Daniel Burnham's "First Draft" for the Senate Park Commission's Report to the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia1


1This manuscript is reproduced with the permission of the Daniel H. Burnham Collection, Ryerson & Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

2Editorial note: Brackets [] indicate correction of typographical errors or omitted letters or works.

First draft "Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia" Much more in detail than the printed bo[o]k—in places.

The Committee on the District of Columbia, acting under instructions of the Senate embodied in the resolution adopted March 8 1901:

RESOLVED, That the Committee on the District of Columbia be, and it is hereby directed to consider the subject and report to the Senate plans for the development and improvement of the entire park system of the District of Columbia. For the purpose of preparing such plans the committee may sit during the recess of Congress and may secure the services of such experts as may be necessary for a proper consideration of the subject. The expenses of such investigation shall be paid from the contingent fund of the Senate.

[R]espectfully report—

In 1889 Congress provided for the purchase of the 170 acres of land in the valley of Rock Creek which have been developed into the Zoological Park; and the next year a special act was passed, authorizing the purchase of 2000 additional acres of land extending from the northern boundaries of the Zoological Park to the District line. The amount of land actually acquired under the provisions of this act was 1,605.9 acres. This territory, beautified by nature, is undeveloped save for a few roads the location of which was obvious; and before the public can realize the advantages of the purchase, a systematic plan must be made by landscape architects.

Extending along the Potomac from the Anacostia, or Eastern Branch, nearly to the mouth of Rock Creek are the flats reclaimed by the Engineers and set apart by Congress under the name of the Potomac Park. This territory, comprising 739.42 acres (including the tidal basin) is entirely undeveloped; and its possibilities as a river park are greater than can well be stated in words.

The Anacostia flats, comprising about 2000 acres, imperatively demand reclamation in order to free the eastern portion of the city from the malarial conditions that for years have seriously retarded the development of that section, and have constantly impaired the health of those persons who have been compelled to live within its miasmal influences. Congress, recognizing the deplorable conditions to which thousands of people either in its employ or under its care are thus of necessity subjected has entered upon the preliminary work looking to the eventual reclamation of these flats; and it is believed that the time has now come to enter upon this work, with the view to create within this area a water park. In this manner can the park needs of the District be best served, and at the smallest expense.

The valley of Rock Creek from the mouth of that stream to the Zoological Park is unsightly to the verge of ugliness. Congress has had the situation studied with a view to finding a solution of the difficulty either by covering the creek entirely, or by creating a parkway through the valley. The need of a definite plan of treatment is shown in a striking manner by the fact that on the line of Connecticut Avenue a bridge is in course of construction; while the Massachusetts avenue crossing is being made by throwing an arch over the stream and filling in approaches. A decision should be reached as to whether the creek is to be covered, o[r] is to remain open; and also as to the treatment of the space in either case.

The development of the Potomac and of Rock Creek parks, the creation of a park along the Anacostia, and the increasing use of the Soldiers' Home grounds for park purposes, calls for a study of the means of connection among the parks, so as to bring into one system the diversified attractions that the parks when developed will offer. The positive squalor which to-day mars the entrance to almost every one of the parks is too apparent to need discussion.

Aside from the pleasure and the positive benefits to health that the people derive from public parks, in a capital city like Washington there is a distinct use of public spaces as the indispens[a]ble means of giving dignity to governmental buildings; and of making suitable connections between the great departments. When the city of Washington was planned under the direct and minute supervision of Washington and Jefferson, the relations that should subsist between the Capitol and the Presidents House, were carefully studied. Indeed the whole city was planned with a view to the reciprocity of sight between public buildings. Vistas and axes; sites for monuments and museums; parks and pleasure-gardens, fountains and canals; in a word all that goes to make a city a magnificent and consistent work of art were regarded as essentials in the plans prepared by L'Enfant and approved by the first President and his Secretary of State. Nor were these original plans prepared without due study of great models. The stately art of landscape architecture had been brought from overseas by royal governors and wealthy planters; and both Washington and Jefferson were familiar with the practice of that art. L'Enfant a man of position and education, and an e[n]g[i]neer of ability, must have been familiar with those great works of the master Le Nôtre which are still the admiration of the traveler and the constant pleasure of the French people. Moreover, from his well-stocked library Jefferson sent to L'Enfant plans "on a large and accurate scale" of Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfort, Carlst[uh]e, Strasburg, Orleans, Turin, Milan and other European cities, at the same time felicitating himself that the President had "left the planning of the town in such good hands".

It has so happened that the slow and unequal development of the city during the century of its existence has worked changes in the original design; and to a certain extent has prevented the realization of the comprehensive plan of the founders. As a result there has been a lack of continuity in the parks, and spaces like the Mall, that were designed for development as a unit have been cut into pieces, some of which have been improved, some have been sold to private persons, and some have been diverted to uses so absolutely at variance with the original idea as seriously to detract from the dignity of the buildings these spaces were intended to enhance.

