The Senate Park Commission Plan for Washington, D.C.:

By Jon A. Peterson [1]

THE 1901 to 1902 Senate Park Commission plan for Washington, D.C., ranks among the most significant urban plans in American history. Its novel blending and adroit elaboration of city-making ideas then current in the United States made it a benchmark for modern urbanism and triggered a national city-planning movement. The consummate artistry and professionalism of its designers, together with their boldness of vision and willingness to address local needs, established its potential benefit to the national capital. Ultimately, the plan-makers' deep and enduring commitment to implementation, fortified by the tactical shrewdness of their backers—and their plain good luck—in negotiating Washington politics, against a backdrop of mounting public support, brought success: a capital city recast as a symbol of national authority and of the nation's emergence as a world power. All of these considerations, taken together, establish the importance of the Senate Park Commission plan, often called the McMillan Plan after its sponsor, James McMillan of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia from 1890 until his death in 1902 (frontispiece). [2]

Senator James McMillan of Michigan (1838-1902). Commission of Fine Arts

A design of such note might be presumed to reflect a strong, well-established urban planning tradition in the United States. But this was not the case. Since the mid-eighteenth century, most American towns and cities had been laid out on grids by a society more eager to promote land sales than civic order. And big-city growth, once it had begun on a sustained basis from the mid-nineteenth century onward, had occurred in boom-and-bust surges subject to little or no public regulation. Everywhere in the United States, market forces had set the terms of growth, in land subdivision at the city's fringe and in building up the city proper: its stores, shops, offices, factories, and private residences. In transportation, the powerful railroad corporations that had tied the nation's towns and cities into vast networks by the 1880s, and the city transit firms that had laced urban America with trolley lines in the 1890s had dictated the routes and hence the directions of city growth.

During the Gilded Age, large-scale, systematic public planning for existing cities had focused on water supply, sewerage systems, and public parks. Because these services, though urgent, had offered scant opportunity for profit, they usually had been addressed by public authorities as specialized interventions. As to generalized planning for all aspects of the built city, or what is now called comprehensive city planning, it was all but unknown in the United States of 1900.


To all of this, one city stood out as a partial exception. Alone among major urban centers in the United States, Washington rested on a grandly conceived foundation. In 1791 Pierre Charles L'Enfant, in the employ of President George Washington, had conceived the capital as the seat of a "vast empire," designing it as an enormous grid of streets crisscrossed by wide diagonal avenues. The many points of crossing and convergence had, with artful forethought as to placement, yielded over two dozen public squares and spaces and, together with the avenues, had made the city a symbol of nationhood. By 1900 the capital had filled out its frame, but the Victorian city that had emerged differed fundamentally from L'Enfant's and Washington's vision.

When the Mall as the physical and symbolic heart of L'Enfant's plan began to be developed in the 1840s, the neoclassical design principles of harmony and regularity that had guided him had given way to ones predicated on irregularity and intricacy derived from medieval art. L'Enfant had envisioned the Mall as a partially sunken, axial corridor lined by museums and theaters and extending about a mile due west from Capitol Hill. This major axis would have formed the stem of a vast, L-shaped public space, its crossing arm running due south from the President's House. L'Enfant had marked this juncture point with an equestrian statue of George Washington (pl. I). Yet in 1848, Robert Mills' obelisk monument was placed well away from that point, in the middle of the central vista between James Renwick's Smithsonian Institution, begun on the south side of the Mall in 1847, and a canal, which occupied a wide swath along the Mall's north side. Although the Mall still looked like "a marshy and desolate waste," these structures, in concert with the Botanic Garden at the foot of Capitol Hill, would soon define the western "vista" when viewed from the Capitol terrace. Picturesque landscaping for the Mall was considered as early as 1841 and began to be carried out in 1851, to the plans of America's most prominent landscape gardener, Andrew Jackson Downing, filling L'Enfant's corridor with dense tree plantings of many species. The monument itself, built to a height of 170 feet by 1855, remained an unfinished shaft for the next quarter of a century, as if representing the city itself. [3]

By 1900 the Mall had become a chain of individual public parks, each associated with a different Victorian building, most of them built of red brick. The passenger shed of the Victorian gothic terminal of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad, built in 1873 to 1878, extended nearly halfway across the Mall at Sixth Street; the canal had been filled during the 1870s. [4] (See Helfrich fig. 3 and Wrenn fig. 6) Beyond the tracks, from Seventh to Twelfth streets, lay the picturesque grounds of the Smithsonian Institution, where a multitude of footpaths meandered through a forest of trees (fig. 1). From Twelfth to Fourteenth streets, the Agriculture Department maintained an open and formal parterre in the center of the Mall, but extensive greenhouses and sheds to the west of its building struck resi dents and visitors alike as an eyesore. (See Dalrymple fig. 4) Terminating the chain, scattered clumps of trees dotted the meadow around the Washington Monument, completed in 1884.

Fig. 1 Victorian Washington, ca. 1900. Foreground: The Mall, with its curving paths and random planting of trees, in the vicinity of the Smithsonian Institution building. Middle ground, far left: Center Market, which stood between 7th and 9th streets, facing North B Street (Constitution Avenue). Middle ground, near right: The B & P Railroad terminal, marked by a Victorian-style tower, now the site of the National Gallery of Art. Commission of Fine Arts

By 1900, to the west and southwest of the Monument lay "Potomac Park," a 739-acre swath of newly made public ground that, as landfill, covered the old tidal flats of the Potomac River. This project, begun in 1882 by the Army Corps of Engineers, included a long spit of land stretching southeastward along the eastern bank of the Potomac, later named East Potomac Park. [5] What was to be done with this new land and its connections, if any, to the Mall park chain had not been decided (pl. XVI).

Washington itself by 1900 had become a city of considerable stature. From a population of 75,000 in 1860, it had grown to 278,000. Beginning in 1871 the city center and its built-up neighborhoods acquired their first modern infrastructure, including gas and electric lines, water and sewer service, and street paving. These improvements, initiated during the city's brief territorial government (1871-74), had continued under a board of commissioners directly answerable to Congress.

Inevitably, the various House and Senate committees on the District of Columbia that oversaw the city's day-to-day affairs, along with other committees that designated sites for new federal and city buildings or privately sponsored monuments, exerted a fragmented and unpredictable control over Washington's development. For example, beginning in 1892 to 1893, Congress, after years of splitting costs with local taxpayers, suddenly refused to finance the extension of streets and squares into the "county" lands lying between the city's original boundary and the District of Columbia line. Nonetheless, Washington by the 1890s was increasingly perceived as a source of national pride, especially for its government buildings, many of which contained small museums or spaces commemorating American achievements, none more lavishly than the new Library of Congress.

Against this backdrop, the Senate Park Commission plan when displayed at the Corcoran Gallery for nearly six weeks beginning in mid-January 1902, drew rapt attention. On view, first and foremost, was a spectacular design for the city's core, featuring the Mall as a two-and-one-half-mile-long corridor, beginning at the foot of Capitol Hill and extending westward to reach what is now the Lincoln Memorial. Gone was the miscellany of verdant parks and grounds; gone was the railroad station; and gone also were all the brick and brownstone Victorian buildings along the Mall's southern edge, including the Smithsonian Institution. In their place, a unified green space controlled the scene, accented by parterre gardens, water basins, and monuments and flanked by rows of trees in front of new, white, neoclassical buildings—with everything located in concert rather than by happenstance (pl. VIII). [6]

What the Senate Park Commission plan contemplated was a unified ceremonial core, scaled to early twentieth-century urbanism and reflective of a cosmopolitan vision of national culture. Besides the renewed Mall, the core scheme also included formal groups of public buildings around Capitol Square, around Lafayette Square just north of the White House, and between the Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue (an area now known as the Federal Triangle). The newly made Potomac Park contained two monuments, one to terminate the Capitol axis, the other the White House axis. Also integral to the core were a new union railroad station and a memorial bridge across the Potomac River. [7]

A second phase of the plan called for a vast, new park system joining together the outer reaches of the city (pl. IV). From the Mall core, a shore drive ran along the Potomac River leading to a parkway through the valley of Rock Creek that connected to both a multilane boulevard and a beltway across the northern reaches of the city. These roads provided access to several federal sites, including Civil War forts and the grounds of the U.S. Soldiers Home. Further on, additional park and road connections led to the Anacostia River, and to an array of Civil War forts in the southeastern portion of the district, yielding a park chain that encircled most of the city. This phase of the plan also called for the inauguration of a playground system; the transformation of the malarial Anacostia flats into an immense water park; the more "sober treatment" and better regulation of Arlington cemetery; the preservation of the Potomac River palisades and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal; the establishment of the Great Falls of the Potomac as a national park, of a quay for the Georgetown waterfront, and of a memorial drive to Mount Vernon. [8]

The great puzzle of the Senate Park Commission plan is why a scheme of such remarkable sweep and boldness ever appeared. It followed no European model, despite specific borrowings from European civic and garden design. No American city had ever contemplated anything like it. It was, in fact, sui generis: a new and comprehensive vision for the capital and the nation. As such, it reflected an extraordinary convergence of events whose interactions could hardly have been forecast even twelve months earlier. And because it was so idealistically framed and swiftly formulated at a time of fiscal stringency, its prospect for survival and influence was anything but certain. Yet it had appeared in the one city whose planning had always been an American exception.

The story, in outline, unfolded as follows. After several prominent Washingtonians, most of them members of the Board of Trade, had organized a lavish, patriotic celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the federal government's move to Washington in 1800, their initiative became entangled with city-development issues sparked by a power struggle between Senator McMillan and the entrenched U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The latter had held executive authority over public buildings and grounds, including the Mall, since 1867. The root question was how to eliminate dangerous railroad grade crossings throughout the city. The controversies that ensued placed the entire urban fabric at issue, most especially the civic core, establishing quite by accident the citywide and multipurpose character of the struggle and hence of the Senate Park Commission plan as its ultimate outcome.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), well into these controversies, seized hold of the 12 December 1900 centennial event to showcase their profession's most advanced ideas about civic art. Interested in much more than theory, they immediately allied themselves with Senator McMillan and the Board of Trade against the engineers to attain their goals in an unprecedented way: by means of a park system plan for the entire city. Once the Senate Park Commission was named, Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham played a catalytic role by disregarding McMillan's initial instructions to produce a "preliminary" scheme, pushing instead for an ideal solution. Burnham's leadership, in turn, engendered a deep commitment among all the plan-makers, including McMillan and his political aide, Charles Moore, to the plan itself. Consequently, its creators became its chief advocates in the struggles that followed its release. Finally, the architectural profession through the AIA and a host of civic arts-advocacy groups brought together by the burgeoning City Beautiful Movement established a national constituency for the plan outside of Washington that proved crucial to its survival.


By any telling, the story begins with the effort to celebrate the centennial. The initiators were leaders of the Board of Trade, the most powerful civic promotional body in the capital. After organizing in October 1898, they approached President William McKinley in mid-November, suggesting several ideas: a memorial hall, a majestic bridge across the Potomac River, or some other durable work that would "inspire patriotism and a broader love of country." [9] These conventional, if costly, ideas typified the rituals and piecemeal methods of city-making then commonplace in the United States.

When neither the House nor the Senate authorized a specific project, the Board of Trade called a meeting of local, congressional, and national centennial committees for 21 February 1900. This was to be a glittering occasion, staged as much to honor the state governors who comprised the national committee as to make major decisions. It would culminate in a lavish banquet that would feature the surprise illumination of a huge "American flag of electric lights," emblematic of the unabashed patriotism of the era. Prior to the event, the local sponsors had agreed among themselves to push the Potomac River bridge as their most popular goal. The centennial, they hoped, would climax with the laying of its cornerstone. But to everyone's surprise, the assemblage substituted entirely new objectives. [10]

This turnabout was the work of Senator McMillan, a millionaire and, by reputation, "one of the five senators who 'practically run the United States.'" [11] McMillan was appointed to the Senate Centennial Committee on 16 February 1900, and five days later became chairman and spokesman of an ad hoc group to evaluate centennial projects. Instead of promoting the bridge, the favorite project of local leaders, McMillan called for the enlargement of the White House, an idea of long standing in Washington, and proposed the building of a three-mile-long Centennial Avenue to begin at the foot of Capitol Hill and to run obliquely through the Mall to the Potomac River (fig. 2). The latter idea, said the next day's Evening Star, was "a new scheme, unverified by official surveys, virtually unheralded and unknown." [12]

Fig. 2 The avenue plan, called Centennial Avenue by its promotors, designed by architect Henry Ives Cobb, 15 February 1900. The Inland Architect and News Record, 35 (Mar. 1900). Photo courtesy The Fine Arts Library, Harvard College Library.


