By David M. Childs, FAIA, Chairman (2003-2005)
Commission of Fine Arts

OVER the past forty years, the Commission of Fine Arts has written and published a series of scholarly volumes on the architecture and history of significant places of interest in Washington, most notably a four-volume set devoted to Massachusetts Avenue and Sixteenth Street. With this current volume, the Commission has chosen to explore its own origins with a look into the events and people leading up to the creation of the Senate Park (McMillan) Commission in 1901 and the resulting plan for the redevelopment of the city.

The publication is especially timely from several perspectives. We are commemorating the recent centennial of the Park Commission Plan as well as bringing to light aspects of and insights into the plan not generally or clearly understood by the public. The plan was and still is a work in progress. Its creation was a lofty endeavor born of the spirit of the times in a political and social climate that seemed to frown on any enterprise that required the spending of public funds or called for a change in the accepted appearance of the Capital. The participants faced formidable obstacles not unlike those that reverberate today whenever a change to the familiar is contemplated.

My colleagues on the Commission and I are pleased to present these essays to the people of Washington and all who find the creation of cities a subject of fascination. No one enjoyed the subject more or contributed more to it than the late J. Carter Brown, our Chairman for over thirty years, and it is to his memory that we dedicate this volume.

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Last Modified: March 20, 2009