Happily, however, nothing has been lost that cannot be regained at reasonable cost. Fortunately, also, during the years that have passed the Capitol has been enlarged and ennobled; and the Washington Monument, wonderful alike as an engineering feat and a work of art, has been constructed on a site that may be brought into relations with the Capitol and the Executive Mansion. Doubly fortunate, moreover, is the fact that the vast and successful work of the engineers in redeeming the Potomac shores from unhealthful conditions gives opportunity for enlarging the scope of the earlier plans in a manner corresponding to the growth of the country. At the same time the development of Potomac Park both provides for a connection between the parks on the west and those on the east, and also it may readily furnish sites for those memorials which history has shown to be worthy a place in vital relation to the great buildings and monuments erected by the founders of the Republic.

The question of the development of these park areas forces itself upon the attention of Congress. Either this development may be made in a haphazard manner, as the official happening to be in charge of the work for the time may elect; or it my be made according to a well-studied and well-considered plan, devised by persons whose competence has been proved beyond question. Such a plan, adopted at this time and carried out as Congress may make appropriations for the work, will make Washington the most beautiful capital city in the world. The reasons on which the foregoing assertion is based will appear in the course of this report.

The action of the Senate in ordering a comprehensive plan for the development of the entire park system of the District of Columbia is the resultant of two movements, one popular in character, the other technical. In October, 1898, the citizens of the District of Columbia began to plan for the celebration, two years later, of the one hundredth anniversary of the permanent seat of government in Washington. The project being national rather than local, was brought to the attention of the President, and by him was laid before Congress, with the result that a joint committee of the two Houses was appointed to act with the citizens committee in planning for the celebration. In December, 1900, commemorative exercises, held at the Executive Mansion and at the Capitol, were participated [in] by the Governors of the States as well as by the officials of the General Government and the representatives of foreign powers; and the celebration was brought to an appropriate end by a reception and banquet given by the Washington Board of Trade in honor of the committees and the distinguished guests.

The key-note of the celebration was the improvement of the District of Columbia in a manner and to an extent commensurate with the dignity and the resources of the American Nation. Senators, and Congressmen vied with Governor after Governor in commendation of the ideas breached by the joint committee, that the opportunities for making Washington the beautiful city its founders intended it to be should be realized without delay.

While the centennial exercises were in progress the Institute of American Architects, in session in this city, was discussing the subject of beautifying Washington; and in a series of papers making suggestions for the development of the parks and placing of public buildings, the tentative ideas of a number of the leading architects, sculptors and landscape architects of the country were put forward for discussion. As a result the Institute appointed a committee on legislation; and from consultations with the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia resulted the order of the Senate for the preparation and submission of a general plan for the development of the entire park system of the District.

On March 19, 1901, the subcommittee of the District Committee having the matter in charge met the representatives of the Institute of American Architects, and agreed to the proposition of the latter that Mr. Daniel H. Burnham, of Chicago, Illinois, and Mr. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., of Brookline, Massachusetts, be invited to act as experts in the preparation of park plans, with power to add to their number. These gentlemen accepted the task, and subsequently invited Mr. Charles F. McKim and Mr. Augustus St. Gaudens, of New York, to act with them.

The Committee considered itself most fortunate in securing the services of men who had won the very highest places in their several professions. As the director of works of the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago, Mr. Burnham had achieved a reputation for artistic taste, executive ability, and that comprehensive grasp of the details necessary to carry a great undertaking to its successful issue. The monumental works with which Mr. McKim's name is connected as architect made it certain that in the preparation of plans for the District of Columbia only those elements of beauty which the world has agreed upon would find place; that a reverent and intelligent appreciation of what was good in the work of the founders would have due weight; and that the development proposed would be at once harmonious with the past and equally pleasing to a refined taste. Mr. St. Gaudens' work as a sculptor is by universal consent second to that of no other American; and among architects and artists his critical abilities are held in the highest esteem. Mr. Olmste[a]d bears a name identified with what is best in modern landscape architecture in the District of Columbia; he is the consulting landscape architect not only of the vast system of parks and boulevards which make up the metropolitan park system of Boston and its suburbs, but also of large parks in various cities. To inherited taste, he adds the highest training both practical and theoretical; and he enjoys the distinction of being the sole instructor in landscape architecture in any American university.

The nature and scope of the work having been outlined to the Commission, they entered upon their task not without hesitation and misgivings. The problem was both difficult and complex. Much must be done; much, also, must be undone. Moreover, no sooner was the membership of the Commission announced than their aid and advice was sought in relation to buildings and memorials under consideration; so that immediately the range of the work broadened. Thus the importance and usefulness of the Commission was enhanced. Such a result was anticipated by your Committee; and the most encouraging part of the work has been the cordiality and even enthusiasm with which the various officials who came into relations with the Commission have taken up the work.

The Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department from the first has been in the heartiest accord with the general ideas and aims of the Commission as to the character of the buildings and their approaches; and at his request the Commission have aided him in his efforts to obtain suitable plans for the new building for the Agricultural Department. The Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Treasury have also done the general work a service by calling upon the Commission for assistance.

After a detailed examination of the topographical features of the District of Columbia, the Commission drew up preliminary plans. They were then forced to the conclusion that an adequate treatment of the park system depended upon the exclusion of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad from the Mall, so as to give an unrestricted passage from the Capitol to the Monument and the Executive Mansion. For years the removal of railroad tracks from the Mall has been the dream alike of citizen and legislator.

