Place

Freedom Plaza

Plaza surrounded by swatches of grass and buildings.
Freedom Plaza

Quick Facts

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Public Transit

Standing on this plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue, you are on a direct line between the White House and the US Capitol Building. The stone pavers of Freedom Plaza depict a map of Washington, DC, according to planner Pierre Charles L'Enfant's plan for the city.

Inscriptions
WESTERN PLAZA PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE
Western plaza consists of a large raised terrace in which part of L'Enfant's original 1791 plan for Washington, DC is rendered in black and white stone. At one end of the raised terrace is a pool. At the other is a shaded sitting area around a statue of General Pulaski.
Inscribed on the upper terrace are historic quotations about Washington. Low walls separate the plaza from the surrounding traffic. Eleven large urns rest on top of these walls and contain seasonal plantings. The upper map terrace has a grass lawn where the Mall occurs and inlaid bronze plans of the White House and the Capitol located at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The inlays illustrate L'Enfant's intention to have these two buildings balance each other and symbolize two main branches of government. The siting of the Treasury in the 19th century blocked the view of the White House and obscured this relationship.
L'Enfant's plan of Washington combines two orders of scale. The giant order is the diagonal avenues that sometimes terminate in a building or a monument. This order is the rectangular grid pattern of the local structure of the city.
Western Plaza acknowledges both orders since it is shaped by the rectangular grid of the local scale and is an element within the giant order of Pennsylvania Avenue.
1 Pool 3 Mall 5 Capitol
2 White House 4 L'Enfant's Plan 6 Pulaski Statue
Plaque, north side
THE GREAT SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES
1782 1782 1885
OBVERSE REVERSE OBVERSE
IN 1776 THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS ADOPTED A RESOLUTION CALLING FOR THE CREATION OF A SEAL FOR THE NEW NATION. IN JUNE 1782 THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS APPROVED A DESIGN WHICH WAS MANUFACTURED IN SEPTEMBER OF THAT YEAR. IN EARLY 1881 THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE SELECETED A NEW DESIGN FOR THE OBVERSE, WHICH WAS MADE IN 1885. 2,000 TO 3,000 TIMES A YEAR THE SEAL IS USED ON TREATIES AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS; PROCLAMATIONS; AND COMMISSIONS OF AMBASSADORS, FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICERS AND ALL OTHER CIVIL OFFICERS APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT. IN ADDITION, WE SEE TH ESEAL DESIGN EVERY DAY ON THE BACK OF THE ONE DOLLAR BILL.
perimeter quotations, in counterclockwise direction from the northwest corner
The Capital of the Great Republic Gathered its people from the four winds of heaven, and so the manners the faces and the fashions there presented a variety that was infinite.
MARK TWAIN, 1874
With the Word War Washington changed its character forever. In a moment it became the heart of the world, the world counting its every pulsation.
MARIETTA MINNEGERODE ANDREWS, 1928
A century hence, if this country keeps united, it will produce a city though not as large as London, yet of magnitude inferior to few others in Europe.
GEORGE WASHINGTON 1789
Our capital city, born in the Potomac marshlands, has grown by feeding on an indestructible idea.
JOEL SAYRE, 1950
No nation had ever before the opportunity offered them of deliberately deciding on the spot where their Capital city should be fixed.
PIERRE CHARLES L'ENFANT, 1789
Whatever we are looking for we come to Washington millions to stand in silence and try to find it.
BRUCE CANTON, 1959
Washington is no place in which to carry out inventions.
ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL, 1887
What you want is to have a city which every one who comes from Maine, Texas, Florida, Arkansas, or Oregon can admire as being something finer and more beautiful than he had ever dreamed of before.
JAMES BRYCE, 1913
May the spirit which animated the great founder of this city, descend to future generations.
JOHN ADAMS, 1800
The sum of all known reverence I add up in you whoever you are,
The President is there in the White House for you, it is not you who are here for him.
WALT WHITMAN, 1855
Never, til the capital had cost the life of the beautiful and the brave of our land , did it become to the heart of the American citizen of the nineteenth Century the object of personal love that is was to George Washington.
MARY CLEMMER AMES, 1874
Wherever the American citizen may be a stranger, he is at home here.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS, 1877
Washington has certainly an air of more magnificence than any other American town. It is mean in detail, but the outline has a certain grandeur about it.
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER, 1838
I have never doubted the constitutional authority of Congress to abolish slavery in this District; and I have ever desired to see the national capital freed from the institution in some satisfactory way.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 1862