McMillan's sponsorship of the avenue plan signaled a critical turning point in the centennial discussions. On the surface, he had raised a genuine, if far-fetched, civic art issue being debated chiefly among Washington architects: whether the original design of the Mall should be reinstated. When McMillan publicly announced the avenue plan, he upheld it as a fulfillment of L'Enfant's dream and as an opportunity to group public buildings, a civic art issue also current among architects. [13] But he was not being candid. The avenue plan had much less to do with L'Enfant and civic art than with two major pieces of railroad legislation that he had recently introduced in the Senate in December to January, 1899 to 1900. Both bills represented complex bargains hammered out during the previous three years with the two railroads that entered the capital, the Baltimore and Potomac (B & P), which was owned by the powerful Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B & O), which operated a terminal at New Jersey Avenue and C Street, NW. [14]

The laws committed the railroads to eliminate grade crossings by removing tracks from the city streets. This hazard, common to most American cities, had killed annually as many as three people and had yielded "a steady stream of serious accidents, one occurring roughly every three weeks." [15] The laws, in turn, authorized each railroad to build new passenger terminals. The old, crowded B & P depot on the Mall would be replaced by an enormous, up-to-date facility in the same location but on a much expanded, fourteen-acre site between Sixth and Seventh streets. The existing tracks across the Mall would be ripped up and rebuilt nearby on a massive, elevated structure to be thrown across the Mall. [16]

Never before had anything so fundamentally destructive to the Mall—or to L'Enfant's vision of it—been contemplated. Yet as sponsor of the legislation, McMillan had wedded himself to the scheme for as long as the Pennsylvania Railroad refused to budge from its coveted position. Viewed in this light, the proposed avenue represented a grand approach street to the new terminal. Its curiously oblique alignment would offer travelers a direct route eastward toward Capitol Hill and westward toward the White House, making the new terminal "so . . . easy of access as if it were the very pivotal point to all else" in the city. [17] Why McMillan introduced the idea is a significant puzzle. Even the Pennsylvania Railroad opposed it. [18]


The Army Corps of Engineers within the War Department became McMillan's first and most determined antagonists. Routinely, Army engineers assigned to duty anywhere in the country reviewed federal public works and reported their findings to the president, who submitted them to Congress. As early as 29 January 1900, the Corps in Washington responded to an official request by McMillan for their technical judgment of his railroad bills. [19] They more than replied: they exploded. Colonel Theodore A. Bingham, the outspoken superintendent of the Office of Buildings and Grounds (since 1867 under the War Department), denounced the proposed terminal as a desecration of the Mall, a travesty of L'Enfant's "noble plan," and an "unpatriotic" rebuke to the memory of George Washington. [20] McMillan's diagonal avenue plan further outraged the engineers. [21] On 5 March 1900, less than two weeks after McMillan unveiled his scheme, Bingham submitted an alternative Mall plan to President McKinley. In it, he banned the proposed terminal to a position south of the Mall, called for a mid-Mall boulevard between Capitol Hill and the Washington Monument, and suggested that any new public buildings be erected along Pennsylvania Avenue. [22]

Meanwhile, the avenue plan had alarmed other Washingtonians, especially businessmen who had long favored upgrading the triangle of land between the Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue. "Given up almost wholly to slumdom," with prostitution along Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets, this area disgraced respectable Washington. [23] By 1900 downtown interests clearly wanted the area upgraded by erecting new government buildings—an incremental slum-removal program. [24] But McMillan's proposed avenue and the building sites he favored along it lay far enough to the south to undercut that hope while stirring fears that Pennsylvania Avenue might become a "back street." [25] Thus, the fate of the Triangle slum and of Pennsylvania Avenue also became entangled in the battle and, ultimately, in the Senate Park Commission plan.

Finally, the avenue plan impinged upon a park system initiated by the Washington Board of Trade in 1899. Following the lead of many American cities in the 1890s, the board had contemplated a great chain of parks and parkways as proof of civic stature. Washington, they claimed, already possessed magnificent resources: the newly made 739-acre Potomac Park; the National Zoological Park in the southern end of Rock Creek valley; the immense Rock Creek Park, just north of the zoo; the parklike grounds of the U.S. Soldiers Home; and various Civil War hilltop fortifications. But except for the zoo, none of these parcels had been developed yet for regular public use, let alone linked by parkways. [26]

Well before McMillan had proposed his avenue plan, the Senate's District of Columbia Committee had aired these ideas and had even readied legislation authorizing a park commission to devise a scheme. [27] But McMillan's proposed avenue raised awkward questions about how such a "grand thoroughfare" could serve public needs and railroad interests simultaneously. Also under scrutiny was the free grant of Mall land to the Pennsylvania Railroad by the proposed grade crossing legislation. [28] These unresolved and conflicting goals resulted in a broad battle over the future development of the nation's capital. Senators, congressmen, army engineers, centennial promoters, downtown businessmen, Civil War veterans, the Washington press, and numerous civic leaders had joined the fray, all disputing basic questions of civic art, park system design, and even slum removal, as if these were interrelated considerations.


To reconcile these divergent viewpoints, McMillan, on 14 May 1900, introduced in the Senate a resolution asking the president to appoint a panel of art professionals. An architect, a landscape architect, and a sculptor would work with Army engineers to devise a plan for the entire Mall-Triangle area and also to devise a "suitable connection" between Potomac Park and the zoo. [29] The same experts would design the enlargement of the White House. In effect, McMillan sought to reinstate the architects' and artists' traditional right to oversee construction of their own works. The Army engineers had usurped this role in 1867 when Congress had relegated architects to the task of providing only the first drafts of public buildings while asking engineers to both provide technical expertise and wield executive authority over construction, including any design changes they deemed necessary.

In the House version of the bill, the Army engineers, not a panel of art professionals, would carry out the work. On 6 June a House-Senate conference resolved the impasse, with the engineers maintaining the executive role they had played for the past three decades. The chief of engineers then assigned Bingham to the tasks of redesigning the White House—as the president's aide-de-camp, he had worked out of that building since 1897—and of hiring a landscape architect to plan the Mall Triangle area and the parkway link to the zoo.

In October the Ladies Home Journal published Bingham's massive, if truncated, version of Frederick Dale Owen's 1890 plan for White House enlargement. [30] On 5 December the War Department issued a Mall design by Samuel Parsons Jr., the New York landscape architect chosen by Bingham (fig. 3). The Parsons plan, though idiosyncratic, fulfilled one purpose of the engineers by relegating the railroad terminal to the south of the Mall. "A lightning express," Parsons remarked, "is quite incompatible with a green garden and singing birds." [31]

Fig. 3 Mall plan by Samuel Parsons, Jr., 1900. Collection: Pamela Scott (click on image for a PDF version)


The American Institute of Architects assembled in Washington for its annual convention on Centennial Day, 12 December 1900, having rescheduled its meetings to address the issues provoked by the Centennial Avenue scheme. Above all, the AIA wanted Congress to entrust the shaping of the capital core to the nation's premier architects and artists, the same aesthetic elite that had crystallized civic art aspirations in America at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, or World's Columbian Exposition as it was formally called.

Glenn Brown, the secretary of the AIA who masterminded this strategy, was well prepared professionally and politically. [32] About ten years earlier, while making an exhaustive study of the U.S. Capitol, Brown had recognized L'Enfant's Mall as the true vista to and from the Capitol. As early as 1894 he had launched a personal crusade to arouse his profession to reclaim the Mall in accord with L'Enfant's intentions. Even then, he had opposed the Army Corps of Engineers for the job, reflecting an enmity toward engineers endemic to his profession and notably virulent among AIA members. That body, Brown remarked acidly in 1894, had "never been accused of being artistic." [33] In 1887 Brown had also organized the Washington AIA chapter and in 1895 to 1897, with other chapter members, had established the Public Art League, the first organization to advocate the creation of a national fine arts commission. [34]

As national secretary of the AIA, Brown served an organization already steeped in pressure-group tactics learned from its long struggle to enact and then enforce the Tarsney Act of 1893, a law that stipulated open competitions for federal buildings. [35] Alarmed by the ill-fated Centennial Avenue, he quickly persuaded the AIA to stage its annual meeting as a protest against haphazard city building in the nation's capital. [36] Brown made the "Grouping of Government Buildings, Landscape, and Statuary" the meeting's organizing theme, evoking the growing enthusiasm of his profession for ensembles of buildings utilizing classical architecture with baroque spatial effects, especially when achieved by collaborating architects, sculptors, painters, and fine craftsmen. [37] Many American architects, most especially the AIA elite, had absorbed this Renaissance ideal from studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. [38] In all, Beaux-Arts classicism in the United States, sometimes called the American Renaissance, conveyed a host of ideas then emergent in national culture: public order, progress; civilization, refined taste; civic pride; and national wealth and power.

From March to November 1900 Brown recruited speakers for the AIA convention and orchestrated their assault, alerting them to Bingham's article in the Ladies Home Journal and even cautioning sculptor H. K. Bush-Brown against proposing any commission "dominated in any way by the army engineers." [39] When the architects assembled, they scorned Bingham's White House scheme and on 13 December staged an evening session on the design of the capital city that was reported in local papers. [40] Every AIA speaker sought a formal, monumental, aesthetically unified composition of buildings, statuary, and public grounds, all done in a grand manner and all rendered consistent with the L'Enfant plan as they understood it. "The city of to-day has grown too large to be picturesque," C. Howard Walker proclaimed. [41] No speaker that evening discussed the park system of the city or the suburban districts through which it would reach. [42]

Earlier that day, however, five representatives of the AIA had met with McMillan or his aide Moore, and, almost certainly, someone from the Board of Trade. [43] The Board, long accustomed to working with McMillan, had wanted backing for its park ideas. [44] Not only had the architects denounced Bingham, but they would ignore the Bingham-commissioned Parsons plan for the Mall-Triangle at their public session on the design of the city that evening. McMillan, for his part, still had his eyes riveted on his grade-crossing legislation, especially his bill authorizing the Mall terminal. Even as they met, his opponents in the House of Representatives were preparing to cite engineering criticism and the Parsons plan as justifications for voting down McMillan's legislation. [45] McMillan wanted the architects to sanction his claim that he had the beauty of Washington at heart. The architects, in turn, satisfied the senator's needs in one critical respect: they accepted, as a matter of realism, his terminal in the Mall. [46]

Once allied with McMillan, the AIA had no choice but to embrace park planning. Powerful as McMillan was in Washington affairs, his District of Columbia committee lacked authority over building location, which belonged to the Senate Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds, or over statuary, which lay with a Joint (House-Senate) Committee on the Library. [47] But McMillan did have power over park matters and had already worked with the Board of Trade to prepare park legislation. Thus the AIA agreed to address this issue, and the Board of Trade, the chief promoter of the park system, agreed to add the subjects of building and bridge placement to its publicly stated goals for the city. [48] Ostensibly, McMillan had fathered a new coalition for the physical improvement of Washington and a strategy for seizing the planning initiative from the engineers.

In fulfillment of this bargain, McMillan introduced Joint Resolution No. 139 in the U.S. Senate. Intended to win the support of both houses of Congress for the planning of Washington, this measure authorized the President of the United States to appoint a commission consisting of two architects and one landscape architect to "consider the subject of the location and grouping of public buildings and monuments . . . and the development and improvement of the park system" of the district. An appropriation of $10,000 was sought for expenses. [49]


Joint Resolution No. 139 would never clear the Senate let alone the House. In the House, Joseph Cannon, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, already loomed as a predictable adversary, notorious for his "skinflint" proclivities and distrust of artists. [50] Nonetheless, McMillan found a way to honor his bargain. [51] After 12 February 1901, when his B & P railroad bill was finally enacted, McMillan's trusted aide and confidant, Charles Moore, suggested a new strategy (fig. 4). [52]

Fig. 4 Charles Moore (1855-1942). Commission of Fine Arts

Accordingly, on 8 March during an executive session of the Senate held after the adjournment of Congress, McMillan obtained last minute passage of a resolution authorizing his committee to "report to the Senate plans for the development and improvement of the entire park system of the District of Columbia." Appropriate "experts" might be consulted and expenses defrayed from "the contingent fund of the Senate." [53] These experts, once appointed, would become known as the Senate Park Commission (later, often known as the McMillan Commission). But their authority, it must be emphasized, rested on a far more tenuous base than had been envisioned in Joint Resolution No. 139 back in December. Furthermore, the new measure said nothing whatsoever about public buildings and monuments.

Following through on 19 March, McMillan and Senator Jacob H. Gallinger of New Hampshire, acting as a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia, held an informal hearing with representatives of the AIA. Their purpose was to discuss, as McMillan put it, the "improvement of the park system" and, "incidentally," the placement of public buildings. [54] Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. also attended, making a derailed record. [55] Everyone present agreed that three experts should be appointed, but no one articulated just what sort of plan they should formulate.

As the hearing proceeded, however, a very definite objective emerged: the commission should devise a "preliminary plan" as distinct from a "matured one." [56] Because the scheme would be tentative, it could then be negotiated through the three Senate and House committees that had jurisdiction over parks, buildings, and statuary—or through a joint committee representing all three bodies. [57] A final, amended plan would be developed later. In light of the tenuous mandate McMillan had won for his commission, this cautious, consensus-building strategy made excellent sense. As Olmsted Jr. noted, McMillan wanted a "comprehensive scheme" but feared that "it might be turned down by the other Committees if it were made too complete and pushed too far." [58]


Daniel H. Burnham, the Chicago architect nationally known for having orchestrated the planning and construction of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, played the catalytic role in redefining this mission. As Moore later recalled, he had proposed Burnham, then age 54, as a member, and McMillan, in turn, had suggested Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., then only 30, recognizing him as the mantle bearer for his eminent father. They then communicated their wishes to the AIA, which nominated them on 19 March 1901. [59] These two men, once enlisted, also took their cues from McMillan and Moore, choosing as the third member, Charles F. McKim, the celebrated New York architect who epitomized the conservative wing of the American Renaissance with its preferences for Roman and Renaissance modes of civic art over more recent and flamboyant French variants. "Only your association with the Washington work," McKim later telegramed Burnham, "made it possible for me to accept." Not until early June did Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the eminent sculptor, become the fourth commissioner, at the suggestion of McKim [60] Due to illness, he would play a limited but not insignificant role. All four men were veterans of the Chicago World's Fair; even "young Olmsted" had worked there assisting Burnham (fig. 5). [61]

Fig. 5 Members of the Senate Park Commission. (top left): Daniel Hudson Burnham (1844-1912), Chairman Commission of Fine Arts. (top right): Charles Follen McKim (1847-1909) Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston, courtesy The American Institute of Architects Library and Archives, Washington, D.C. (bottom left): Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (1870-1957) U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. (bottom right): Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, NH.

At the 19 March hearing, McMillan and Gallinger made clear that they wanted a "preliminary plan" so as to avoid heavy expenses. When Burnham and Olmsted had first conferred on 22 March with McMillan, they had quickly estimated $22,600 as their "maximum expense." But McMillan wanted "between $15,000 and $20,000," [62] and he publicized a still lower sum, reported by the Washington Post as "about $10,000." [63] These dollar figures provide benchmarks for gauging how far the commission would soon exceed its instructions.