The occupation of the Mall by the railroad dates back about thirty years, at which time in their eagerness to secure competition in freight and passenger traffic the then local government of the District granted the lands, and subsequently Congress confirmed the grant. In extenuation of the original grant it may be urged that the space was then no better than a common pasture and that the railroad would but take the place of the canal which it paralleled, so that conditions would be bettered by the change, as undoubtedly proved to be the case. Be that as it may, the railroad held the property by a title good in law and in equity; and by virtue of a recent act of Congress the space to be occupied had been increased, in consideration for the surrender of street trackage and the proposed ele[v]ation of the tracks within the City of Washington.

It so happened that the chairman of the Commission, Mr. Burnham, was the architect of the Pennsylvania railroad's new station at Pittsburg[h], and after his selection as a member of the Commission the construction of the Washington station was offered to him. After consultation with the subcommittee, Mr. Burnham proposed to the President of the Pennsylvania railroad that the station be built on the south side of the Mall and lands adjoining. The architectural and other advantages of such a site were set forth with such vigor as to command serious consideration. There the matter rested for a time.

The Commission, in order to make a closer study of the practice of landscape architecture as applied to parks and public buildings, made a brief trip to Europe, visiting Rome, Venice, Vienna, Budapest, Paris, London, and their suburbs. Attention was directed principally to ascertaining what arrangement of park areas best adapts them to the uses of the people; and what are the elements that give pleasure from generation to generation and even from century to century. The many and striking results of this study will appear in the discussions that follow.

It was during the stay of the Commission in London, that President Cassat[t] announced to Mr. Burnham his willingness to consider the question, not of moving the Baltimore and Potomac station to the south side of the Mall, but of withdrawing altogether from that region and uniting with the Baltimore and Ohio Company in the erection of a union station on the site established by legislation for the new depot of that road; provided suitable legislation could be secured to make proper compensation for the increased expense such a change would involve; and, provided, also that the approaches to the new site be made worthy of the building proposed to be erected.

It should be said here that in considering the views of the Commission and in reaching his decision, the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad looked at the matter from the standpoint of an American citizen, saying in substance that he appreciated the fact that if Congress intended to make of the Mall what the founders of the city intended it to be, no railroad should be allowed to cross it; and that he would do all he could do consistent with the interests of the stockholders of his road to vacate that space.

This conditional consent on the part of the railroad removed the one great obstacle to the preparation of adequate plans for the improvement of the city. Lesser obstacles, such as the lack of surveys of the oldest parks in the District, and the difficulties of getting together the widely scattered data, have been surmounted. On the other hand, the work has been much lightened by the excellent topographical maps of the District outside of the city, prepared by the Coast and Geodetic Survey; and by the uniform courtesy of the Engineer Commissioner of the District and other officials who have willingly given all the assistance of their various offices.

On beginning work the Commission was confronted by the fact that while from the first of October till about the middle of May the climatic conditions of Washington are most salubrious, during the remaining four and a half months the city is subject to extended periods of intense heat, during which all public business is conducted at an undue expenditure of physical force. Every second year Congress is in session usually until about the middle of July; and not infrequently it happens that by reason of prolonged or special sessions during the hottest portion of the summer the city is filled with the already great and increasing numbers of persons whose business makes necessary a more or less prolonged stay in Washington. Of course nothing can be done to change weather conditions; but very much can be accomplished to mitigate the physical strain caused by summer heats. Singularly enough up to the present time the abundant facilities which nature affords for healthful and pleasant recreation during heated terms have been neglected; and in this respect Washington is far behind other cities whose climatic conditions demand much less, and whose opportunities also are less favorable.

In Rome throughout the centuries it has been the pride of emperor and pope to build fountains to promote health and to give pleasure. Mile after mile of aqueduct has been constructed to gather the water even from remote hills, and bring great living streams into every quarter of the city; so that from the moment of entering the Eternal City until the time of departure, the visitor is scarcely out of sight of beautiful jets of water now flung upward in great columns to add life and dignity even to St. Peter's; or again gushing in the form of cascades from some great work of architect or sculptor; or still again dripping refreshingly over the brim of a beautiful basin that was old when the Christian era began. The forum is ruins, basilicas and baths have been transformed into churches, palaces have been turned into museums; but the fountains of Rome are bo[th] omnipotent and eternal.

If all the fountains of Washington, instead of being left lifeless and inert as they are during most of the time, should be set playing at their full capacity, they would not use the amount of water that bursts from the world-famous fountain of Trev[i] or splashes on the stones of the pi[a]zza of St. Peter's. At the Chateau Vaux le Vico[m]te near Paris, the great landscape architect Le Nôtre built cascades, canals and fountains consuming five million gallons of water per day; and the fountains of Versailles are the wonder and delight of the French people.

The original plans of Washington show the high appreciation L'Enfant had for all forms of water decoration; and argument is scarcely needed to prove that the first and greatest step to be taken in the matter of beautifying the District of Columbia [is] such an increase in the water supply as will make possible the copious and even lavish use of water in fountains.

Scarcely secondary in importance to fountains are public baths. An instructive lesson in this respect is to be found in the experience of the Metropolitan Park Commission in taking over and equipping Revere Beach, immediately north of Boston. There the squalid conditions prevailing in former years have been changed radically; and a well-kept and well-ordered beach sufficient in extent to accommodate over 100,000 persons is publicly maintained; no fewer than 1700 separate rooms are provided for bathers and bathing suits are furnished at a small expense. The receipts are sufficient to pay for maintenance and yield a surplus of several thousand dollars for repairs and extensions.

