” can meet just about anywhere he pleases.
However, it’s a considerable distance from the Public Garden, and not at all suited to looking down upon its supposed annual drainage. Enter now an observation from Danielle Dreilinger, the Boston writer whose 2008 Globe piece on Wallace’s Boston was an early influence on this series, in a comment on the Boston Common / Public Garden entry:
DFW seems to conflate elements of the Common and the Garden. For example, the “duck pond” … is indeed in the Garden and the site of the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture, but the Frog Pond in the Common is the one that is regularly drained and cleaned as described in the text.
The Frog Pond is even just southwest of Beacon and Joy, so let’s put this down as another piece of evidence that the physical integrity of Garden and Common have been surrendered to artistic license.
One last note: while I didn’t get any closer to the Massachusetts State House than its front steps, it turns out that it does have an “annex,” however it is much different than the one described here; it is not detached from the main building and not accessible from Beacon Street. From the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website:
Looking back at the building, the yellow brick rear of the State House looks far different in comparison with its older sibling in front, especially in its materials. This is the 1889-1895 Annex, designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style by Charles Brigham. The exterior is in harmony with the Bulfinch front, but the interior is another style unto itself.
Whether or not DFW knew there really was an Annex on the State House grounds, who’s to say? Even though one really exists, he invented it anyway.