From the outset, Burnham's powerful personality and expansive outlook dominated, with McMillan treating Burnham as if he were the chairman of the commission, though Burnham would later ask Moore to confirm this unstated fact. [64] Burnham declared that he would serve without compensation. The others followed suit. Burnham wanted every aspect of Washington's urban setting to be considered, just as at the Chicago Fair, when he had overseen everything from sewerage to color effects. In early May, for example, he wrote out eleven pages of topics to explore, including public grounds and buildings, a "general plan of roads" issued by the army engineers in 1898, building-height limits, and even the appearance of private lawns and gardens, public markets, and street vendors. [65] As he had explained to Olmsted in mid-April, on another matter, "My own belief is that instead of arranging for less we should plan for rather more extensive treatment than we are likely to find in any other city." [66]

Action more than words defined Burnham's role. Early on McMillan informed Burnham that the new B & P terminal to be built by the Pennsylvania Railroad must be regarded as "a fixture upon the Mall." [67] But Burnham refused to accept this reality. Since September he had known that Alexander Cassatt, the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, might employ his firm to design that very structure. [68] To Burnham this spelled opportunity, not conflict of interest. When Burnham reached Washington, 5 April, before seeing anyone and not having spoken to McKim in the interval, he "drove to the location of the Obelisk." And the next day, before making a trolley tour of the city outskirts prearranged by Moore and McMillan, the commission, led by Burnham, "drove to the Obelisk-Capitol axis." [69] Back in Chicago, on 10 April, Burnham wrote Olmsted asking if they were ready to design the Mall's main axis "on a large scale." [70] The second of two of the Commission's earliest sketch plans both dated 27 April, diagramed precisely this area, reasserting L'Enfant's Mall and relegating the railroad station to the south side of the Mall (pl. V). [71]

On 20 May Burnham shifted from thought to deed. That day, he arrived at the Philadelphia headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad empire, hoping for the assignment to design the terminal. [72] But he did not come as a passive supplicant. He brought rough plans for the alternative site south of the Mall. Afterwards that same day in two excited letters to McKim, whom he addressed as a coconspirator, Burnham reported that Cassatt and his chief engineers had "no idea of the development we had worked out" and had still been thinking of "the old location." "The new idea," he stated with relief and some amazement, "has been received with much more open-mindedness than I had hope of." In fact, the railroad had agreed to halt land purchases "for the old scheme," at least until a more detailed proposal for "the new location" could be presented. [73]

Suddenly, the "fixture upon the Mall" seemed less secure. The railroad certainly had its own reasons and interests and, in fact, had long opposed that particular site. [74] The actual direction of Cassatt's thinking soon became apparent to Burnham. On 8 June he reached Philadelphia, carrying "a hundred or more sketches for the Washington station as part of the new plan," only to discover the following day Cassatt's interest in the new terminal site granted to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, just north of the Capitol. [75] As Burnham explained to Cassatt, writing from the commission drafting room in Washington two days later, "The frontage of the B & O plaza toward the Capitol, on which you suggested that a great union depot could be built, is 780 feet; this would be ample for a monumental treatment." [76]

The commission did not know that during their trip to Europe from mid-June to mid-August 1901, McMillan would follow up Burnham's initiative by inviting Cassatt to "Eagle Head," his vacation home at Manchester-by-the Sea on the Massachusetts coast north of Boston. As Moore recalled the story off the record years later, the two men had settled the much-vexed terminal question while playing a game of golf, before Burnham's later, better-known July conference with Cassatt on the same matter in London. [77] Whatever precisely was agreed to, much remained to be done, with key negotiations still to take place between Burnham and Cassatt in late September and between Cassatt and McMillan in early December. "Mr. Burnham has accomplished a great deal in procuring this agreement from Mr. Cassatt, McMillan remarked to Moore after the late September meeting. [78] During the fall of 1901, Burnham and his chief designer Peirce Anderson concentrated on the layout and location of the terminal.

Cassatt's decision to remove the proposed terminal from the Mall, even after obtaining the 12 February legislation guaranteeing the site, stemmed from many factors: McMillan's offer to persuade Congress to meet the increased expenses involved in building a tunnel under the Mall or Capitol grounds; the existence of an alternative site north of the Capitol, made available to the B & O by the newly enacted grade-crossing legislation; and a recent decision by the Pennsylvania to purchase "a controlling interest" in the B & O, which thus gave it access to the alternative site, and Cassatt's own largeness of vision. [79] But without Burnham's initiative in May, boldly suggesting the relocation of the terminal in the first place, neither Cassatt nor McMillan would have altered their course, nor would the Commission have been as zealous in pursuing "the very finest plans their minds could conceive" (fig. 6). [80]

Fig. 6 Union Station, after erection of the Columbus Monument and the City Post Office (far left), c. 1915. The Architectural Work of Graham Anderson Probst & White (London, 1933).


McMillan and Moore became advisors, facilitators, and ultimately advocates. At McMillan's command a committee room in the Capitol became the commission's headquarters, and Moore commandeered the north-facing Senate Press Gallery as its drafting room manned by James G. Langdon from Olmsted Jr.'s office. [81] When Burnham, McKim, and Olmsted gathered as a team for the first time on 6 April, they traversed Washington in a luxury trolley car obtained by Moore from the president of the street railway system. [82] The following day they visited Secretary of War Elihu Root and other newly appointed members of the Grant Memorial Commission. [83] Congress had authorized $250,000—an immense sum—for a statue or memorial to Ulysses S. Grant as Commanding General of the Union Army, its location yet to be determined. [84] Root then escorted the architects to the White House to be greeted by President McKinley. [85] A reception followed at the home of Senator McMillan.

All this heartened the commission. "The Washington business opens with great promise," McKim reported soon thereafter, noting the probable support of the president, Root, and Treasury secretary Lyman Gage, the latter a personal friend of Burnham. "If half of what is talked of can be carried through, it will make the Capital City one of the most beautiful centers in the world." "I do not think you will hear any more of the proposed alterations of the White House," he added. [86] Burnham returned to Chicago full of enthusiasm. "The Washington work is a stupendous job, full of the deepest interest, and it appeals to me as nothing else ever has. I have the best fellows with me, and we have the sympathy of all officials in Washington." [87]

Burnham, McKim, and Olmsted all focused on the Mall, even as they began to differentiate their roles in shaping the overall plan. Olmsted, who in the 1890s had advised on street extensions and the layout of the National Zoo and St. Elizabeth's Hospital, had already favored the Mall as an open, axial corridor flanked by "masses of foliage and architecture" when he had addressed the 1900 AIA convention. [88] In contrast, neither Burnham nor McKim had had prior Washington commissions. But the thrust of the AIA convention, their shared experience at the Chicago World's Fair, as well as their own architectural and planning principles inevitably drew them to L'Enfant's plan and the antecedents of his ideas.

When the commission gathered for the second time on 19 April, "Senator McMillan himself launched the enterprise by giving a large dinner at which Senators, Cabinet members, and influential citizens" met the designers informally. [89] The three men then took a three-day excursion aboard a U.S. Navy steamer down the Potomac River and up the James River to observe the remnants of southern civic design at Williamsburg and several Virginia plantations and to catch the afterglow of the late eighteenth century in America. [90] The respective roles of Burnham and McKim began to emerge, with Burnham focusing on railroad matters and McKim on the design of the Mall. The architects met again on 14 to 19 May and 10 to 11 June and took a second boat trip to the eastern shore of Maryland on 15 to 16 May to visit the Wye and Whitehall estates. [91] There is no better measure of their growing cohesion and commitment than their personal advances of about $1,000 each to George C. Curtis, the Boston model maker, to get him started on two sizable representations of the capital, one to show existing conditions, the other the proposed changes. [92]

By the first week of June Burnham, McKim, and Olmsted Jr. had conceptualized the Mall as a great corridor extending from Capitol Hill west to the Potomac River—its axis realigned to bisect the Washington Monument—and crossed by a second corridor running due south from the White House (pl. VI). [93] With placement of the Grant and Lincoln memorials under consideration, McKim proposed Saint-Gaudens as a fourth member of the commission. [94] About this time, the commission also resolved the precise width of the Mall's central greensward by requesting "the Supervising Architect of the Treasury to erect some flag poles where we could see them from the steps of the Capitol and from the Washington Monument itself. . . . We tried 250 feet, and we tried 400 feet, and we tried 300 feet, and the 300-foot space was most plainly the best." [95]


When the commission, including Moore, departed for Europe on 13 June 1901 aboard the Deutschland, their goal was to refine the Mall's design and to find inspiration for its special features. Abroad, they immersed themselves in the baroque antecedents to their own thinking, mostly from the seventeenth century, with bows to ancient Rome and Haussmann's Paris. The trip had been Burnham's idea, but Olmsted had laid out the itinerary, emphasizing gardens associated with André Le Nôtre. [96] From their landing at Cherbourg, France, 19 June, until their departure from Southampton, England, 26 July, the commission visited Rome, Venice, Vienna, Budapest, Paris and environs, and London and nearby stately homes. [97] Olmsted took photographs, recording in and near Rome the Vatican gardens, Hadrian's Villa and the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, the Villa Albani, the Villa Medici, and the Villa Lante. In Paris and vicinity, they studied the Tuileries gardens, the shores of the Seine, the Luxembourg gardens, Fountainebleau, and Vaux-le-Vicomte. The last, a masterpiece of Le Nôrte, received special attention. These specific places accounted for half of the 396 photographs that survive as a legacy of the trip. [98]

These pictures also reveal a preoccupation with architectonic garden details at every park, estate, and villa the travelers visited: terraces, stair systems, balustrades, statuary placement, garden vistas (fig. 7). Certain aspects of the Washington problem, it is worth noting, did not preoccupy them. At no point did they study railroad stations or their siting, although Burnham did visit the Gate d'Orsay in Paris and made a personal side trip for this purpose to Frankfurt, Germany, at the behest of Cassatt [99] Nor did they explore the issues that concerned Olmsted, vis-à-vis a city-wide park system for Washington, except to study river quays in Budapest and Paris. [100] The United States, after all, already excelled in "park-making as a national art." [101]

Paris: the Louvre and the Pont Royal

Paris: the octagonal basin in the Tuileries. One suspects that architectural details, such as this one of the pool coping, were taken by Olmsted at the request of architect Charles McKim

Vaux-le-Vicomte, the gardens. The man on the steps is Charles McKim. (Moore, Burnham, I, facing pg. 156)

Rome: Villa Albani

Bagnaia: Villa Lante

Tivoli: Villa d'Este

Vienna: Donau Kanal; work on quay and subway

Vienna: Restaurant in the Prater gardens. Perhaps McKim was again posing for Olmsted's camera
Fig. 7 A selection of photographs taken by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. during the Senate Park Commission's trip to Europe in 1901. Collection: Commission of Fine Arts

Recollections made years later bear out these observations. Burnham, testifying before Congress in 1904, recalled the commission studying "every notable plantation where trees were used and an open space left between them" and finding at Bushy Park and Hatfield House in England the most satisfying approximations for the Mall's width, 300 feet between the inner rows of trees. They had also examined "every notable avenue in Europe"" before settling on four rows of trees for each side of the Mall's central greensward. [102] Similarly, Olmsted recorded in 1935 that he and McKim, en route from Budapest to Paris, had decided how to lay out plantations of elms to frame the Washington Monument terrace. [103] And Moore, whose biographies of Burnham and McKim best record the trip, recollected that at the Villa Borghese, it was agreed that the proposed Memorial Bridge would be a low structure crossing the Potomac from the west end of the Mall on axis with the Robert E. Lee mansion in Arlington Cemetery. [104]

On 18 July 1901, Burnham conferred with Cassatt in London, learning that he was willing to move the train depot off the Mall, provided that the government helped to meet the costs. [105] The commission returned to the United States in high spirits, each member ready to fulfill his part of the undertaking.


When the team disembarked at New York on 1 August Moore, by now a virtual member, immediately wrote McMillan, then at his seaside vacation home, describing the plan and, on 12 August personally briefed him for two hours. [106] "Everything is wonderfully propitious," he also reported to McKim. The Senator was "much pleased." In fact, he was already "working out in his own mind a scheme for the adjustment of the Pennsylvania railroad matter." [107] Before the commission visited McMillan at Eagle Head on 20 August, McKim recruited William T. Partridge as head draftsman. [108] Burnham, for his part, headed back to Chicago to oversee his affairs before returning to Washington on 16 August for a tour of Rock Creek Park. [109] Olmsted returned to Brookline, Massachusetts, checked up on Curtis, who was building the models in an old pool hall in nearby Roxbury, and then made his way to Washington on 11 August to confer with Langdon. [110] Since April Langdon had been assembling baseline maps and data, exploring "every foot of the District on foot or bicycle," and devising plans. And since June, he had been relaying photographs to Curtis for use in building the models. [111]

On 19 August Burnham, McKim, and Olmsted reassembled for the first time since their return from Europe, inspecting Curtis' models in Boston and travelling the next day to Manchester. [112] "On the wide veranda overlooking the sea," they recounted their trip to McMillan, his wife and his daughter, several neighbors, and Senator William B. Allison of Iowa. At dinner, to impress Allison, McMillan repeatedly hailed Burnham as "General Burnham," Moore recalled years later, because a "man who could persuade President Cassatt to take the Pennsylvania Railroad out of the Mall, deserves to be a general." [113] Moore, in his memoirs, confessed that even he did not learn until long after McMillan's death that the Senator himself had played a significant role. [114]

Late that evening, after the designers had departed, McMillan lavished praise on them to Allison, and McKim, hearing of this from Moore, was delighted "that the heavy weights of the Senate got so fired up." "Things are, indeed, taking a shape which no-one would have dreamed of," McKim confessed. If the commission were "allowed to perfect the scheme" and "present it in the best possible guise," he predicted, it would "arouse the interest of Congress and the public, to a degree which we can not at present realize." [115] McMillan, now wholly committed, advanced $3,000 of his personal funds in mid-September to support the cash-needy Curtis; ultimately he would loan over $12,000 to insure that the models were completed. [116]

Olmsted and Langdon faced the challenge of framing a system of parks and parkways for the entire Washington area. A host of issues confronted them, including boundary realignments for Rock Creek Park, the treatment of the Georgetown waterfront, and the sanitary reclamation of the Anacostia wetlands. The most controversial was the treatment of the lower Rock Creek valley between Georgetown and Washington. The Board of Trade had been promoting an open valley park to replace the refuse-choked banks of Rock Creek as it ran about a mile through a shabby, low-income, industrial area, mostly populated by African Americans. The Army Corps of Engineers had urged filling the entire valley and running its stream through a buried sewer, a proposal favored by land developers who saw the valley as an eyesore, a health menace, and a dangerous haven for drifters and blacks. [117]