In Washington the extensive use of the present bathing beach shows how welcome would be the construction of a modern building with ample facilities. Moreover the opportunities offered by an extended river front should be utilized in furnishing opportunities for free public baths, especially for the people of that section of the city between the Mall and the Potomac.

The creation of a water park on the upper stretches of the Anacostia is anticipated as calculated to furnish a much needed variety in the District park system. Those persons who have visited the Thames on the occasion of a London holiday will readily appreciate the enormous use which the people make of that narrow stream, the surface of which at times seems to be literally covered with the different kinds of light craft. In Belle Isle park in the city of Detroit, the creation of shallow lakes and connecting canals developed boating in summer and skating in winter to such an extent that often tens of thousands of people daily enjoy an island that for years was little else than a series of marshes. Given the opportunities for enjoyment the people are quick to seize upon them; and, once realized, it seems astonishing that chances for pleasure ha[ve]so long been neglected.

The creation of a water park, with driveways surrounding it, being the suggested treatment of the Anacostia above the head of navigation, the lower portion of the stream to its junction with the Potomac may well be treated as proposed by the Engineers, namely, by the construction of walls along the borders of the channel and filling in the flats. The present limited wharf frontage of Washington makes it certain that as the city increases in size, that portion of the Anacostia frontage from its mouth to the Navy Yard will be needed for business purposes. It is important, however, that a broad parkway connection be maintained along the river in order to connect the Anacostia park with the Potomac park; and for this work a line of stone quays, [o]verlooked by terraces, as on the Seine in Paris, may be used to excellent advantage.

The long island lying between the Washington channel and the main channel of the Potomac should be treated in such a manner as to afford shaded drives and walks along the water, with frequent boat landings so as to make the park accessible to the section of the city which it adjoins. The work of the Engineers has been of such a character that the island can be developed at comparatively small expense; and at the same time a portion of the city in great need of park space will be well accommodated.

The necessity of rebuilding the frontage on Washington channel which recently has come into the undisputed possession of the District of Columbia, makes it necessary to decide as to the character of the new wharves. The War Department has recently established the Engineers' College, [on] what is known as the Arsenal Grounds, and this property will be greatly improved within the near future. The rebuilding of the wharves should be in keeping with these prospective improvements; and fortunately the rental value of the frontage will be sufficient to provide for the ultimate payment of the cost of permanent work as well as the maintenance of the same.

The ebb and flow of the tide in the channel should not be impeded by slips that collect refuse; but should be accelerated by a continuous line of masonry quays, to correspond with the miles of masonry work already constructed by the engineers to form the river walls of the Potomac Park. Then as business demands larger space, the piling should be arranged so as to provide for clear tidal flow. Then the wide thoroughfare known as Water street may be treated as a driveway between the Potomac Park and the Anacostia Park.

The valley of Rock Creek forms the natural connection between the Potomac Park and the Zoological and Rock Creek Parks. The Commission give[s] alternative plans for traversing the short space necessary to get from the Potomac park into the valley of Rock Creek, and either of these plans may be taken, as shall seem most expedient at the time. There is no question in the minds of the Commission, or of this Committee, that the most convenient, the least expensive and the most satisfactory way of treating Rock Creek is to improve the banks, build roadways along them, and secure such control of the spaces along the top of the banks as will allow adequate policing.

A stream, even a small stream, running between picturesque banks, in the midst of a city like Washington, offers opportunities for park improvement that should not be ignored. The alternative of arching over the creek and filling in between the banks for the purpose of constructing a boulevard on a level with the streets is highly expensive, [and] is dangerous in case of the sudden melting of snows or of a cloud-burst in the upper valley. In 189_ Captain (now Colonel) Lusk U. S. Engineer Corps, reported strongly in favor of the open treatment, from an engineering point of view; and the aesthetic argument reinforces the engineering position.

A plan for the systematic development of the outlying parks is absolutely and immediately necessary. Such a plan is what all progressive American cities have already adopted; and in the matter of park development the District of Columbia [i]s behind the majority of the cities of the country. The improvement of the present park areas should begin at once, and be carried out with energy and thoroughness.

Such a task the District of Columbia shares with the cities of the United States. There is, however, a peculiar duty to be done in Washington, the capital city of the Nation.

When L'Enfant drew the plans of the city of Washington he anticipated a development of this country only less than has actually taken place; and he made provision accordingly. The ground that he laid off for a suitable setting for the Capitol and the Presidents House. In spite of many encroachments of many divisions of the territory, of mutually discordant developments of parts of the area in question, the treatment of the space known as the Mall, can now be undertaken in a manner such as even L'Enfant could never have conceived.

The plans of the Commission are both simple and rational. Starting with L'Enfant's original plan of treating the entire space as a unit, the Commission recommended certain minor departures from general plans, and also certain extensions of it.

