L'Enfant, Pierre Charles 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. Before the construction of Washington, D.C., cities were laid out with squares or circles as their central layout device. But because of security concerns after the British attacked and burned down the City of Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War, President George Washington asked L'Enfant to come up with a plan for the new federal city.
L'Enfant had been living in Pennsylvania since leaving France about eight years before the war began. But because of his expertise with maps and designs for large projects, he was hired by Congress to help plan the new nation's capital. The job required not only engineering skills but also political acumen: L'Enfant was given free rein to design a city that would fit the needs of the government for which it was planning. He received $25,000 in cash plus land worth an estimated $100,000 more at today's prices.
L'Enfant first proposed a square grid system of wide avenues running north-south and smaller streets crossing under or over them.
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 climbed from obscurity to become George Washington's trusted city architect. When Washington appointed L'Enfant as his chief planner in 1791, he had no more experience designing cities than he did leading armies into battle.
L'Enfant was given only six months to complete his task. He began by traveling across Europe looking at other major cities' planning documents and drawing inspiration for his own vision of a perfect capital city. When he returned home, he drew up plans that were then implemented by their enthusiastic recipient: President Washington himself. The president was so impressed with the young architect's work that he asked him to stay on as his city planner, a post L'Enfant held until his death in 1825.
L'Enfant's plan was one of the first in North America to take advantage of large open spaces, but it still would not be considered modern today because it lacked many essential features such as wide streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, or traffic signals.
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 educated as a military engineer. In 1776, he came to America to help fight for the new nation. He worked for two years as an aide to General George Washington before being hired by Congress to design a capital city. The job required not only technical expertise but also artistic creativity; no one else could fulfill these needs simultaneously.
L'Enfant first proposed a site for the new federal city on the Potomac River near Georgetown, but this idea was rejected by Congress. Then he suggested a site near the Mall in downtown Washington, which was accepted by Congress over the objections of George Washington.
In his plan, L'Enfant divided the city into nine districts, each with its own government officials. They would be appointed by Congress and could be removed by it. The plan also included a large central park that was to be filled with trees and flowers from all over the world.
How an idea of a Frenchman become our capital city. When Washington appointed L'Enfant to plan the new federal city, he had no idea that his young assistant would one day be his heir apparent. But so it happened: When Washington died in 1799, he willed his home at Mount Vernon to his favorite apprentice, who then took his place as president of the United States.
L'Enfant was a military engineer who had been hired by Congress to plan the new federal city. He traveled to Philadelphia where Congress was meeting and presented his ideas about placing a government office building on a square with streets named for American heroes. L'Enfant also proposed wide avenues connecting the squares and planting trees along the roads to make the city look beautiful.
When President Washington heard about this proposal, he asked Congress to hire L'Enfant to build his new home in Virginia. So L'Enfant went back to work for the government and moved to Georgetown, which is now a neighborhood inside Washington, D.C. The job gave L'Enfant the opportunity to show his talent as a city planner. He designed large open spaces for parades and public gatherings and provided areas for parks and gardens.
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 created the original street layout for Washington, D.C.
L'Enfant was hired by Congress to design the federal city under the direction of George Washington. The young Frenchman drew up plans that were then implemented by Samuel Davidson and William Johnson, two Scottish surveyors. When L'Enfant died in 1825, without seeing his dream of wide streets and parklands realized, Pierre L'Enfant Jr. took over the project. He too died before completion of his work, but not before designing an elegant set of broad avenues called "l'Enfant promenades." These now form the heart of the Washington metropolitan area.
In addition to its magnificent parks and memorials, what makes Washington, D.C., special are its grid-like streets arranged according to a comprehensive plan. This plan was proposed by L'Enfant in his 1791 report to Congress and was adopted by the City Council on February 26, 1812. The plan was meant to provide traffic flow and firefighting capabilities in case parts of the city were destroyed in war or natural disaster.
The Capitol was supposed to be designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, but his dismissal in 1792 owing to his failure to work with the Commissioners of the Federal Buildings resulted in different ideas. Benjamin Henry Latrobe was selected to replace him, but he too failed to collaborate effectively with his colleagues and left after only three years, so John Jamesaelin was hired in his place. Although he had no experience in architecture, James was able to convince the commissioners that his ideas were sound and he was given the job.
James took charge of the project in 1800 and completed most of it before his death four years later. His partner Joseph Smith finished the capitol after James's death, but did not live up to his reputation as an architect. In 1819, Congress approved funds to have Hylman Phinney Blake remodel parts of the building. The commission was first offered to Thomas Jefferson but he declined because he felt that it was not his role to superintend construction projects. The next year, it was announced that Blake would receive $40,000 for his work. He died before completing the project, which was then taken over by his son-in-law William Rutherford Ross. In 1857, the State Duma of Russia added decorations and ornaments to the capitol building as a gift for American independence. These features are still present today.