As Olmsted and Langdon developed the park system for the outer areas, they drew heavily on their firm's long experience with such design, especially in park-rich Boston. Between 1855 and 1881, Back Bay had been filled in, ending noisome conditions quite similar to Washington's Anacostia flats. [118] And by 1898, Boston had begun the nation's first playground system, utilizing school-based sites, an idea Olmsted would apply to Washington. [119] Finally, the State of Massachusetts, since 1893, had undertaken a vast metropolitan system of reservations for Boston, the first of its kind in the nation, emphasizing scenic and shoreline preservation and bathing beaches, all of which Olmsted Jr. ultimately adapted to Washington. [120]

On 3 December 1901 McMillan and Cassatt agreed to place the B & P railroad station on the north side of Massachusetts Avenue, a block east of North Capitol Street and facing the Capitol. [121] Although Burnham lavished attention on the station and its forecourt plaza, this complex would not be featured in the many drawings made that fall to illustrate the plan, probably because it was a private commission beyond the Senate Park Commission's mandate. But to Burnham, the "Grand Court" to be built in front of the depot as a "vestibule"" to the city was "as important as the work around the Monument in the Mall" and just as "essential to the broad scheme of improvement." [122] Burnham also initiated a very significant component of the plan quite late in the process. On 27 November he suggested grouping legislative buildings around Capitol Square and executive buildings around Lafayette Square north of the White House. [123] In addition, McKim sent Burnham a telegram on 29 November which suggests that the Chicago firm contributed to the design of the proposed Memorial Bridge. [124]

Burnham also labored over the text of the Senate Park Commission's report, even hiring a Chicago writer, but Moore eventually took charge, pleasing McKim but deeply distressing Burnham who wanted a more popular style. [125] "I do not see how any of the matter that has been prepared can go into the report without being entirely rewritten," Moore confided to McKim in mid-December. "The tone of much that I have is that of flippant criticism." If published, it would "rob the Commission of the result of their very arduous and intelligent labors." [126] Olmsted matched Moore's clear, simple, and direct prose and the two produced the final draft, Olmsted writing the longer section relating to "park matters" with Moore presenting the rationale for reforming Washington's monumental core. [127] (see Appendices for Burnham's version)

Well before the report appeared, in June 1902, Moore had established himself as the public voice of the Senate Park Commission, publishing "The Improvement of Washington City" in the February and March 1902 issues of the Century Magazine, the plan's first public description. [128]

Paris: the Louvre and the Pont Royal. Paris: the octagonal basin in the Tuileries. One suspects that architectural details, such as this one of the pool coping, were taken by Olmsted at the request of architect Charles McKim. Vaux-le-Vicomte, the gardens. The man on the steps is Charles McKim. (Moore, Burnham, I, facing pg. 156). Rome: Villa Albani. Bagnaia: Villa Lante. Tivoli: Villa d'Este. Vienna: Donau Kanal; on quay and subway. Vienna: Restaurant in the Prater gardens. Perhaps McKim was again posing for Olmsted's camera.


As the planning unfolded, McKim steadily emerged as a key figure. From August onward, he took charge of the visual representation of the redesign of central Washington. The images soon created under his direction would win widespread support for the plan and powerfully influence the City Beautiful Movement just then emerging in the United States. Another turning point occurred in August, on the 26th, when McKim conferred with Root about the Grant Memorial, standing in for Burnham, who could not be present. Seeking support for placing the Grant Memorial at the Potomac end of the Mall, McKim discovered the depth of Root's backing and the lucidity of his advice. [129] A meeting between the representatives of the two commissions that might have been adversarial resulted in a long-term liaison.

Root, a man of brilliant legal talent and cosmopolitan sensibilities, made clear to McKim that he understood the multiple issues facing the Senate Park Commission, including conflicts with Army engineers. [130] Root personally accepted placement of the Grant Memorial (previously located near the White House) at the Potomac end of the Mall. In turn, he urged the Park Commission to address the Triangle slum for the sake of local business interests who wanted to see the area upgraded and to safeguard the historic stature of Pennsylvania Avenue. McKim listened. And the plan ultimately reflected Root's advice, specifying municipal structures for this locale. Root also forcefully suggested a major publicity campaign, with a simultaneous news release about the plan in key urban centers across the nation, even naming specific cities and newspapermen. [131] And something like it was soon attempted.

That fall McKim lavished attention on the Mall's details, especially the Washington Monument gardens, which one acquaintance lampooned as the "holy of holies." [132] About 13 October, the portion of the Curtis model devoted to the new Mall arrived from Boston and was installed on the sixth floor of McKim's offices. [133] Eventually, seventeen men, in addition to McKim and his chief draftsman Partridge, labored on the model and drawings, developing a notable esprit de corps. [134] "The firm complained that they never saw McKim unless they went upstairs," Partridge recalled. [135]

In late November McKim relocated the Grant Memorial from the Potomac end of the Mall to the foot of Capitol Hill, probably at the suggestion of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Although a sculptor had yet to be chosen, McKim imagined this new setting, which he called "Union Square," as Washington's analogue to Place de la Concorde in Paris (pl. X). [136] This decision, endorsed by Root but not yet by the Grant Memorial Commission, led to the shifting of the Lincoln Memorial from the south end of the White House axis (now, the Jefferson memorial site) to the Potomac site, all because Grenville Dodge, chairman of the Grant Memorial Commission, had stubbornly opposed McKim's insistence that a triumphal arch be used to honor Grant at this latter site, instead of a sculptural group as mandated by Congress and favored by Dodge. [137]

That the Lincoln Memorial was decided so late underscores a fundamental aspect of the story that is easily overlooked: that the Senate Park commissioners proceeded as artists, giving precedence to design over symbolic content. From the outset, they had chosen to reinstate the original Mall from the Capitol to the Monument and to make its axis their organizing principle. By June they had elaborated a general framework, projecting the original Mall westward to the Potomac, identifying the accent points along its course, and reestablishing the White House cross axis as a central focus. By the time the team returned from Europe, if not before, McKim had settled on the principle that the Capitol axis must be terminated by a unique architectural feature. In contrast to the "arch" of the Capitol dome and the "pier" or vertical line of the Monument, the western end should be closed by a flat-topped structure, or "lintel," after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. [138] That the architects wanted at first to honor Grant, not Lincoln, on the Potomac site startles the modern reader. In 1901, however, the placement of the Grant Memorial was a more urgent question.

As these decisions unfolded, McKim also became preoccupied with the upcoming exhibit of the models, drawings, and photographs. By late August he began urging "the right kind of drawings and enough of them"—watercolor renderings—to supplement the Curtis models. [139] McMillan, asked to countenance yet another expense, replied, says Moore, "Go ahead, if the Government will not pay for it, I will." [140] Moore arranged a dinner party on 22 October for the architects to meet the trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and discuss a major exhibit. [141] Eventually a dozen illustrators and architectural renderers, including Henry Bacon and Jules Guerin, produced bird's-eye perspectives and ground-level views from multiple vantage points. [142] Olmsted compiled photographs for the exhibit as well as drawings that compared parks in six major American and European cities. [143]

On 15 January 1902 the Corcoran exhibit opened, with the still unfinished Curtis models in the "Hemicycle" room so that visitors might walk beside them or look down on them from a raised platform. [144] On the walls and in adjoining galleries 179 illustrations offered a compelling pictorial tour of what Washington might become, supplemented by photographs of the European settings that had inspired the commission. [145] For the heart of the city, the plan proposed a vast new ceremonial core, arranged as a kite-shaped expanse bounded by the Capitol and its building group to the east, the Lincoln memorial to the west, the White House and the executive buildings clustered about Lafayette Square to the north, and a complex of recreational buildings to the south. Immediately west of the Washington Monument where the two great axes of the plan crossed lay McKim"s elaborate sunken garden. [146] Ironically, the proposed Union Station, the key to the entire scheme, had only a shadowy presence in three overview illustrations (pls. VII, VIII, XIII). [147] For the periphery, Olmsted provided a state-of-the art park system, including a Potomac parkway link from the Mall. Less prescriptive than McKim"s monumental core, it suggested broad treatments more than detailed and completed designs.

Nothing like this exhibit had ever before been mounted in the United States: a spectacular display of a new vision for an already built city, specifying the future direction its development should take on a comprehensive basis. With the whole of Washington as its object, it captured the entire trajectory of the Senate Park Commission since March 1901: what its final report would describe as "the treatment of the city as a work of civic art." [148] Visitors could attend the exhibit free of charge on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays or pay a twenty-five cent fee all other days. [149]


By framing an ideal scheme, the Senate Park Commission had embraced one horn of a then insolvable political dilemma. If it had followed its original instructions to produce a "preliminary plan," subject to negotiation with other Senate committees, the result, at best, would have been a politically brokered, lackluster outcome. Almost certainly, the railroad would have remained in the Mall. But opting for a perfected plan had entailed great risks, financially and politically. By mid-December 1901 the commission had already "entirely used up the contingent fund of the Senate." [150] And by September 1902, when all its expenses had been accounted for, the price of its idealism had become apparent. The Curtis models alone, originally estimated at $13,000, had cost nearly $24,500. McKim had spent over $17,000, mostly for draftsmen and illustrators; Olmsted, about $4,300 on expenses and assistants; and Burnham, $1,550. Altogether, an undertaking originally estimated by McMillan publicly at $10,000 and privately at $15,000 to 20,000, had consumed almost $55,500. [151]

These excesses made the commission an easy political target, giving rise to myths of its wanton, almost dissolute ways. Repeated and embellished from year to year, they would find expression in 1904 in the Chicago Chronicle. Senator McMillan, so the story ran, had believed the cost would not exceed $5,000. But the commission had "immediately entered upon a career of extravagant expenditure that has few parallels," hiring a huge staff that occupied "nearly an entire floor of the new Willard Hotel, the most expensive in Washington," and then sailing "for Europe with a large and expensive retinue." McMillan, though a man of "sincerity and patriotism," had become "a victim of bad faith." Significantly, one fact in the tale was correct, or nearly so: that "Burnham, McKim, and Olmstead [sic] contracted obligations aggregating $60,000." [152] This reality kept the myths alive.

The only escape, politically, was to avoid head-on debate over the plan as a whole. Although the commission had assuaged local advocates of a memorial bridge, of Triangle slum redevelopment, and of Civil War fort sites, it also had made enemies, beginning with Colonel Bingham and the Army Corps of Engineers and now, potentially, those who spoke for institutions already present on the Mall, especially the Botanic Garden and the Department of Agriculture. Furthermore, any adversary could count on support from the plan's most powerful opponent, Joseph G. Cannon, of Illinois, a Congressman since 1873, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, a leader of Old Guard Republicans, and, beginning in 1903, Speaker of the House. [153]

In December 1901, well before this line-up of forces had become fully visible, Glenn Brown, working with Robert S. Peabody, president of the AIA, began to advocate a permanent art commission to enforce the plan, enlisting McKim and activating the Public Art League (PAL). With the Senate Park Commission about to complete its work, Brown feared that Congress might assign its implementation to "the Commissioner of Public Buildings, an army engineer, or may place it under . . . the Chief Engineer of the Army." [154] Significantly, the first full-dress discussion of this proposal took place in New York, then the center of public art advocacy in the United States. On 16 December, at the office of architect George B. Post, McKim, together with Richard Watson Gilder, editor of Century Magazine, and Saint-Gaudens—both of them PAL officers—and Frederick Crowninshield, president of the Fine Arts Federation of New York, decided to defer to the judgment of Senator McMillan, as conveyed by Moore in a letter sent to McKim for use at the meeting. [155]

Although McMillan nine months earlier had foreseen the need for a permanent commission, the politics of the plan now looked very different. [156] Noting the poor shape of District finances and "a disposition in some quarters . . . to criticize the cost of your present plans," Moore, speaking for McMillan, thought it "unwise to give jealous and disgruntled people an opportunity at this time to say that the architects propose to run the country and shut out all others." McMillan was dealing with "500 individuals from all parts of the country"" with diverse opinions. "The only thing to do is to overcome them in an easy fashion that will leave no bad blood...." [157] In short, the backers of the plan should offer no easy targets, especially measures that might jeopardize the entire effort. When Peabody revisited the issue in mid-March 1902, Moore again delivered McMillan's verdict through McKim. "Any movement at this time to secure a permanent Commission will be bad policy.... The present situation can not be improved, and may be seriously impaired by the proposed legislation." [158]

Only a gradualist approach offered an escape from the dilemma, keeping the plan alive by advancing it piecemeal. For McMillan, this meant pushing his Union Station bill, which he regarded "as the foundation of all the work." [159] Once that was settled, then he would consider a permanent commission, he told Moore in April. [160] Because the railroad in the Mall had long been recognized as a mistake, the Senator got his bill through the Senate by 15 May 1902, shortly before Congress adjourned. [161]

Then, unexpectedly, Senator McMillan died, 10 August, while at his vacation home in Massachusetts. Suddenly, the political mainspring of the plan was gone. In shock and grief, Olmsted wrote to Moore from Paris, where he had been studying European zoos. "I fell at once to wondering, fearfully, how seriously his irreplaceable loss would set back the movement upon which we have all come to set our hearts," he confessed. [162] McKim and Burnham, with Moore, joined the McMillan family in Detroit. Moore, his patron now dead and his career disrupted, would return to Washington, at the family's request, to settle the Senator's affairs and to shepherd the Union Station bill through Congress, almost as a memorial. [163] On 4 December the House District Committee approved the bill; on 28 February 1903, Congress enacted it. [164] By 16 March Moore had left the capital for new employment in the far northern reaches of Michigan, at Sault Sainte Marie. [165] With his departure, the plan stood exposed to its enemies as never before. New political tactics would be needed if anything more than a new railroad station was to be its outcome.