The general outline of the Commissioners' plan is as follows: To establish a relation between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, by such a re-arrangement of the trees in the Mall as shall create a vista 300 feet in width; and to extend this axial treatment to the banks of the Potomac, there to have a suitable termination in a great arch. This arch shall be in itself a point of divergence for the drive to the Rock Creek valley on the west; to the Potomac Park on the east; and by the Memorial Bridge to Arlington on the south. The principle is the same as that in the Arc de Triumph in Paris, from which the Champs Élysées drive to the Bois de Boulogne, the [blank; streets?] radiate. This arch should form the Grant Memorial. In honor of the great General who led the armies of the Union to victory that meant the preservation of the Republic, and in memory of the brave soldiers who fought under him, what more appropriate site than one which holds vital relations on the one hand with the commander of the Revolutionary armies, and on the other hand with the last resting place of so many thousands of the brave men who gave their lives in battle for their country.

Plans for a Grant Memorial have been authorized by Congress and a competition for the selection of the artist to whom the commission shall be [e]ntrusted; so that if the site suggested shall be approved work on this portion of the plan might begin within a short time. Moreover the sentiment in favor of a memorial bridge to connect the Potomac Park with Arlington is so strong that the project must soon be carried out. The memorial bridge plans sent to Congress, with the approval of the War Department, call for a more elaborate and costly structure than will be necessary or advisable in case a Grant Memorial Arch is located as suggested. Indeed the dignified treatment of this problem is to be found in the construction of a masonry bridge, which shall derive its beauty from the harmony and proportion of its arches and the simplicity and solidity of its structure rather than from superimposed ornament.

The construction of a great bridge demands a suitable treatment of its approaches. The Grant Memorial at the Washington end, provides amply for the Washington approach. From this arch the bridge should point straight for the Mansion house at Arlington, a dignified and pleasing piece of architecture—and the high slopes on which the house stands should be treated with terraces by which the visitor would ascend easy grades from the Virginia end of the bridge to his destination at Arlington. In this way that great reservation would be brought into close relationship with the Potomac Park, so as to be but an extension of it. Moreover, the terraces are not only capable of a treatment intrinsically beautiful, but they will afford the most beautiful views imaginable of Washington and the Potomac. In this way a harmonious, thoughtful, systematic and continuous treatment can be given to a vast area.

The Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Grant Memorial thus form the main axis. The cross axis is now to be considered.

Approaching the White House from the north, the great thoroughfare of Sixteenth street extends in a straight line from the boundary of the District to Lafayette Square, the White House closing the vista. The south front of the White House looks out on the President's Gardens, then across the White Lots and the Monument Grounds to the Potomac and the Virginia hills. The Washington Monument is not on the axis of the White House, nor can it be brought into such relation by any possible treatment; but if the western slope of the hill on which the Monument stands shall be terraced and the space below shall be treated as a plaza, then this plaza will be on the White House axis. Then this axis, where it strikes the Potomac may be terminated by some large treatment that will engage, without obstructing, the view from the Executive Mansion. This latter situation may well be reserved for the memorial that will surely be built to Lincoln; and such treatment would give the great places to Washington, Lincoln and Grant as the three most illustrious men in the history of the Republic. Any treatment less comprehensive must seem inadequate and meager. A more comprehensive treatment has yet to be proposed.


The necessity for the erection of a municipal building for the District of Columbia is so well recognized, both in and out of Congress, that no argument on the subject is needed.

The District Government occupies a rented building, constructed for offices, and provided with accommodations for a comparatively few people during a given time. No citizen enters this building without feeling that it is inconvenient, unsafe, overcrowded and shabby. The new building should be large enough to give comfortable and sanitary work-rooms to the employe[e]s, and to provide the public with reasonable facilities for the transaction of business. In its architecture it should harmonize with the best of the Government buildings, having dignity and expressing the feeling of permanence.

The location deserves very careful consideration. That is [it] should be constructed on the south side of Pennsylvania avenue has been settled probably by universal consent, but the exact location has not been discussed widely. There are considerations which would seem to point to the space now occupied by the market as the most desirable site for the building which is to represent the Government of the District of Columbia as a distinct function of the National Government. Facing the junction of Pennsylvania and Louisiana Avenues, the municipal building would hold vital relations with the District Courts on Judiciary Square, and would occupy a position about midway between the Capitol and the White House. This point seems to be the center of the business life of the community and, therefore, perhaps, the most convenient portion of the city. Moreover, the ample public spaces on every side provide opportunity for an ample and attractive setting for the building. Furthermore, for many years the District has owned the land in front of the market with the view of placing a municipal building there. Nothing but the smallness of the site has stood in the way of agreement on this location.

The removal of the market to the squares west of its present location might be made with advantage to all the interests concerned. These squares are now occupied with a class of buildings that must be removed if the south side of the Avenue is to be reclaimed; and a readjustment of the space might provide for a larger and more modern market, so constructed that it would be an ornament to the Avenue, while at the same time the increasing public who frequent it, would be much better accommodated. Then too, a place should be provided for market wagons and the streets should be cleared of the present and unsightly conditions. All this could be accomplished with increased convenience to the market men themselves; and the public would be benefited in every way.


On visiting the Boston parks the sub-committee was impressed by the open air gymnasium provided for boys, and the play-garden for children on the Charles River embankment. The need of play grounds, especially prepared for the youth, is now recognized in almost all cities. In the beautiful Borghese Gardens in Rome, boys play ball on the grass, and on occasions the American game of baseball is played by the students from this country.

