George Washington

L'Enfant's Guide to Getting Fired

It takes a lot of talent to design a city, especially one with such sweeping vistas and wide, radial streets as our Nation’s Capital.  It’s hard not to admire the vision of Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the engineer behind Washington, D.C. But everybody makes mistakes—even visionaries— and L’Enfant was certainly no exception.

His biggest blunder was probably tearing down the house of his boss’s nephew. 

Matildaville: George Washington’s Ghost Town

Known as Dickey’s Tavern, Inn, and Farmhouse, this 18th century barn was said to be Matildaville’s first and last standing building.

If you’ve ever hiked Great Falls Park, you might have stumbled across the ruins of a long lost town. Matildaville was to be a bustling hub on an expansive trans-national trade route. But today, a spattering of stone ruins and a handful of crumbling locks are all that remain of a town conceived by none other than George Washington.

Marcia Van Ness (Source: the-athenaeum.org)

The First Leading Lady of Washington: Marcia Van Ness

In the historic society of Washington there has always been a woman at the top. Sometimes she rules with an iron fist, sometimes it’s with charm, but she does rule. And the very first of these ladies was Marcia Van Ness. This future “heiress of Washington” got her start as Marcia Burnes, the daughter of David Burnes, a stubborn Scottish farmer. In 1790, the new location for the capital was chosen, George Washington got to know Mr. Burnes very well. Possibly too well, in the president’s opinion.

Benjamin Banneker's Capital Contributions

Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker was already a practiced mathematician and astronomer when he was approached in February 1791 by his friend Andrew Ellicott to survey the land staked out for the new United States capital. A free black who grew up in Maryland as a farmer, Banneker was more than a laborer. Though his formal education ended at an early age, he continued to study science and physics and would later write a series of best-selling almanacs. He designed and built a striking clock at age 22 that kept perfect time for forty years until it was destroyed in a fire. But, perhaps him most long lasting mark was the unique role he played in the development of the nation's capital — a job that went far beyond what Ellicott orginally had in mind.

Plaque describing defunct Washington City Canal. (Photo by Matthew Bisanz used via GNU Free Documentation License)

The Rise and Fall of the Washington City Canal

Just within sight of the Washington Monument is a little stone house not open to the public. Used for National Park Service storage today, this house is the last remnant of one of the biggest mistakes in municipal planning in the District’s history: the Washington City Canal.

The canal was first conceived of by architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant. He envisioned something grand like, well, the Grand Canal at Versailles. George Washington thought the canal was a good idea because it would increase commerce by bringing goods directly into the city center.

But, right from the beginning, the proposed canal was plagued with problems.

Origins of the George Washington Memorial Parkway


Thousands of people drive on it everyday, but sometimes we forget that the George Washington Memorial Parkway is not just a commuter highway. It's a national park. And like our other national parks, the Parkway tells a story about our nation's past.

Tomorrow night, Park Ranger David Lassman will be discussing the history of the Parkway at the Arlington Historical Society's monthly public program -- 7pm at Marymount University. In advance of his talk, David was kind enough to give us a preview. Take a look at the video above and then click through for more!

Lost History: Hungerford's Tavern

 

Apparently it was the place to be. Back in the day, Hungerford’s Tavern in Rockville, Maryland hosted and housed a number of big shots including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry – the list goes on and on.

Constructed around 1750, it was one of America’s first real taverns and was named after Charles Hungerford, one of the early owners. The tavern was the center of early Rockville and was the town’s popular hang out spot; the place you went for news, entertainment, business… and to fan the flames of Revolution.

Horatio Greenough's classical George Washington sculpture. (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Horatio Greenough’s Near Naked Washington

The nation’s capital is chock full of statues, memorials, monuments, historic markers, and museums. As the seat of the United States government, Washington has a unique niche as both a repository of history and as a tourist spot. Some monuments are world-famous, some now reside in hidden corners, some are the centers of conspiracy theories (as Dan Brown and National Treasure fans will know), and some have been forgotten altogether. One statue in particular has been all of these things – and more – since it was first created: Horatio Greenough’s George Washington.

Pages