To its good fortune, the Senate Park Commission plan coincided with the emergence of the City Beautiful Movement in the United States, quickly becoming one of its icons. Absent this development, the new vision of the Mall set forth in 1902 might never have been carried out. As a cause, the City Beautiful championed town and city beauty, drawing its support from the same native-born, business and professional groups that had been energizing municipal reform in efforts in the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West Coast since the mid-1890s. What had begun with local calls for efficient and honest governance in opposition toward bosses and venal business interests, had blossomed by 1900 into a multifaceted campaign to address the city itself as the critical arena of national life. To many reformers, the forces then wrenching the nation and its cities—immigration, industrialization, ever-larger transit and railroad empires, big business mergers, and transformative technologies, such as electricity—necessitated the fashioning of a new civic order, to be achieved through a revitalized sense of citizenship or what many called a new civic consciousness. The City Beautiful, as one expression of this ethos, became something of a crusade as the twentieth century opened. [166]

As a movement, the City Beautiful wove together many threads of American aesthetic culture. The oldest of these, "village improvement," dated back to the mid-nineteenth century ideas of Andrew Jackson Downing about the upgrading of often bleak country towns and villages. By 1900, as "civic improvement," it had spread across the nation. Its activists, often women, demanded clean streets, tidy waterfronts, garbage incineration, municipal flower beds, public libraries, street trees, indeed almost anything that would make an ordinary place more visibly appealing. [167] A second thread involved "outdoor art," namely the naturalistic values that had been pushed forward by the movement for scenic urban parks, beginning with Central Park in New York before the Civil War and, after the war, exemplified by the city park system idea in Buffalo and Chicago by the late 1860s, in Boston and Minneapolis by the 1880s, and in Kansas City and Louisville by the 1890s, and culminating with the vast metropolitan system of Boston begun in the 1890s [168]

A more recent and more cosmopolitan thread, then called municipal art, had emerged among the New York artists and architects who had helped design and execute the Chicago World's Fair. The Chicago spectacle, they hoped, just might persuade city officials to make greater use of murals, statuary, artistic street fixtures, and other embellishments in public places. More profoundly, they sought to turn the post-Civil War pursuit of art and culture, which had long been the preserve of the rich and wealthy, toward the adornment of the public realm. From their vantage, the Chicago World's Fair had represented a breakthrough for public art, with its great Court-of-Honor basin, framed by white, classic buildings and adorned throughout with lavish outdoor sculptural and mural displays (fig. 8). [169] After the fair, a devastating economic depression had thwarted the impulse to translate this model into the fabric of real cities until the return of prosperity, about 1897.

Fig. 8 Court of Honor, Chicago Fair of 1893. Commission of Fine Arts

As the new century dawned, the City Beautiful, just then coalescing as a national movement, favored piecemeal undertakings, not citywide planning. For example, the National League of Improvement Associations, founded in October 1900 in Springfield, Ohio, promoted virtually any action that would physically upgrade a town or small city. A year later, it renamed itself the American League for Civic Improvement, reflecting the new civic reform ethos. Yet another body, the American Park and Outdoor Art Association, begun in 1897, voiced the landscape-art tradition. [170] It groped at first for ways to uphold its values. One became the promotion of children's gardens; another was opposition to outdoor advertising. Meanwhile, municipal art societies in Cincinnati, Chicago, and Baltimore—all following New York's lead and emboldened by the new prosperity—together with various art and architectural organizations, envisioned bigger and ever more daring projects: a lakefront park in Chicago, a radial boulevard in Philadelphia, a public building group in Cleveland.

That all these efforts comprised a national movement first became apparent in the writings of Charles Mulford Robinson, a Rochester, New York newspaperman and magazine columnist. In 1901 he published The Improvement of Towns and Cities, soon dubbed "the bible of the believers in the city beautiful." [171] In it, he brought all threads of beautification effort together. Issued by a skeptical publisher who forced Robinson to bear the cost, it sold immediately and well, going through eleven reprints by 1916. [172] In fact, the diverse organizations which Robinson upheld as parts of a common cause were just then exploding in number, rising from about 300 "improvement" groups in 1901, to over 700 by 1902, to 1,740 in 1904, and reaching 2,426 in 1905. In these same years, the popular Chautauqua movement added its support as did great numbers of women's clubs, whose 300,000 members were organized through the General Federation of Women's Clubs. [173] Robinson had written his book as a manual for all these groups. Its success elevated him to the top ranks of the national organizations then promoting civic beautification.

Precisely as this "great civic awakening," as its advocates called it, gathered momentum, the Senate Park Commission displayed its spectacular plan for the national capital at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, knowing that its fate hinged directly on its public reception. [174] On 15 January, with the finest photographs, the most artful renderings, the best possible display of the three-dimensional Curtis models, and maximum press coverage—locally and nationally—all arranged, President Roosevelt and his party and, soon thereafter, key members of Congress and the commissioners of the District of Columbia toured the displays. Knowingly or not, they commenced a publicity blitz intended to place the future of Washington squarely on the nation's public agenda. [175]

Although the Senate Park Commission had risked everything on a perfected scheme and Senator McMillan had been won over to this course, neither he nor his experts could have known that their idealism almost perfectly suited the mood underlying the City Beautiful. Fortunately for the plan, it cleared its first hurdle. The president, his cabinet, the congressmen, and the District commissioners liked what they saw. [176] Then in February, March, and April and with reduced frequency for the rest of the year, the national magazine press lavished attention on the scheme. Key journals of polite opinion and genteel culture—Harper's Weekly, Outlook, and Century Magazine, all of them esteemed by the nation's reform-minded groups—paid immediate heed. [177] Others, less prestigious and more specialized also offered major coverage, virtually guaranteeing the attention of the college-educated middle class throughout the nation. [178] Without exception, all of these accounts highlighted the spectacular aspects, especially the new Mall with its promised grandeur and patriotic appeal.

Meanwhile, the architectural profession, proud of its role in generating the plan, inundated its members with reports. Every one of its major publications and nearly every minor one provided detailed, authoritative coverage, sufficient to prime the rank and file for proselytizing interested laymen. [179] In addition, a lantern-slide lecture circulated, reaching about twenty cities by year's end. Daniel Burnham, Charles Moore, Frederick Law Olmsted, as well as William Partridge and Glenn Brown, all spoke to select groups in different cities. [180] As one Boston architect remarked of the plans after the first year of publicity, "almost everybody who reads only as he runs knows something about them." [181]

Many writers and editors instantly grasped the national significance of the Senate Park Commission plan. "We have the same opportunities here," said the Inland Architect of Chicago, upholding Washington "as an example for municipal improvement." [182] "What a tantalizing prospect this must be for an artistically sensitive New Yorker!" enthused the New York Times, urging that a "board of experts" be appointed to study "the general treatment of New York." [183] "The good work planned for the capital city," said the editors of Century Magazine, prophetically, "will give impetus to the advancing tide of civic improvement now passing over the United States." "The more these plans and pictures are studied," they added, "the more thorough, the more significant, the nobler, do they seem." [184]

Big-city art organizations swung into action, nowhere more swiftly than in New York where much of the actual preparatory work for the Senate Park Commission plan had taken place, especially for the design of the Mall. [185] Thus, only a few weeks into the publicity blitz, the Fine Arts Federation, speaking for the city's—and the nation's—artistic establishment, petitioned reform Mayor Seth Low, requesting that the Municipal Art Commission determine "the advisability of employing a commission of distinguished experts, as was done recently by Congress for the city of Washington." [186] Soon, the Municipal Art Society endorsed the effort, set up its own City Plan committee, and took charge of the campaign. [187] Efforts were even made to enlist McKim as the planner, to no avail. [188]

Other art centers began to stir. In Cincinnati, the Municipal Art Society arranged for a lecture on the Washington plan. [189] Similarly, the Boston Society of Architects discussed comprehensive planning for their city. "Somebody that knows has got to show the way to the City Beautiful," the principal speaker asserted. "The architects are of the cognoscenti; if they can not, no one can." [190] And in Chicago, the Municipal Art League by early 1903 foresaw "the necessity of the appointment of a similar commission . . . to offer a comprehensive plan for developing the natural advantages of Chicago." [191]

Charles Mulford Robinson, the master scrivener of the City Beautiful, caught the shift perfectly. In 1902 he was drafting his second major work, Modern Civic Art or the City Made Beautiful, to be issued in 1903. Recognizing the limitations of piecemeal action, he now recast his approach, concluding that "in an effort for civic improvement...the first step is to secure a comprehensive plan" and pointing to Washington. "Unless there be a well thought out, artistically conceived, general plan to work on," he emphasized, "our civic art will go astray, with lack of completeness or continuity." [192]

This embrace of the larger planning idea embedded in the Senate Park Commission plan soon yielded results. The prosperity and optimism of the nation at the opening of the new century and the proliferation of ambitious public works proposals and projects in many cities, together with the pursuit of beauty as a public value, had created a receptive climate for big ideas. By 1904 to 1905 New York, San Francisco, and Detroit were seeking expert advice on physical development. By 1909 over thirty-five cities in the United States had obtained comprehensive plans, some quite bold and elaborate such as Daniel H. Burnham's Plan of Chicago, issued in 1909, and others more modest, such as the many schemes devised by Charles Mulford Robinson. All of these reports, including those of such landscape architects as John Nolen and Frederick Law Olmsted, characteristically had one trait in common: they adhered to the Senate Park Commission plan idea of combining both suggestions for public building groups, usually in the form of civic centers, with proposals for parks and park systems. In bigger cities, a union railroad station often figured in the scheme. [193] A national pattern had been set.

The many organizations and enthusiasts who embraced city planning as the best vehicle for fulfilling the goals of the City Beautiful also became a resource for defending the Senate Park Commission plan itself, especially during the critical battle fought in early 1904 over the placement of the Department of Agriculture's proposed new building in the Mall, a struggle detailed elsewhere in this volume. Had this structure been built as originally intended, the commission's vision of the Mall and ultimately its overall plan would have suffered irreparable defeat. Worth noting here is the fact that in late February and early March 1904, even as Olmsted despaired that "the matter has been settled against us," he and others summoned every scrap of support from around the country. Glenn Brown, as AIA secretary, prepared and sent out thousands of circulars alerting AIA chapters and art organizations. [194] Olmsted himself enlisted Charles Eliot, president of Harvard, to write to Joseph Cannon. [195] He also worked with Boston-area architects to contact Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and wrote to his House representative, Samuel Powers, who defended the architects and the plan in a House speech in early March. [196] In addition, Olmsted fed information to the Boston Herald and Boston Transcript, to Senator Francis G. Newlands, and to Charles Mulford Robinson, who had caught wind of what was afoot. [197]

The defenders at first did not know their own strength, having never fought such a national battle before. Moore, by then based in Detroit and eager to reenter the fray, had by 7 March enlisted William McMillan, the deceased Senator's brother, to appeal to all Michigan congressmen in behalf of the plan. "I believe that the plans have got enough popular support by this time to bring about the right result if we can only bring the sentiment to bear," he told McKim [198] The American Park and Outdoor Art Association, though crippled by an office fire in Rochester at this time, became a resource, thanks to Robinson, its secretary, and to Warren Manning, a Boston-area landscape architect with strong ties to Olmsted. [199]

Had there been no prior publicity blitz for the plan in 1902 and no City Beautiful Movement already alert to its significance, these appeals for support might have been far less successful. But on short notice, a lot could be done. For example, in Philadelphia, Charles Mulford Robinson, on 18 March, alerted Andrew Crawford Wright, an ardent civic reformer and experienced park promoter, who in turn summoned twenty representatives of local art and architectural groups. Meeting at the office of AIA architect Edgar Seeler, architect Frank Miles Day explained the situation and, together, they all agreed to contact local congressmen as well as place articles in the press. [200] The effect of such efforts is suggested by the experience of Massachusetts Congressman Powers who later told Olmsted that his speech defending the plan had brought forth "more letters and inquiries and seemed, to his surprise, to rouse a more widespread interest in the country than any speech he had ever made." [201]

In essence, the Senate Park Commission plan through the City Beautiful Movement was reflected back upon itself, helping to authenticate the case being made for its survival in Washington. Through such processes, the Senate Park Commission plan became more than a paper scheme: it became a new vision deeply expressive of what was possible for the capital and the nation.

The Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool soon after their completion and before the construction of Memorial Bridge. Commission of Fine Arts


1Portions of this essay are based on Jon A. Peterson, "The Hidden Origins of the McMillan Plan for Washington, D.C., 1900-1902," in Historical Perspectives on Urban Design: Washington, D.C., 1890-1910, ed. Antoinette J. Lee, (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University Center for Washington Area Studies, Occasional Paper No. 1, 1983) and Jon A. Peterson, "The Nation's First Comprehensive City Plan: A Political Analysis of the McMillan Plan for Washington, D.C., 1900-1902," Journal of the American Planning Association 51 (spring, 1985), 134-50; and Jon A. Peterson, The Birth of City Planning in the United States, 1840-1917 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).

For their assistance with this essay, I should like to thank Pamela Scott, Fred Bauman of the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, and Charles Atherton and Sue Kohler of the Commission of Fine Arts.

2Charles Moore, McMillan's political aide, was a participant as well as recorder and archivist of the plan. See especially Charles Moore, Daniel H. Burnham: Architect, Planner of Cities, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1921); and idem, The Life and Times of Charles Follen McKim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1929). Architect Glenn Brown was another key participant; see Glenn Brown, Memories, 1860-1930: A Winning Crusade to Revive George Washington's Vision of a Capital City (Washington, D.C.: W. F Roberts, 1931). Important secondary works include Thomas S. Hines, Burnham of Chicago: Architect and Planner (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974); Howard Gillette Jr., Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995); Alan Lessoff, The Nation and Its City: Politics, "Corruption," and Progress in Washington, D.C. 1862-1902 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994); Richard Longstreth, ed., The Mall in Washington, 1791-1991 (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1991, 2002); and John W. Reps, Monumental Washington: The Planning and Development of the Capital Center (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967).