In Paris children build their houses, whip their tops and play games on the gravel or on the piles in the gardens of the Tuileries and Luxembourg. Everywhere in the crowded cities of Europe the parks and gardens are the play-grounds of all ages and classes of the people; and ornament, if not subordinated to utility, at least goes with it hand in hand.

In purchasing lands for new schoolhouses the appropriations should be sufficient to obtain considerable areas for playgrounds. The advantages of such action will be two-fold. First, areas for parks will thus be acquired at comparatively small expense, and as the District increases in population these breathing spaces will become invaluable. Again, in this way certain choice sites, already marked out for public occupation on the street extension plans, will be secured and put into immediate use. If the children were provided with play space, other than the streets, the present objection from property owners to the location of schoolhouses in their immediate neighborhood would be obviated.

Minute on the Life of Charles Moore

In the passing of Charles Moore at Gig Harbor in the State of Washington on September 25, 1942, the Commission of Fine Arts lost a devoted friend and inspired leader, and the Nation a scholar and leader in civic affairs. His years of public service covered a period of almost half a century. During practically all of these years Dr. Moore was concerned with the development of the Plan of Washington. Since his work had a nation-wide interest, he was known in all parts of the United States and his advice on artistic matters was sought by both state and city authorities. His influence as a patron of the arts was recognized at home and abroad.

Charles Moore was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on October 20, 1855, and at his death he was within a month of reaching the age of 87 years. He was the son of sturdy, patriotic Americans, who instilled into the boy a love of home and country and a devout faith in God.

At a very early age he experienced an incident which seemed to predestine his work in the interest of the National Capital, to which Dr. Moore devoted so many years. Once, when he was a child, a visitor from Virginia appeared at his home, took the boy on his knee, asked him how old he was and said, "When I was your age, I sat on George Washington's knee." Dr. Moore never forgot that episode and, as he grew older the experience filled him with the desire to see the City of Washington and subsequently to act in the interests of its orderly development.

Dr. Moore received his preparatory education at the Phillips Andover Academy at Andover, Massachusetts. He matriculated at Harvard University in 1874 and graduated in the class of 1878, winning honors in several fields of activity. He gained an appreciation of the arts from his teacher Charles Eliot Norton, who about that time introduced at Harvard the first course in the History of Art in the United States. That was during President Grant's administration, when the Centennial of the Establishment of the United States was celebrated in Philadelphia in 1876. It was a period when several museums were founded, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. During these years the National Capital witnessed its first great period of improvement after a lapse of 50 years, which led President Grant to state that there were more paved streets in Washington than in any other city of the United States. At this time Dr. Moore was a young man of about 22 years and on one of his visits to the east he saw the City of Washington for the first time.

Upon graduation from Harvard, Dr. Moore chose journalism as a vocation and entered the employ of the Detroit Evening Journal as a reporter. He became a skilful writer and a master in the use of English; his writings were enriched from the Bible, which was his constant companion.

About the year 1889 Dr. Moore was sent to Washington as correspondent of Detroit newspapers, where his experience in journalism was further enlarged. His success as a newspaper correspondent soon brought him into association with Senator James McMillan of Michigan, and he became his political secretary about 1890. Subsequently, by virtue of the fact that Senator McMillan was Chairman, Dr. Moore became Clerk of the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia.

Senator McMillan was concerned with several needed improvements for the National Capital demanded by the increase in the population of the city, which had grown from 61,000 in 1860 to nearly 200,000 in 1890. Among these improvements were: the establishment of the Filtration Plant, which became a part of McMillan Park; the consolidation of the nearly a dozen street car companies (horse-drawn until about 1890) to two; the reorganization of the charitable institutions of the District of Columbia; the elimination of the railroad grade crossings; and the extension of the highway system. As Clerk of the Senate District Committee, Dr. Moore prepared the reports on all these projects.

The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 gave Dr. Moore a view of a monumental group of buildings built in accordance with a comprehensive plan in which architects, sculptors, painters, and landscape architects collaborated. The so-called "White City" on the shores of Lake Michigan was the impetus which resulted in bringing about a revival in the Fine Arts in the United States. The Exposition stirred the whole world as the result of the development of a beautiful and impressive group of buildings so arranged as to create a sense of unity in the composition. The landscape effects, the architecture, sculpture, and mural paintings made a vital impression upon the public mind and caused the people to recognize new standards and new ideals of artistic achievements. Thus the Exposition began a new era in civic development.

The first city to benefit as a result of the aesthetic achievements of the 1893 World's Fair was the National Capital. The construction of the Library of Congress, completed in 1897, brought many artists to Washington. In 1900 a celebration commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the seat of government in the District of Columbia was held in the Capital. The celebration developed an impetus to improve the District of Columbia in a manner and to an extent commensurate with the dignity and resources of the United States, which at the close of the Spanish-American War had become a world power. The population of Washington at this time was 218,196. While the centennial exercises were in progress, the American Institute of Architects was in session in the City and the subject of the development of parks and the placing of public buildings was the important subject of discussion. The tentative ideas of a number of the leading architects, sculptors, and landscape architects were heard. The Institute appointed a committee on legislation which met with the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia and subsequently, in March 8, 1901, the United States Senate authorized the establishment of the Senate Park Commission; Messrs. Daniel H. Burnham and Charles Follen McKim, architects, Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, sculptor, were appointed members of the Commission. Charles Moore served as secretary.

