Designing the Nation's Capital

A richly illustrated history of the early twentieth-century plan to beautify the nation's capital


In 1901 the United States Senate, inspired by the City Beautiful movement of the late nineteenth century, appointed a commission to formulate a new architectural plan for the development of the nation's capital. Under the leadership of Senator James McMillan of Michigan, the Senate Park Commission brought together three of the country's leading architects and urban planners—Daniel H. Burnham, the former director of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago; landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.; and architect Charles F. McKim as well as sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens. During a ten-month period that included a six-week tour of European cities, the McMillan Commission drafted a plan aimed at making Washington one of the most beautiful capitals in the world by redesigning its monumental core and creating new parklands on reclaimed land. The plan called for relandscaping the Mall; creating dramatic sites for memorials west and south of the Washington Monument; consolidating railway lines and clearing slums; designing a coordinated municipal office complex in the triangle formed by Pennsylvania Avenue, 15th Street, and the Mall; and establishing a comprehensive recreation and park system around the city.In this book, distinguished scholars from a variety of fields reconstruct the story of the 1901 plan for Washington, D.C. They discuss the events leading up to the formation of the Senate Park Commission, the political setting in which it embarked on its work, the decision-making process that led to its final recommendations, and the early years of its implementation. More than 100 photographs and maps complement the text, illustrating why the McMillan Plan quickly became a benchmark for modern urban design and triggered a national city-planning movement. In addition to the volume editors, contributors include Dana G. Dalrymple, Timothy Davis, Kurt G. F. Helfrich, Jon A. Peterson, and Tony P. Wrenn.

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