3For the Mall as a "waste" ca. 1852, see Anne C. Lynch, "A Sketch of Washington City," Harper's Monthly Magazine 31 (December 1852): 3. For the new taste for the picturesque, see Therese O'Malley, "'A Public Museum of Trees': Mid-Nineteenth Century Plans for the Mall," in Mall in Washington, Longstreth, ed., 61-76. For a history of the Mall, emphasizing its buildings and monuments, see Pamela Scott, "The Mall (ML)," in Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, Buildings of the District of Columbia (New York: Oxford University, 1993), 62-90.

4Dian Olson Belanger, "The Railroad in the Park: Washington's Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Station, 1872-1907," Washington History 2 (spring 1990): 5-15.

5Charles Moore, "Park Improvement Paper No. 6, Notes on the Parks and their Connections," in Park Improvement Papers: A Series of Twenty Papers Relating to the Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia, ed. Charles Moore (Washington, D.C.: Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), 83-84. Government Printing Office hereafter abbreviated GPO.

6Senate Park Committee on the District of Columbia, The Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia, 57 Cong., 1st Sess., 1902, S. Rept. 166 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1902), 35-36, hereafter cited as Senate Park Commission Report.

7Ibid., 37-71.

8Ibid., 58-59, 73-122. Also proposed: a complex of hilltop, fort-site, and valley parks west of Rock Creek Park, a fort-park chain through the northern reaches of the city, new parks for northeast Washington, and development of East Potomac Park as a national arboretum. The park system proposals are discussed in derail by Timothy Davis elsewhere in this volume.

9William V. Cox, comp. Celebration of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Establishment of the Seat of Government in the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1901), 21.

10"Scene of Splendor," Evening Star, 22 February 1901, 1. "Memorial Bridge, Too," Washington Post, 22 February 1900, 10. Evening Star and Washington Post hereafter cited as Star and Post, respectively.

11News clipping "Senator McMillan," enclosed with 7 August 1902 material, Box 1, Charles Moore Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, hereafter cited as Moore Papers, LC. See also David J. Rothman, Politics and Power: The United States Senate, 1869-1901 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966), 45-50.

12"December Selected," Star, 21 February 1900; "Centennial Avenue," Star, 22 February 1900, 4. For Henry Ives Cobb's identity as designer of Centennial Avenue, see F. W. Fitzpatrick, "Beautifying the Nation's Capital," Inland Architect and Building News 35 (March 1900): 13-14; and F. W. Fitzpatrick, "Centennial of the Nation's Capital," The Cosmopolitan 30 (December 1900): 112. At this time Cobb was under official censure of the AIA for violating professional ethics during a design competition for the Pennsylvania statehouse.

13For McMillan's rationale, see "Boulevard to Bridge," Post, 26 February 1900, 3.

14The grade crossing bill (S. 1929) for the B & P Railroad was introduced to the Senate 20 December 1899. "Bill and Joint Resolutions," Senate Journal, 56th Cong., 1st Sess. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1900), 57. A comparable bill (S. 2329) for the B & O Railroad reached the Senate District Committee, 11 January 1901. Ibid., 75.

15Accident data, courtesy of William Wright, historian of Union Station, Ph.D. diss. draft, University of North Carolina, chap. 1. See also Constance McLaughlin Green, Washington: Capital City, 1879-1950 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), 2:53.

16For details about the B & P bill (S.1929), see Grade Crossings of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Company in the District of Columbia, 56th Cong. 1st Sess., S. Rept. 928, 3-32 (hereafter cited as Grade Crossings of the B & P). For Senatorial debate of both bills, see "Baltimore and Potomac Railroad" and "Baltimore and Ohio Railroad," Cong. Record, 56th Cong., 1st Sess., vol. 32 (Washington. D.C.: GPO, 1900), 6088-95.

17Fitzpatrick, "Beautifying," 14.

18On 28 February Alexander Cassatt telegramed Senator McMillan, opposing the avenue plan as jeopardizing the lot-space available for a Mall terminal. See Gillette Jr., Between Justice and Beauty, 92-93; and telegram from A. J. Cassatt to Gen. William J. Sewell, 28 February 1900, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Record Group (RG) 46, 56A-F-7. The avenue plan may reflect McMillan's infighting with Col. Theodore Bingham, infra and n. 21.

19"Report of the War Department on the Bill (S.1929) to Provide for Eliminating Certain Road Crossings on the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad," in Grade Crossings of the B & P, 18-21.

20Grade Crossings of the B & P, 20-21. Lansing H. Beach, Engineer-Commissioner of the District of Columbia, fully supported the bill. "Report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia" in Grade Crossings of the B & P, 9-17.

21Because the avenue plan did not reflect the Pennsylvania Railroad interests (see n. 18), McMillan may have introduced it on 21 February, together with the White House proposal, in retaliation against Bingham. No direct evidence for this explanation exists, however.

22"Plan for Boulevard," Post, 6 March 1900, 2; "Plans for Avenue," Post, 29 April 1900, 20.

23Moore, "Notes on the Parks," 94; Fitzpatrick, "Beautifying the Nation's Capital," 11. For the sobriquet "Murder Bay" often applied to this area, see William M. Maury, Alexander "Boss" Shepherd and the Board of Public Works, GW Washington Studies, No. 3 (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University, 1975), 31; and Lessoff, The Nation and Its City, 22, 90, 252.

24For the slum-removal role of the then new post office, see Moore, "Notes on the Parks," 94. For views of major businessmen, see remarks of C. C. Glover quoted in "Plan for Boulevard," 2. The Star favored the triangle as a site for new public buildings: "Centennial Avenue Scheme Again," 26 May 1900, 6.

25"Why Two National Avenues," Star, 23 February 1900, 4.

26W[illiam]. V. Cox, "Park Improvement Paper No. 1. Action of the Washington Board of Trade in Relation to the Park System of the District of Columbia," in Park Improvement Papers, ed. Moore, 5-21. Also: Moore, "Notes on the Parks," 79-97.

27Cox, "Action of the Washington Board of Trade," 10.

28"Report of the Committee on Railroads," Washington Board of Trade, Annual Report (1901) (Washington. D.C.: Washington Printing Co., 1902), 102-3. For the Board of Trade's involvement with park promotion and beautification, see Jessica I. Elfenbein, Civics, Commerce, and Community: The History of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, 1889-1989, Center for Washington Area Studies of the George Washington University (Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1989), 13-15. Lessoff, The Nation and Its City, 197.

29Reps, Monumental Washington, 74.

30The original plan was done in cooperation with first lady, Caroline Harrison. Bingham wanted elaborate circular office and public reception wings to be attached to the east and west sides of the White House as first steps in a truly massive complex.

31"Plans for Treatment of that Portion of the District of Columbia South of Pennsylvania Avenue and North of B Street, SW., and for a Connection between Potomac and Zoological Parks," 56th Cong., 2d Sess., 1900, H. Doc. 135, 8, reprinted in Celebration, comp. Cox, 324-28.

32Reps, Monumental Washington, 82-83. For detailed analysis of Brown and the AIA, see Tony Wrenn's essay elsewhere in this volume. See also William Bushong, Judith Helm Robinson, and Julie Mueller, A Centennial History of the Washington Chapter, The American Institute of Architects, 1887-1897 (Washington. D.C.: Washington Architectural Foundation Press, 1987), 1-19; also valuable: William Brian Bushong. "Glenn Brown, the American Institute of Architects, and the Development of the Civic Core of Washington. D.C." (Ph.D. diss., George Washington University, 1988).

33Glenn Brown, "The Selection of Sites for Federal Buildings," Architectural Review 3 (1894): 27-29, quote, 29.

34For Brown's career and Washington work, see Bushong, "Glenn Brown," and Bushong, et al. A Centennial History.

35Hines, Burnham of Chicago, 126-33.

36Bushong, et al., A Centennial History, 24-25.

37American Institute of Architects (AIA), Proceedings (1900): 92.

38Oliver Larkin, Art and Life in America (New York: Halt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960), 293-300. See especially Richard Guy Wilson, "The Great Civilization," in The American Renaissance, 1876-1917, (New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1979), 11-25, 28, 45.

39Glenn Brown to H. K. Bush-Brown, 9 and 18 October 1900, in Brown, Outgoing Correspondence, Archives of the American Institute of Architects, secretary office files, Outgoing Letter Books, Washington, hereafter cited as Brown, Outgoing Correspondence.

40George B. Post lambasted Bingham as making the White House into "a banquet for the Philistines," in "A Residence for the President," Post, 15 December 1900, 6. St. Louis architect William S. Fames worried that "the entire machinery of the army lobby" was seeking the White House job. "Capital's Chief Need," Post, 14 December 1900, 2, 9.

41C. Howard Walker, "The Grouping of Public Buildings in a Great City," in Papers Relating to the Improvement of the City of Washington, comp. Glenn Brown, 56th Cong., 2d Sess., 1901, S. Doc. 94 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1901), 36.

42This analysis of the evening session viewpoint is based strictly on the papers given on that occasion, not those of Cass Gilbert, Paul J. Pelz, and George O. Totten, which were published later with the evening-session papers. Landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., who spoke that evening, scorned the then existing Mall with its "wiggling road and confused informal planting," favoring its treatment as a broad corridor of turf as suggested by the Tapis Vert at Versailles, to be flanked in Washington by "masses of foliage and architecture and shaded drives." Olmsted Jr., who became a member of the Senate Park (McMillan) Commission, later strongly influenced its thinking on this crucial feature. Only Paul J. Pelz, a local architect, wanted to preserve the Mall as series of picturesque gardens. Ibid., 3, 30. For a list of those who actually spoke, see AIA, Proceedings (1900): 92.

43For the 13 December meeting, see AIA, Proceedings (1900): 47-48, 113. The presence of the Board of Trade is inferred from the fact that it voted the very next day to adopt the policies set 13 December. See Cox, "Action of the Board of Trade," 17. For the Board's resolution, see Washington Board of Trade, Proceedings (unpublished), 14 December 1900, in Archives of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, Gellman Library, Special Collections, George Washington University. For additional confirmation, see Elfenbein, Civics, Commerce, and Community, 15. Elfenbein notes that the Board later took much of the credit for creation of the Senate Park Commission. For direct reference to the understanding reached between McMillan, the AIA, and the Board of Trade, see "Commission to Consider Certain Improvements in the District of Columbia," 18 January 1901, Calendar No. 1897, 56th Cong. 2d Sess., 1901, S. Rept. 1919, 2.

44For analysis of the "alliance between politics and business" in promoting public utilities, parks, and suburban improvements, which centered on McMillan and the Board of Trade beginning in the 1890s, including their shared "skepticism" toward the Army Corps, see Lessoff, The Nation and Its City, 151-52, 162, 197-98.

45"Grade Bills in Committee," Post, 12 December 1900, 4; "To Save the Mall," Star, 15 December 1900. See also W. S. Cowherd, T. W Sims, "Views of the Minority." 15 December 1900, in Grade Crossings of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Company, 56th Cong. 2d Sess., 1900, H. Rept. 2026, Pt. 2.

46See Mall plan drawings, accompanying Papers Relating to the Improvement of Washington, comp. Brown. The design by Edgar V. Seeler, reproduced by Reps, Monumental Washington, 88, is especially revealing of Brown's acceptance of the Mall site of the proposed terminal because Brown personally escorted Seeler over the Mall grounds before Seeler prepared his paper. See Seeler to Brown, 30 October and 21 November 1900, in Brown, Incoming Correspondence. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., when addressing the AIA convention, 13 December, also approached the railroad terminal as a fait accompli, in "Landscape in Connection with Public Buildings in Washington," Papers Relating to the Improvement of Washington, comp. Brown, 31.

47"Improvement Paper No. 5. Informal Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Committee on the District of Columbia, United States Senate," in Park Improvement Papers, ed. Moore, 68.

48Cox, "Action of the Washington Board of Trade," 17.

49Brown, comp., Papers Relating to the Improvement of Washington, 9; "A Commission for the Artistic Development of Washington," American Architect and Building News 71 (9 February 1901): 47-48 (hereafter abbreviated AABN).

50Lessoff, The Nation and Its City, 183, 260.

51Between 17 December 1900 and mid-January 1901, at least two other commissions were proposed in the Senate and the House to address roughly the same tasks. "To Beautify the District," Star, 17 December 1900; "Control by Permits," Post, 16 January 1901, 12; "District in Congress," Star, 15 January 1901, 4. By early February, three additional bills had emerged, each designating sites for new buildings. Brown, Outgoing Correspondence, February to March 1901.

52The grade crossing bill for the B & O was also enacted 12 April 1900. For dates of both bills, see Catalogue of the United States Public Documents (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1901). Charles Moore toward the end of his life took credit for suggesting this resolution and, after McMillan agreed, writing it. See Charles Moore, "Memoirs of Charles Moore" (typescript), 75, Box 21, Moore Papers, LC. For Moore's special relationship to McMillan, see Alan Lessoff, "Washington Insider: the Early Career of Charles Moore," Washington History 6 (fall/winter 1994-95): 64-80. Essentially, the two men worked as a team, with McMillan the final arbiter for any proposed action.

53Senate Park Commission Report, 7; American Institute of Architects, "The Commission on Parks and the Future Grouping of Government Buildings in Washington," Quarterly Bulletin 2 (April 1901): 6, 8; and Moore, Burnham, 1:137.

54"Informal Hearing," 67, 70.

55Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., "Washington Park System, 19th March, 1901." Box 134, FF: "Capitol Grounds," Olmsted Associates Papers, Library of Congress. Manuscript Division, hereafter cited as Olmsted Papers, LC.

56Although McMillan made clear that any work done must be "preliminary," Olmsted Jr. crystallized the "preliminary plan" approach, upholding Charles Eliot's 1893 plan for the Boston metropolitan park system as a model "general scheme" versus a detailed one. See "Informal Hearing," 71, 75-76, 78.

57"A Great Park System," Post, 23 March 1901, 12.

58Olmsted Jr., "Washington Park System, 19th March."

59That the AIA understood McMillan's wishes is implied, not stated, by Moore, Burnham, 1:137-38.

