Pierre Charles L'Enfant (born August 2, 1754 in Paris, France—died June 14, 1825 in Prince George's County, Maryland, U.S.) was a French-born American engineer, architect, and urban planner who devised the fundamental layout for Washington, D.C., the United States' capital city. L'Enfant's plan called for a city of large blocks with wide avenues connecting the public squares. It is believed that he used the grid system developed by his teacher, Michel Van der Meulen, at the Royal Academy of Brussels.
L'Enfant was hired as the court architect by President George Washington in 1791. The following year, Congress passed a bill authorizing the president to appoint commissioners to oversee the development of the federal city under the direction of L'Enfant. Although not involved in drawing up the plan himself, L'Enfant played an important role in its implementation. He acted as a liaison between the government and the private sector, helping to establish companies that would build specific projects such as roads or buildings. He also managed the budget and supervised the work of other architects on federal projects. L'Enfant was given many tasks beyond his qualifications; however, he accepted these jobs without pay because they were considered part of his compensation from the government.
L'Enfant's most famous design is the Plan de Méridien which was adopted by Congress in 1800.
L'Enfant, Pierre Charles How an idea of a Frenchman become our capital city. Today's Washington, D.C. owes much of its distinctive design to Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a Frenchman who came to America to fight in the Revolutionary War and rose from obscurity to become George Washington's trusted city planner. After Washington's death, L'Enfant fell into disfavor with his new American masters, but he soon regained their trust and within weeks had sketched a plan for the federal city they wanted to see built. The job then fell to him, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Henry Lee (father of Robert E.) to make her look beautiful and functional.
L'Enfant was not a professional architect, but rather a civil engineer who had been commissioned by the government to help establish the capital. He designed and planned every aspect of the city, including its streets, buildings, parks, and public spaces. His plans were based on a grid system of wide avenues crossing at right angles to provide open space, which was unusual for its time. One of these cross-streets was named after L'Enfant, who lived out his life in poverty after leaving office.
How did a French civil servant end up designing the capital of our country? It is such a unique story that it deserves to be told.
Plan for the City Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French army engineer who participated in the American Revolution, was Washington's visionary planner. He drew up a plan for the city on paper called "A Plan for the Government of the District of Columbia." This document is preserved today at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
L'Enfant was born in France and trained as an architect. In 1776, he came to America to serve in the American Army during the Revolutionary War. After the war, he returned to France but was invited back to America by George Washington. In 1791, L'Enfant published his plan for the new federal city called "A Plan for the Permanent Federal City" (now known as Capitol Hill). This plan was adopted by Congress and the president. L'Enfant then traveled to Kentucky where he built houses for several prominent citizens before returning to Paris where he died in 1825.
In addition to being an architect, L'Enfant was also a civil servant with the United States government. After his death in 1825, his son took over his practice until it failed five years later. At this point, William H. Pearce became the principal architect for the federal government.
How an idea of a Frenchman become our capital city. Today's Washington, D.C. owes much of its distinctive design to Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a Frenchman who came to America to fight in the Revolutionary War and climbed from obscurity to become George Washington's trusted city architect. When Washington appointed L'Enfant to the task, he had no experience with architecture but he did have a plan for an orderly grid of streets lined with trees and filled with houses for America's government officials.
During his time in office, Washington asked others to help him run the country, so he didn't get around to building himself a house. But the president did find time to build himself a tomb, which is when L'Enfant fell from favor. The architect died in poverty in 1754 at the age of 37. However, his plans were adopted by Congress and his wife's family donated his body for burial on the grounds of Saint Paul's Church in Paris where he had been baptized. In 1960, L'Enfant's grave was discovered during construction work on the new National Cathedral. An autopsy revealed that he had tuberculosis and the disease had damaged his heart, lungs, and liver.
After L'Enfant's death, nobody really knew what to do with his drawings. Some people thought they were crazy ideas that wouldn't work in practice. Others saw opportunity in them since nobody else was willing to take on such a project.
Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a city planner, would be astounded to learn about this. Monsieur L'Enfant, born on August 2, 1754 in France, is most known for creating the D.C. highways of circles and spokes, a 1791 master plan that converted a stretch of marsh and farmland into the United States capital. But he also designed several other important streets in Washington, including Pennsylvania Avenue, which runs from the White House to Capitol Hill.
In fact, Mr. L'Enfant's plans called for a grid system of wide avenues crossing at right angles, connecting the White House with Congress by way of the National Mall. His circle-within-a-circle design has been criticized for being too symmetrical, but it did allow for light and airy streets when the area was still mostly open land.
The first permanent European-American settlers arrived in 1630s Virginia, but it wasn't until after the American Revolution that large numbers of people moved to the new nation's capital region. In 1801, when the federal government decided to build a new capital city, it needed a good road network to connect it to the rest of the country.