What Was L’Enfant Thinking?

I see you
Originally uploaded by erin m

The Post has a fascinating story (and neat-o interactive feature!) about architectural historian Don Alexander Hawkins’ efforts to reconstruct the topography of Washington, DC as Pierre L’Enfant would have seen it as he arrived in 1791.

Doesn’t sound fascinating? Okay, fair. Maybe I’m projecting. But Hawkins’ project has put him in contact with Dan Bailey, who runs UMBC’s Imaging Research Lab, and together they’re putting together the little record we have of old Washington- old drawings, paintings, and even verbal descriptions in travelers’ letters home- into a painstaking digital model of Washington as it was at the turn of the 19th century.

It’s surprising that so little similar research has been done into the geographical context of the nation’s capital, and these digital reconstructions are helpful visual reminders that even after the Capitol was built (and I had no idea the rotunda wasn’t originally part of the building) and functioning, sheep were still grazing half a mile away.

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Flickr 

3 thoughts on “What Was L’Enfant Thinking?

  1. Scott Berg, the guy who wrote “Grand Avenues” (I second the liking, by the way!) will be speaking at the Naval Lodge Hall on Capitol Hill next Tuesday. Just an FYI for fellow planning geeks.

  2. Thanks for sharing my enthusiasm – and for spreading it around a little more. People who want to add depth to their understanding of this great city will really enjoy Scott Berg’s story about L’Enfant. Others have written about L’Enfant’s life in the past, but he makes it into an adventure worth knowing about. We’re in a new era of discovering Washington’s many dimensions. I’m glad to know that there are planning geeks here.
    This month’s Ruthann Overbeck Lecture at the Naval Lodge will be by Dan Bailey, of the Imaging Research Center at UMBC. October 14 at 8:00.