60All four had had roles at the fair. Even Olmsted Jr., age 30 when appointed to the commission as a stand-in for his father, had worked with Burnham at the fair in 1891 and later recalled it as a high point of his professional career. See "Insertion A" in "Biographical Notes FLO, Jr.," Box 176, Olmsted Papers, LC. For the addition of Saint-Gaudens, see Moore, Burnham, 1:147-48 and Moore, McKim, 185-86.

61Daniel H. Burnham to Charles F. McKim, 15 April 1901. McKim, Mead & White Papers, New-York Historical Society, hereafter cited as MM&W Papers, NYHS.

62Olmsted Jr., "Washington Park System, March 22, 1901." Box 134; FF, "Capitol Grounds," Olmsted Papers, LC.

63"A Great Park System," Post, 23 March 1901, 12. The $10,000 sum echoed Joint Resolution No. 139 and the June 6, 1900 House-Senate conference resolution of the Mall-Triangle impasse.

64Moore recorded that he offered Burnham the chairmanship when they met the evening of 21 March, but Cynthia Field, on the basis of Burnham's later correspondence, establishes that this matter remained unsettled in Burnham's mind. See Cynthia R. Field, "The City Planning of Daniel H. Burnham" (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1974), 138. For McMillan's treatment of Burnham as de facto chairman, see Olmsted Jr., "Washington Park System, March 22."

65Burnham to McKim, 8 May 1901, MM&W Papers, NYHS.

66Burnham to Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., 15 April 1901, MM&W Papers, NYHS. Burnham was contrasting his views to those of architect C. Howard Walker.

67Brown, Memories, 79.

68H. Burnham to Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., 27 May 1901, refers to an agreement with Cassatt made eight months ago. Letterbook VIII, Daniel H. Burnham Papers, Ryerson & Burnham Library, Chicago Art Institute, hereafter cited as Burnham Papers, Art Institute.

69Burnham diary for 5 April, quoted by Moore, Burnham, 1:142. Burnham's entry for the fifth as recorded by Moore includes events of the sixth.

70Burnham to Olmsted Jr., 10 April 1901. Burnham Papers, Art Institute.

71Burnham placed the station at the juncture of Virginia and Maryland avenues between Sixth and Seventh streets, SW.

72Burnham diary for 20 May. quoted by Moore, Burnham, 1:147.

73Two letters, Burnham to McKim, 20 May 1901, record the talks (sent from Washington and from the Pennsylvania Limited en route). MM&W Papers, NYHS.

74The newfound flexibility of the Pennsylvania Railroad did not reflect direct interest in the station site proposed by Burnham. For over a year, Theodore Bingham and other enemies of the grade-crossing bill had urged this site, to no avail. William Wright notes the long-standing opposition of the Pennsylvania to the southern site, at the juncture of Maryland and Virginia avenues, as too far from the downtown and also quotes Pennsylvania Railroad Vice-President Samuel Rea, as recalling in 1908 that "our possession and use of the Mall for railroad purposes was very insecure" and that Cassatt feared "that in the course of time they would be forced off the Mall, and there would then be no suitable place for the location of their station." William M. Wright, "Who's Driving? The Origins of Union Station," unpublished paper, Society of Architectural Historians Convention, 1998; and dissertation draft. This evidence does not alter the judgment offered here about Burnham's role. Wright establishes that the railroad had its own concerns and fears. But no evidence supports the view that the railroad initiated its own retreat from the Mall. Wright is now completing his history of the station as a doctoral dissertation at the University of North Carolina.

75Moore, Burnham, n. 1, 148-49.

76Daniel H. Burnham to Alexander Cassatt, 11 June 1901, James McMillan Papers, Detroit Public Library, hereafter cited as McMillan Papers, DPL.

77William T. Partridge, McMillan Commission: Personal Recollections," 3, 15, in NARA, RO 328, hereafter cited as Partridge Papers, NARA. For a discussion of Partridge and his work, and for excerpts from his "Recollections," see Kurt Helfrich's essay elsewhere in this volume. For Burnham's mid-July conference with Cassatt in London, see Hines, Burnham of Chicago, 149; and Moore, McKim, 191-92, 198.

78James McMillan to Charles Morste, 30 September 1901, Box 1, Moore Papers, DC.

79James McMillan, Union Railroad Station at Washington, D.C., 3 April 1902, U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on the District of Columbia, 57th Cong., 1st Sess., 1902, S. Rept. 982, reprinted in U.S. Congress, House, Committee on District of Columbia, 57th Cong., 2d Sess., 1902, H. Rept. 2788, 11.

80Moore, McKim, 188.

81For drafting room arrangements, see Olmsted Jr., "Washington Park System, March 22," and Moore to Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., 27 March and 1 April 1901. McMillan Papers, DPL.

82"District Park System," Star, 6 April 1901, 1; Moore, "Memoirs," 79.

83Burnham diary entry in Moore, Burnham, 1:143.

84Robert Montagna, "Henry Merwin Shrady's Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington, D.C., A Study in Iconography, Content and Patronage" (Ph.D. diss., University of Delaware, 1987), 1, 4-5, 60-61, 70.

85Charles F. McKim to Wendell P. Garrison, 10 April 1901, Charles F McKim Correspondence, New York Public Library, Manuscript Division. Also quoted by Moore, McKim, 185.


87Burnham to Albert R. Wells, 10 April 1891, Burnham Papers, Art Institute.

88For Olmsted Jr.'s 1890 work in Washington, see "Statement of F. L. Olmsted Jr.," The Mall Parkway Hearing before the Committee on the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1904), 30; and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., "Government Hospital for the Insane," typescript, 26 December 1900, Olmsted Papers. LC; Lessoff, The Nation and Its City, 246-47. Olmsted Jr., in 1895 to 1896, provided street extension plans for the District. See payment voucher of 25 January 1897, in Olmsted Papers, LC. For his convention views see Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., "Landscape in Connection with Public Buildings in Washington," Papers Relating to the Improvement of Washington, comp., Brown, 30.

89Moore, "Memoirs," 81. For Burnham's diary record and identity of some guests, see Moore, Burnham, 1:144.

90Moore details the trip in Burnham, 1:144-46. Moore records that W. E. Curtis, a Chicago newsman and close friend of Burnham, accompanied the party.

91Before going abroad, the commission met four times for at least thirteen days together: 6 to 7, 19 to 22 April; 14 to 19 May; and 10 to 11 June. Burnham worked in Washington until afternoon 19 May; the presence of Olmsted and McKim on the eighteenth and nineteenth is unclear. Burnham diary, Moore, Burnham, 1:146. For the Maryland trip, chiefly 15 May, see ibid.

92Burnham and Olmsted Jr. agreed to this first; McKim followed suit. Burnham and McKim each provided $1,000. Olmsted Jr., $950. See Olmsted Jr. to James G. Langdon, 6 June 1901; and Olmsted Jr. to Moore, 27 August 1901. Box 3, Moore Papers. LC.

93McKim, Mead & White, Plan for the Mall dated 3 June 1901, MM&W Papers, NYHS.

94For Saint-Gaudens early interactions with the Commission, see Moore, Burnham, 17147-48.

95Testimony of Daniel H. Burnham, Mall Parkway Hearing, 14-15. James G. Langdon to Charles McKim, 29 May 1901, reported discussing "the flag business with Mr. Moore" and the decision "to have these [flags] put up one or two days before you arrive." See MM&W Papers, NYHS. This means that either McKim studied them alone during a quick visit to the capital, 4 June, or, more likely, that the commission did so during its June 10 to 11 gathering. Burnham's diary records that the commission plus Moore and Secretary Gage ascended the Washington Monument, 10 June. See Moore, Burnham, 1:149. No evidence exists that flag-pole experiment occurred after going abroad.

96For McKim's role, see Charles F. McKim to Moore, 16 April 1901 and 10 May 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. For Olmsted Jr.'s role, see Moore, McKim, 187.

97For accounts of the trip, see Cynthia F. Field, "The McMillan Commission's Trip to Europe," in Historical Perspectives on Urban Design, ed. Lee, 19-24; Moore, Burnham, 1:149-57; Moore, McKim, 187-99. Of value if used with care, William A. Bogan, "The McMillan Plan for Washington, D.C.: European Influences in the Origins and Development," unpublished manuscript, ca. 1974 Commission of Fine Arts, Washington. D.C.

98Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., "European Photographs Taken during the Study for the Washington Park System in 1901," manuscript, Commission of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C.

99See Burnham diary record and Moore's notes, in Burnham, 1:153-54; and Moore, McKim, 196.

100For lists of recorded itinerary sites, see Bogan, "The McMillan Plan," Appendix A.

101Mary Caroline Robbins, "Park-Making as a National Art," Atlantic Monthly 79 (July 1897): 86-98.

102Burnham, Mall Parkway Hearing, 14-15.

103Frederick Law Olmsted [Jr.], "'Note on Githens' Caricature Coat of Arms for the So-Called 'Senate Park Commission of 1901,'" November 1935, attached to "'Personal Recollections,' McMillan Commission, 1901-1928" 18, Partridge Papers, NARA. (see pl. XX)

104Moore, McKim, 193.

105Moore, Burnham, 1:154; Moore, McKim, 198.

106McMillan to Moore, 7 August 1901, Box 1, Moore papers, LC.

107Charles Moore to McKim, 12 August 1901, MM&W Papers, NYHS.

108James Knox Taylor to McKim, 6 August 1901. MM&W Papers, NYHS; McKim to Daniel H. Burnham, 10 August 1901; and to Moore, 14 August 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. McKim states in the last letter that he leased "St. Gauden's old studio, at 107 East 27th Street, size 14 x 26," apparently for work on the Curtis model. The model did not reach New York for two months. There is no evidence that this space was ever used.

109Burnham diary in Moore, Burnham, 1:156-57.

110Olmsted Jr. inspected the Curtis model the evening of 2 August, sending a lengthy report to McKim the following day. Olmsted Jr. to McKim, 3 August 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. For the pool hall, see Moore, "Memoirs," 82. For departure date, see Olmsted Jr. to Moore, 10 August 1901, Moore Papers, LC.

111Olmsted Jr to Moore, 13 April 1901, hand-delivered by Langdon as he took up his post; Olmsted Jr. to Langdon, 30 April 1901, listing needed information; and six letters Olmsted Brothers to Langdon, 27 June to 8 July 1901, revealing initial difficulties in supplying photographs to Curtis, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. For quote, see Acting Director, Department of Interior, to Col. C. O. Sherrill, 14 April 1925, Olmsted Papers, LC.

112Burnham diary for 19 and 20 August, in Moore, Burnham, 1:158.


114Moore states that he learned of this "by chance from McMillan's grandson." "Memoirs," 102. He told the same story to William T. Partridge. See "Personal Recollections," 15, Partridge Papers, NARA.

115McKim to Moore, 26 August 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC.

116McMillan to Hon. Charles G. Bennett, Secretary of the Senate, 12 September 1901, Box 1, Moore Papers, LC; "Memorandum of amounts paid to George Carroll Curtis for personal services in connection with models," accompanying letter from Olmsted Jr. to Moore, 14 May 1902, Box 2, Moore Papers. LC. This memorandum credits Charles Moore with paying $12,354.78 to George C. Curtis. Since Moore always handled McMillan's personal disbursements, this is a reliable measure of McMillan's loans in support of the commission effort.

117For Rock Creek issue, see Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., "Washington: Report of Interview on Rock Creek Parkway with Capt. [Lansing] Beech, Engineer Commission," 25 September 1901," typescript, Box 134, Olmsted Papers, LC. For a detailed analysis of this issue, see Timothy Davis, "Rock Creek and the Potomac Parkway, Washington, D.C.: The Evolution of a Contested Urban Landscape," Studies in the History of Gardens & Design Landscapes 19 (Summer 1999): 145-58.

118For remarks on this parallel, see Olmsted Jr. to Hon. Sydney E. Mudd, House of Representatives, 19 June 1902, 3, Moore Papers, LC. For the filling of Back Bay, see Nancy S. Seasholes, "Gaining Ground: Boston's Topographical Development in Maps," in Alex Krieger and David Cobb, with Amy Turner, Mapping Boston (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1999), 124-28.

119Lawrence W. Kennedy, Planning a City upon a Hill: Boston since 1630 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992), 104; Cynthia Zaitzevsky, Frederick Law Olmsted and the Boston Park System (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1882), 105-7.

120Norman T. Newton, Design on the Land: The Development of Landscape Architecture (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971), 326-32.

121Moore, Burnham, 1:160-61, 163-64.

122Burnham to Moore, 13 December 1901, in Moore, Burnham, 1:164.

123J. G. Langdon to McKim, 29 November 1901, relaying Burnham's request of 27 November to McKim; and to Burnham, 29 November 1901, McMillan Papers, DPL.

124"Hearty concurrence in Bridge scheme received this morning. Will complete immediately." Telegram, McKim to Burnham, 29 November 1901, McKim Papers, NYHS.

125For analysis of Burnham's disagreements over writing style with Moore and McKim, see Hines, Burnham of Chicago, 150-51. Burnham's disappointment lingered, affecting his views of the battle over the Department of Agriculture building in 1904. See John Charles Olmsted to Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., 5 March 1904, Job No. 2825-5, Olmsted Papers, LC.

126Charles Moore to Charles F. McKim, 19 December 1901, McMillan Papers, DPL.

127For Olmsted Jr.'s role, see Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to Burnham, Sept. 3, 1901, McMillan Papers, DPL. See also Moore, Burnham, 1:166. McKim also contributed draft material on the Mall, and Langdon helped Olmsted Jr. write his portion.

128Charles Moore, "The Improvement of Washington City, pt. 1," Century Magazine, 58 (February 1902) 621-28, and pt. 2, 58 (March 1902) 747-57.

129McKim to Burnham, 28 August 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. Charles F. McKim to Elihu Root, 24 August 1901, Elihu Root Papers, Library of Congress.

130Ibid.; John Braeman, "Root, Elihu" in John A. Garratty and Marck C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography (New Yrsrk: Oxford University Press, 1999), 16:838-40.

131For McKim's talks with Root, McKim to Burnham, 28 August 1901, and attachments headed "Grant Memorial," "Additional Property," and "Public Support."

132William Hudson Harper to McKim, 11 December 1901, MM&W papers, NYHS. Harper's tone probably reflects his banishment as Burnham's hired writer of the commission report.