The plans and written report prepared by the Senate Park Commission, edited by Dr. Moore, which were submitted to the United States Senate, constituted the first and most notable proposal pertaining to city development in the United States advanced up to this time. It marked an important epoch in the development of the National Capital and brought about the revival of the L'Enfant Plan of 1791 for the Federal City, a Plan adopted by President Washington and Secretary of State Jefferson that had been neglected for three-quarters of a century. Champions of this new Plan of Washington were opposed by certain vested interests, but it nevertheless had many friends, among them President Theodore Roosevelt and the Honorable Elihu Root. As a result of the Commission's recommendations the railroad tracks were removed from the Mall, thereby making it possible to restore the central axis of the L'Enfant Plan. The Union Station was built from the designs of Daniel H. Burnham, and the White House was restored by Charles F. McKim to be in keeping with the dignity of the Chief Executive of the Nation. In all this work Dr. Moore took an active part.

Thereafter a series of difficulties arose; the McMillan Commission, having submitted its report, went out of existence, and the Plan was left with no one to guide in executing it. Senator McMillan died in 1902 and Dr. Moore returned to Detroit to become Secretary of the Security Trust Company.

In 1909 President Theodore Roosevelt, by Executive Order, appointed a Council of the Fine Arts consisting of 30 artists, but Congress denied the Council their traveling expenses. There upon, on March 21, 1909, President Taft abolished the Council and Congress on May 17, 1910, established the Commission of Fine Arts "to consist of seven qualified judges of the Fine Arts." Dr. Moore became one of the original members of this new Commission. It was a fitting recognition not only of his past services, but also of his pre-eminent qualifications to pass upon matters relating to the beautification of the National Capital. The Commission of Fine Arts held its first meeting on July 8, 1910, and elected Daniel H. Burnham, architect, Chairman. Other members of the original Commission of Fine Arts, in addition to Dr. Moore, were Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., landscape architect, Cass Gilbert and Thomas Hastings, architects, Daniel Chester French, sculptor, and Francis D. Millet, painter.

The first project to come before the Commission was the design and location of the Lincoln Memorial, and in this the Commission reaffirmed the site in Potomac Park on the banks of the Potomac, in connection with a Memorial Bridge and a Water Gate, suggested by the Senate Park Commission.

After Mr. Burnham's death in 1912, Mr. French was elected Chairman and served until 1915. Dr. Moore was thereupon elected Chairman and served as such during the succeeding 22 years. During those years Dr. Moore was the guiding spirit of the Commission, and although he relied on the artist members for decisions on aesthetic or technical matters, they depended upon him to carry out their ideas and placed the utmost respect in his judgment. Dr. Moore was influential with the members of Congress, Cabinet Officers, and other leading officials of the Government. He was conciliatory, firm when occasions required, but nevertheless willing to compromise "in everything but the essence". The projects that came before the Commission of Fine Arts during Dr. Moore's 27 years' service as member and Chairman numbered into the thousands, and the story of the beautification of Washington has the name of Charles Moore linked with each one of its important projects. In fact from 1901 to 1937 Dr. Moore witnessed the transformation of Washington from a small, run-down community to the most beautiful capital city in the world.

A most important part in the work of transforming Washington culminated in the Public Buildings Program of 1926 adopted during the administration of President Coolidge. The President took up the problem with Dr. Moore in its earliest stages, and he in turn with the members of the Commission of Fine Arts. The outstanding result of the Public Buildings Program was the purchase by Congress of the entire 70 acres south of Pennsylvania Avenue between the Treasury Department and the United States Capitol and the resultant development of the area known as the "Triangle". Other important projects were the completion of Union Station Plaza, the enlargement of the Capitol Grounds with provision for an additional House of Representatives Office Building, the United States Supreme Court Building, the Arlington Memorial Bridge and Water Gate, the completion of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the restoration of the Arlington Mansion.

The World War of 1917-1918 brought Dr. Moore from Detroit to Washington as a permanent resident. In addition to his duties as Chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, he became Consultant to the Librarian of Congress and Acting Chief of the Division of Manuscripts. He occupied the last named position for nine years, 1918-1927, during which period he succeeded in securing many valuable documents for the Library of Congress, in particular the letters and other papers of presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

Amidst his daily duties, Dr. Moore found time to write a number of books. In 1900 he published The Northwest Under Three Flags; in 1915 a History of Michigan; in 1921 A Life of Daniel H. Burnham, Architect and Planner of Cities (two volumes); in 1926 The Family Life of George Washington; in 1929 Life and Letters of Charles Follen McKim, and Washington Past and Present; in 1932 Wakefield, Birthplace of George Washington. Dr. Moore was editor of The Plan of Chicago prepared by Daniel H. Burnham and E. H. Bennett, 1909. He prepared editions of George Washington's Rules of Civility and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural as well as the Report of the Senate Park Commission of 1901, heretofore mentioned, and a Report on the Restoration of the White House in 1902. Dr. Moore fully realized the value of recording subjects of importance, and his numerous reports and articles pertaining to Washington, written during a period of more than 30 years, remain as valuable records.

