Directly north of the White House, which is on H Street between 17th and 15th streets NW, is a 7-acre public park called Lafayette Square. Lafayette Square and most of the areas surrounding structures were designated in 1970 to be a National Historic Landmark District. The entire area was originally planned and designed for the President of the United States as an enjoyment area that would be close to the Executive Mansion. Therefore, these grounds were often called the “Presidents Park.” In 1804, Lafayette Square was no longer considered part of the White House grounds when President Jefferson approved a plan that allowed Pennsylvania Avenue to cut through it. In 1824, the Park received its official name in honor of the famous French General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette.
Lafayette Park has been used throughout the years as a graveyard, a zoo, a racetrack, a location for political celebrations and protests, and an encampment for American soldiers who fought in the War of 1812. During the 18th century, the neighborhood surrounding Lafayette Park became one of the more desirable and fashionable residential areas to live in. It was home to many well-known Washington personalities including Carolina’s Sen. J. Calhoun and the Secretary of State for the Lincoln administration, William Henry Seward.
In 1851, the park was completely landscaped under the direction of Andrew Jackson Downing. He incorporated a unique picturesque style for the park. During the 1930s and onward there were a total of five large statues standing in the park. The statues included both European and American war heroes including American President Andrew Jackson, French General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, Major General Comte Jean de Rochambeau, Polish General Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and Prussia General Baron Frederick Wilhelm von Steuben.
There are many unique and famous buildings close to Lafayette Square including the White House, the Department of the Treasury, the Old Executive Office Building, Decatur House, St. John’s Episcopal Church, and the Renwick Gallery. Some of the other less famous buildings include the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Hay – Adams Hotel, the New Executive Office Building, National Courts Building, and the White House Historical Association Building.
Some of the significant events that have occurred in and around this famous Park include:
– it being used as a staging area for the White House construction in 1800
– the construction of the St. John’s Church in 1816
– the construction of the Decatur House in 1819
– the landscaping in 1851 by Alexander Jackson Downing
– the unveiling of the Andrew Jackson sculpture in 1853
– the successful lobbying to maintain the historic character of the Square by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1962
– the designation as a National Historic Landmark District in 1970
Today, we find that the Lafayette Square District contains a line of 19th-century townhouses that face the White House. Besides the five statues in the park, there are also picturesque walkways, attractive landscaping, and many fountains. You can get directions from the Bruckheim & Patel Law Office in DC directly below. The architectural styles in the District include Italianate and Federal and the primary materials used are sandstone, brick, and stucco. Be sure to check out some of the many other attractions while in town such as the Historic Blair House and the Washington Monument.