133This middle section of the model measured 3 x 17 feet. See Olmsted Jr. to McKim, 3 August 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. The model was railway-expressed back to Boston in twelve cases, 31 December 1901. See telegram, McKim to Moore, 31 December 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. The same procedure probably had been used for sending the model to New York in October. McKim to Moore, 11 October 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC.

134Senate Park Commission Report, 123; and Moore, Burnham, 1:165.

135"Second Installment from William Partridge, Received March 8, 1918," 3 in the Papers of William T. Partridge, Avery Library, Columbia University.

136McKim to Moore, 21 November 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. For detailed discussion and Root's support, see Montagna, "Shrady's Ulysses S. Grant Memorial," 76-79.

137Montagna, "Shrady's Ulysses S. Grant Memorial," 76. Also, see Montagna for detailed discussion of interactions between the two commissions over the Grant site location and subsequent battles, from April 1901 to 1908, 60-110.

138"William T. Partridge's Personal Recollections," 43, Partridge Papers. NARA.

139At this point, McKim anticipated thirty to fifty "illustrations, large and small" and already had two men at work on them. McKim to Moore, 26 August 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. Written the morning of his trip to see Root in Washington.

140McMillan quoted by Moore, from memory, Moore, Burnham, 1:165. Moore provides a variation of this same quote and story in his "Memoirs," 103.

141Burnham diary for 21 to 22 October and Moore's note, in Burnham, 1:162.

142Moore formally thanked twelve contributing artists in Senate Park Commission Report, 123: Otto H. Bacher, Henry Bacon, Robert Blum, Curtis, F. L. V. Hoppin, Sears Gallagher, Percival Gallagher, Charles Graham, Jules Guerin, Henry McCarter, Rodeman, and A. R. Ross. First names, if available, supplied from Moore, Burnham, 1:165; and McKim, 200-201. Curtis is almost certainly George Curtis, the model builder. The list omits artist Carleton T. Chapman. Ibid.

143Key letters attesting to Olmsted Jr.'s role include Olmsted Jr. to Langdon. 27 November 1901; and McKim to Moore, 10 December 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC.

144Worries about whether the Curtis models would be finished for the exhibit became intense by 23 December. McKim to Moore, 23 December 1901. Curtis wanted an extension to 1 February. George Carroll Curtis to McKim, 26 December 1901. The McKim portion of the model was returned from New York to Roxbury on 31 December. Telegram, McKim to Moore, 31 December 1901. By 2 January McKim was desperate and demanded "the model, finished or unfinished, in time for the exhibition on the 15th." McKim to Moore, 2 January 1902, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. Curtis arrived in Washington "with his models," 11 January 1902. See Charles Moore Diary, University of Michigan Library.

145"List of Drawings, Designs, and Models Illustrating the Report of the Commission on the Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia," in Senate Park Commission Report, 147-54.

146The Senate Park Commission Report, issued in June, summarized these features.

147Illustrations 19 to 29, as listed in the Senate Park Commission Report, Appendix F, 148.

148Ibid., 12.

149"The New Washington," Post, 15 January 1902. A twenty-five-cent admission, inflation adjusted for historical cost-of-living increases, would have been about $5.00 in 2001.

150Moore to McKim, 12 December 1901, McMillan Papers, DPL.

151The following totals were disbursed from the contingent fund: to Daniel H. Burnham, $1,556; to Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., $1,698; to James G. Langdon (head draftsman for Olmsted Jr.), $1,971; to R. A. Outhet (draftsman for Olmsted Jr.), $600; to Charles F. McKim (who in turn paid draftsmen and illustrators). $17,066; to Charles Moore, who personally handled McMillan's advances, $6,099; to George C. Curtis (who paid his assistants), $24,482; to Jules Guerin (artist-illustrator), $425; to H. A. Zeck (photographer), $444; to L. C. Handy (photographer), $356; to Senator Gallinger, $83; for hotel expenses, $456; to the Architectural Press, $243. Because none of the entries is specifically identified as a commission expense, my overall cost-estimate may understate the total. See U.S. Senate, Contingent Expenses, 1897-1901 [ledger], Vol. C-41, RG 46, NARA. The $55,500 expended in 1901, adjusted for cost-of-living increases, would have been 1.1 to 1.2 million in 2001.

152Newspaper clipping, from the Detroit Journal, 20 May 1904, quoting the Chicago Chronicle, Olmsted Associates Papers, LC. For identity of the clipping, see Olmsted Jr. to Moore, 25 May 1904, Box 7, Moore Papers. LC.

153For Cannon's opposition in the wake of the January exhibit, see editorial, "To Beautify Washington," New York Times, 3 April 1902.

154Glenn Brown to McKim, 4, 11, 12 (quoted), and 13 December 1901. See also McKim to Brown, 7 December 1901, MM&W Papers, NYHS.

155McKim to Moore, 18 December 1901, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC.

156For McMillan's views, 19 March 1901, see "Informal Hearing," 78.

157Moore to McKim, 16 December 1901, McMillan Papers. DPL.

158Moore to McKim, 25 March 1902, MM&W Papers, NYHS.

159Charles Moore to Charles F. McKim, 12 March 1902, Charles F. McKim Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, hereafter cited as McKim Papers, LC.

160Moore to McKim, 14 Apr11 1902, McKim Papers, LC.

161"Union Station Bill passed Senate today 45 to 24." See telegram, Charles Moore to Charles F. McKim, 15 May 1902. MM&W Papers, NYHS.

162Olmsted Jr. to Moore, 28 August 1902; McKim to Moore, 5 December 1902, Boxes 7 and 2, Moore Papers, LC.

163Moore, "Memoirs," 111-12.

164Moore to Mrs. James McMillan, 4 December 1902, Box 3, Moore Papers, LC. "An Act To provide for a union railroad station," in Acts of Congress of 1901 and 1903 Providing for Elimination of Grade-Crossings of Railroads in the District of Columbia, and Authorizing Construction of Union Station and Terminals (Washington, D.C.: Judd & Detweiler, 1905), 34.

165Moore to Oscar F Billingsley, 25 February 1903, Box 3, Moore Papers, LC. Moore, "Memoirs," 132-33.

166For the origins of the City Beautiful Movement, see Jon A. Peterson, "The City Beautiful Movement: Forgotten Origins and Lost Meanings," Journal of Urban History 2 (November 1976): 415-34; and William H. Wilson, The City Beautiful Movement (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989). See also Peterson, The Birth of City Planning, 98-127.

167Peterson "City Beautiful Movement" and The Birth of City Planning, 108-115; Wilson, City Beautiful Movement, 35-52.

168For histories of park systems, see David Schuyler, The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 126-46; and Newton, Design on the Land, 290-336. For outdoor art, see Peterson. The Birth of City Planning, 115-118.

169Peterson, "City Beautiful Movement" and The Birth of City Planning, 102-108.

170For the naturalistic tradition of landscape design, especially as applied to cities, see Schuyler, The New Urban Landscape; and Newton, Design on the Land, 267-336.

171Marion Louise McCall, "What Organization Has Done for St. Louis," in Nation-Wide Civic Betterment: A Report of the Third Annual Convention of the American League for Civic Improvement (Chicago, n.p., 1903), 50.

172Charles Mulford Robinson, The Improvement of Towns and Cities or the Practical Basis of Civic Aesthetics (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1901); "American Society of Landscape Architects, Minute on the Life and Services of Charles Mulford Robinson, Associate Member," Landscape Architecture 9 (1919): 180-89.

173D. J. Thomas, "Report of Corresponding Secretary," in American League for Civic Improvement. Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American League fist Civic Improvement (Springfield, Ohio: The Home Florist, October 1901): 59; Clinton Rogers Woodruff, "Awakening America," American Park and Outdoor Art Association, Proceedings, Part I (1903): 775; "Civic Improvement, The American Civic Association in Convention," Park and Cemetery and Landscape Gardening, 15 (October 1905): 372; and Mary I. Wood, The History of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, for the First Twenty-two Years of Its Organization (New York: History Department, General Federation of Women's Clubs, 1912), 166, 170.

174Sylvester Baxter, "Great Civic Awakening," Century Magazine 64 (June 1902): 255; J. Horace McFarland, "The Great Civic Awakening," Outlook 73 (18 April 1903): 917.

175Reps, Monumental Washington, 105-8; Moore, Burnham, 1:167-68.

176Hines, Burnham of Chicago, 154-55.

177"The Beautifying of Washington," Harper's Weekly 66 (1 February 1902): 146; Elbert F. Baldwin, "Washington Fifty Years Hence," Outlook 70 (5 April 1902): 817-29; Charles Moore, "The Improvement of Washington City," Century Magazine 43 (February 1902): 621-28 and (March 1902): 747-57.

178"The Fair White City: The Beautifying of the Nation's Capital," Current Literature 32 (March 1902): 276-77; John Brent, "Washington, The Capital City." Munsey's Magazine 27 (May 1902): 228-29; Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., "Beautifying a City," Independent 54 (2 August 1902): 1870-77; Charles Moore, "Washington as a Work of Art," Municipal Journal and Engineer 13 (July 1902): 1-5; "The Improvement of the City of Washington," Popular Science Monthly 63 (June 1903): 149-58; and "The Improvement of Washington," Scientific American 86 (15 February 1902): 108-9. See also Montgomery Schuyler, "The Nation's New Capital." New York Times Magazine 19 January 1902, 4-5. For a digest of early responses, see "The Park Commission and the Improvement of the City of Washington," The American Institute of Architects, Quarterly Bulletin 3 (April 1902): 5-16.

179"Washington: The Development and Improvement of the Park System." Parts 1 and 2, AABN 75 (1 February 1902): 35-36 and (8 March 1902): 75-77; Charles Moore, "The Improvement of Washington," AABN 78 (27 December 1902): 101-2; "Beautifying the Nation's Capital," Inland Architect and News Record 39 (February 1902): 2-3; Montgomery Schuyler, "Proposed Sites for Future Buildings," Architectural Record 12 (May 1902): 1-26; Charles Moore, "Improvement of Washington City," Architectural Record 12 (September 1902): 456-58; Editorial, Architectural Review 9 (February 1902): 69 and (June 1902): 116.

180"The Thirty-sixth Annual Convention of the American Institute of Architects," Part 1, AABN 78 (20 December 1902): 92. For Brown's lecture in New York to the National Arts Club, see "To Beautify Washington," New York Times, 13 February 1902, 2.

181H. A. Caparn, "The Development of Washington," AABN 79 (3 January 1903): 4.

182Editorial, "Washington: An Example for Municipal Improvement," Inland Architect and Building News, 34 (February 1902): 1.

183Editorial, "The Art of City Making," New York Times, 19 January 1902, 8.

184"Civic Improvement a Phase of Patriotism," Century Magazine 58 (March 1902): 793.

185For the drafting in New York of the Mall portion of the plan, see William T. Partridge, "McMillan Commission, Personal Recollections," Partridge Papers, NARA.

186For the Fine Arts Federation resolution, see "To Beautify the City," New York Times, 1 February 1902, 2. See also editorial, AABN 75 (Feb. 15, 1902): 49. See also Gregory F. Gilmartin, Shaping the City: New York and the Municipal Art Society (New York: Clarkson Potter, Publishers, 1995), 84-85.

187At this point, the Municipal Art Society was publicly focused on specific, practical embellishments, but it quickly lent support. See "Embellishing the City," New York Times, 30 January 1902, 8; "To Embellish the City," New York Times, 1 February 1902, 8; Harvey A. Kantor, "The City Beautiful in New York," New-York Historical Society Quarterly 57 (April 1973): 154; and "New York Municipal Art Society," Municipal Journal and Engineer 14 (March 1903): 97-99.

188McKim to Moore, 8 January 1903, Box 2, Moore Papers, LC. Significantly, McKim stressed to Mayor Seth Low the importance of independent action and of making "the work comprehensive" by including all the boroughs as well as real estate and transportation interests, revealing the fat-reaching lessons he drew from his Senate Park Commission experience.

189The Municipal Art Society of Cincinnati, Annual Report (28 April 1902).

190Walter H. Kilham, "Boston's New Opportunities," AABN 79 (17 January 1903): 22.

191Municipal Art League of Chicago, Yearbook (1901-1904): 16.

192Charles Mulford Robinson, Modern Civic Art or, the City Made Beautiful (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1903), 32.

193Peterson, The Birth of City Planning, 151-223. See also Mel Scott, American City Planning since 1890 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 47-82.

194Bushong, "Glenn Brown," 149-50.

195Charles Eliot to Olmsted Jr., 15 February 1904, Olmsted Papers, LC.

196J. R. Coolidge Jr. to Olmsted Jr., 25 February 1904; Olmsted Jr to Samuel Powers, 16 February 1904; and Olmsted Jr. to Glenn Brown, 17 March 1904, Olmsted Papers, LC.

197Charles Mulford Robinson to Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., 25 February 1904; Olmsted Jr. to Robinson, 1 March 1904; Olmsted Jr. to Francis Newlands, 3 March 1904. Olmsted Papers, LC. A 14 March 1904 article in the Boston Herald, "Building Plan for Washington" utilizes the same language Olmsted Jr. used in his 1 March letter to Robinson. The support of the Boston Transcript is noted by Moore in a letter to McKim, 7 March 1904, MM&W Papers, NYHS.

198Ibid. In this letter, Moore also stated "I am going to have some Skull and Bones men make an appeal to Secretary Taft."

199Olmsted Jr. to Daniel H. Burnham, 8 March 1904; to Francis Newlands, 8 March 1904; and Charles Mulford Robinson to Olmsted Jr., 9 March 1904, Olmsted Papers, LC.

200Robinson to Olmsted Jr., 10 March 1904. See also Robinson to Olmsted Jr., 18 and 21 March 1904, for other efforts by Robinson, including writing to the president and to congressmen and his work with Clinton Rogers Woodruff, president of the American Park and Outdoor Art Association, Olmsted Papers, LC.

201Olmsted Jr. to Charles Moore, 28 November 1904, Olmsted Papers, LC.

The Mall, ca. 1937. Commission of Fine Arts
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Last Modified: March 20, 2009