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Locating the Site


Map 1: The L'Enfant Plan for Washington.

[Graphic] Map 1 with link to higher quality map.
(Library of Congress)

In the years following the Declaration of Independence, the United States moved its capital often. In 1790 Congress decided to locate the Federal Government permanently on land that straddled the Potomac River just upstream from George Washington's plantation at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Over the next year Pierre L'Enfant, a French engineer who had served in the American Army, laid out the city that would be called Washington, District of Columbia.

Along the margins of his map was a key, excerpts from which appear below:

A. THE equestrian figure of GEORGE WASHINGTON, a monument voted in 1783, by the late Continental Congress.
B. An historic Column. Also intended for a Mile or itinerary column, from whose station (a mile from the Federal house) all distances of place through the Continent, are to be measured. [not visible on Map 1]
C. A Naval itinerary Column, proposed to be erected to celebrate the first rise of a Navy and to stand as a ready monument to consecrate its progress and achievements. [not visible on Map 1]
D. This Church is intended for national purposes, such as public prayer, thanksgivings, funeral orations &c. and assigned to the special use of no particular Sect or denomination.
E. Five grand fountains, intended with a constant spout of water.
F. Grand Cascade, formed of the water from the sources of the Tiber.
G. Public walk, being a square of 1200 feet, through which carriages may ascend to the upper square of the Federal house.
H. Grand Avenue, 400 feet in breadth, and about a mile in length, bordered with gardens, ending in a slope from the houses on each side. This Avenue leads to the monument A, and connects the Congress garden with
I. Presidents' Park.

Questions for Map 1

1. After what two men was the capital named? Why do you think Congress chose to recognize those two?

2. What does the letter "A" represent on the L'Enfant plan?

3. What other buildings were to be located near "A"?

4. Why do you think L'Enfant placed the memorial where he did?

* The map on the screen has a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a high quality version of this map, but be aware that the file will take as much as a minute to a load with a 28.8K modem.

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National Park Service arrowhead with link to NPS website.