At the approach of the Bicentennial of the Birthday of George Washington, Dr. Moore became actively interested in the restoration of the birthplace of the first President. He was elected an officer of the Wakefield National Memorial Association, which completed the restoration of the birthplace in time for the celebration in 1932. As a part of the celebration, Congress authorized the construction of the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, extending from the City of Washington via the Arlington Memorial Bridge, to the home of the first President at Mount Vernon. Both parkway and bridge were completed in 1932. Dr. Moore participated in the Bicentennial by serving as an Advisor in the publication of the Writings of George Washington, authorized by Congress, a work comprising 37 volumes.

Because of his advancing years, Dr. Moore began to feel that his service in behalf of the City of Washington was complete and he therefore retired as member of the Commission of Fine Arts on September 29, 1937. He was succeeded in the chairmanship by Mr. Gilmore D. Clarke, who had been appointed a member of the Commission soon after completing his service as Consulting Landscape Architect for the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway and later, after having been reappointed by President Roosevelt, had been elected Vice-Chairman of the Commission.

Dr. Moore was the recipient of numerous honors in this country and abroad. He accompanied the members of the Senate Park Commission of 1901 on their trip to Europe to visit the leading capital cities. In 1918 he was appointed a delegate to visit British universities on a World War mission arranged by London University. In 1923 the Secretary of War appointed him a member of the Commission to plan for the American War Cemeteries in Europe. He served as Overseer of Harvard University from 1924 to 1930. He was a life member of the American Historical Association and its Treasurer from 1917-1930; he was Vice-President of the Wakefield National Memorial Association; member of the American Institute of Arts and Letters, the Academy of Arts and Letters of Cuba, the National Sculpture Society, the American Planning and Civic Association, and Phi Beta Kappa; he was an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the New York Architectural League, and the Institut Français de Washington. Dr. Moore was an Incorporator and a Life Member of the American Academy in Rome. He was President of the Detroit City Planning Commission, 1912-1919. In 1924 he was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor of the American branch, Société des Architectes Diplômes par le Gouvernement Français. France honored him with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1924; in 1928 he received the Friedsam Fellowship gold medal award; in 1927 he received the New York Architectural League Medal of Honor, and in 1937 the Carnegie Corporation award for services to the Arts in America. In 1890 George Washington University conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and in 1923 the degree of Doctor of Laws. Miami University bestowed upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws in 1930, and Harvard University, his Alma Mater, honored him with the degree of Doctor of Arts in 1937.

Dr. Moore had a most genial disposition; he was fond of good stories and enjoyed telling them. Thus his Washington Past and Present is less a chronological history of the city than it is, to quote Dr. Moore, "an endeavor to interpret those new plans in the light of the past....", and he did this entertainingly by telling stories of his experiences during the years that he was occupied with the development of the National Capital, during which time the plans were carried out only after many struggles and discouragements but, through his constant perseverance, with success. In recent years his fellow members on the Commission of Fine Arts have given testimony to the fact that Washington would not be as beautiful as it is today had it not been for Dr. Moore's untiring zeal and steadfast devotion to the Plan of Washington, accompanied by much self-sacrifice, for his work on the Commission was without compensation.

The members and former members of the Commission of Fine Arts honored Dr. Moore in 1935 on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Commission by presenting him with a special Gold Medal designed by Mr. Lee Lawrie, then the sculptor member of the Commission. Mr. Eugene Savage, painter member of the Commission, executed a portrait of Dr. Moore for this occasion.

After Senator McMillan's death in 1902, Dr. Moore established his home in Detroit, where his wife died in 1914. During that period he became intimately acquainted with Mr. Charles L. Freer, managing director of the Michigan Car Company, the parent organization of the American Car and Foundry Company, of which Senator McMillan was Chairman of the Board of Directors. Mr. Freer acquired a notable collection of Oriental Art numbering 8,000 objects, and Dr. Moore was helpful in persuading him to donate this collection to the Smithsonian Institution and to house it in Washington, an ideal accomplished in the Freer Gallery of Art, which was opened to the public in 1923. Mr. Freer stipulated in his will that objects of art acquired in the future for the Freer Gallery of Art must have the approval of the Commission of Fine Arts, and the Commission has continuously served in the manner outlined.

On February 18, 1937, the Washington Society of Fine Arts gave a dinner in honor of Dr. Moore, at which he summarized his experiences in the National Capital in one brief paragraph, saying:

"A cloud of witnesses encompass me tonight as the past rises before me. Dimly through the mists of time I see their faces—nine Presidents, Cabinet Officers, Senators, Representatives, officials, specialists, high-minded citizens, and a long procession of artists. Various were their contributions. Combined they are a part of the great tradition, coming from the past, flowing into the future—destined to prepare a Capital worthy of the American Nation, the city of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,"

During the last five years of his life Dr. Moore lived with his son MacAllaster Moore at Moorlands, Gig Harbor, in the State of Washington. He spent these years writing his reminiscences; he had begun a history of the District of Columbia. On Friday morning, September 25th, Dr. Moore was taken ill and, ere his son had time to call a physician, he had departed. Another son, Colonel James M. Moore, U.S. Army, also survives. A brief funeral service was held at Bremerton, Washington, and among the many friends who sent floral tributes were the President and Mrs. Roosevelt, and the members and former members of the Commission of Fine Arts.

Dr. Moore will always be remembered and revered for his illustrious service rendered on behalf of the Capital of this Nation.

grey divider line

Last Modified: March 20, 2009