But, taking it all in all and after all, Negro life in Washington is a promise rather than a fulfillment. But it is worthy of note for the really excellent things which are promised.
PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR, 1900
There seems reason to anticipate that in time our capital city of Washington will come to be as well known as a centre of literature and art, as it is now recognized the centre of statesmanship, law and science.
I. EDWARDS CLARKE, 1899
On this site is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission time capsule implanted January 12, 1983 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King and Friends.
"I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream and, if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. Let freedom ring from every hill...from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. 1963
It is sometimes called the city of Magnificent Distance, but it might with greater propriety be termed the City of Magnificent Intentions.
CHARLES DICKENS, 1842
The Congress shall have Power to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of Government of the United States.
ARTICLE 1, SECTION 8
US CONSTITUTION
Living in contemporary Washington, caught literally and physically in L'Enfant's dream, and encountering on every hand the brave momentos of Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, is to live as close as possible to both the source and the climax of one of the major sequences of the human story.
GEORGE SESSIONS PERRY, 1946
PLAN
Of the City intended for the Permanent Seat of the Government of the United States
Projected agreeable to the direction of the President of the United States in pursuance of an Act of Congress pafsed the sixteenth day of July MDCCXC
"establishing the Permanent Seat on the bank pf the Potomac.
By Peter Charles L'Enfant
All's quiet along the Potomac tonight
Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming,
Their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
In the light of the watch fires are gleaming.
ETHEL BEERS, 1879
Washington was planned by men of imagination, who stood amid the swamps and briar patches at the head of navigation om the Potomac and visualized a city of half a million population.
GEORGE ROTHWELL BROWN, 1930
I am here now and have seen your people, your houses, your vessels on the big lake, and great many wonderful things far beyond my comprehension, which appear to have been made by the Great Spirit and placed in your hands.
SHARITARISH PAWNEE, 1822
How shall you act the natural man in the Invented city, neither Rome nor home.
ERNEST KROLL, 1952
Washington ... is the symbol of America.
By its dignity and architectural inspiration ... we encourage that elevation of thought and character which comes from great architecture.
HERBERT HOOVER, 1929
Every dedicated American could be proud that a dynamic experience of democracy in his nation's capital had been made visible to the world.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., 1963
There are two Washingtons - political Washington and the real Washington made up of friends and neighbors.
BENJAMIN McKELWAY, 1951
The city of Washington is in some respects self-contained, and it is easy there to forget what the rest of the United States is thinking about.
WOODROW WILSON, 1913
I went to Washington as everybody goes there prepared to see everything done with some furtive intention, but I was disappointed - pleasantly disappointed.
WALT WHITMAN, 1888
In Washington there is no life apart from government and politics; it is our daily bread; it is the thread which runs through the woof and warp of our lives; it colors everything.
A. MAURICE LOW, 1900
Who does not feel that, when President Washington laid his hand on the foundation of the first Capitol, he performed a great work of perpetuation of the Union and the Constitution?
DANIEL WEBSTER, 1851
black granite panels, counterclockwise from the southeast corner, they are
If Washington should ever grow to be a great city, the outlook from the Capitol will be unsurpassed in the world. Now at sunset I seemed to look westward far into the heart of the continent from this commanding position.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON, 1843
The Capitol is the first temple dedicated to the sovereignty of the people, embellishing with Athenian taste the course of a nation looking far beyond the range of Athenian destinies.
THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1812
Washington ... enormous spaces, hundreds of miles of asphalt, a charming climate and the most entertaining society in America.
HENRY JAMES, 1882
The Grand avenue connecting both the palace and the federal House will ne most significant and most convenient.
THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1791
There is not a street in any city in this country entitled to the eminent distinction which crowns the history of Pennsylvania Avenue.
SAMUEL C. BUSEY, 1898
One of these days this will be a very great city if nothing happens to it.
HENRY ADAMS, 1887
Washington was planned as a city of ideals.
CHARLES MOORE, 1930
More than any other city .... More than any other region, the Nation's Capital should represent the finest in living environment which America can plan or build.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, 1961

Last updated: October 25, 2020