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The National Mall was the centerpiece of the McMillan Plan.

The McMillan Plan was an architectural plan for the development of Washington, D.C. formulated in 1901 by the Senate Park Improvement Commission of the District of Columbia which had been formed by Congress the previous year.[1]

The commission was better known as the McMillan Commission, named for Sen. James McMillan of Michigan who was chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia. Some of the greatest American architects, landscape architects and urban planners of the day served on the McMillan Commission, including Daniel Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., Charles F. McKim, along with noted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

The commission was inspired by the original 1791 plan for the city by architect Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant which was never fully realized.[2] The members of the commission also sought to emulate the grandeur of European capitals such as Paris, London, and Rome. They were also strongly influenced by the City Beautiful movement, a Progressive ideology that intended to build civic virtue in the poor through important, monumental architecture.

The McMillan Plan in many respects was an early form of urban renewal in that it removed many of the slums that surrounded the Capitol replacing them with new public monuments and government buildings. The plan created the National Mall and the Burnham-designed Union Station. The execution of the plan was opposed by the powerful Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Joseph Gurney Cannon, and interrupted during World War I, but was largely completed with the construction of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922. The plan also triggered discussions of artistic standards for the national capital, which led to the formation of the United States Commission of Fine Arts in 1910.

Notes and References

  1. ^ The L'Enfant and McMillan Plans", Washington, D.C.: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. (National Park Service).
  2. ^ L'Enfant identified himself as "Peter Charles L'Enfant" during most of his life, while residing in the United States. He wrote this name on his "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of t(he) United States ...." (Washington, D.C.) and on other legal documents. However, during the early 1900's, a French ambassador to the U.S., Jean Jules Jusserand, popularized the use of L'Enfant's birth name, "Pierre Charles L'Enfant". (See: Bowling, Kenneth R (2002). Peter Charles L'Enfant: vision, honor, and male friendship in the early American Republic. George Washington University, Washington, D.C.) The National Park Service identifies L'Enfant as Major Peter Charles L'Enfant and as Major Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant on its website. The United States Code states in 40 U.S.C. 3309: "(a) In General.—The purposes of this chapter shall be carried out in the District of Columbia as nearly as may be practicable in harmony with the plan of Peter Charles L'Enfant."
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