Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 17 >> Lemurs to Lied Von Der Glocke >> Lenfant

Lenfant

washington, plan, city and congress

L'ENFANT, Pierre Charles, French-American engineer: b. France, 1755; d. Prince George's County, Md., 4 June 1825. A lieutenant in the provisional service of France, in whose best military institutions he had been trained, he came to America with Lafayette in April 1777; built Fort Mifflin (on the Dela ware), which successfully resisted one of the most vigorous attacks of the Revolutionary War, and by his skill as a designer of fortifica tions attracted the attention of Washington, who made him chief of engineers, with brevet of major of engineers. He remodeled and re fitted the City Hall in New York for the use of the first Congress, and later also the Federal House in Philadelphia. Washington and Jeffer son selected him to draw the plan for the °new federal town," and during the spring and sum mer of 1791 he was employed in the elabora non of his plans. Jefferson wished the design to be that of a chess-board regularity. of squares, but L'Enfant broke the monotony of this arrangement by inserting numerous ave nues running at acute angles. His plan was ap proved by Washington, and he was retained to direct the execution of it. The commissioners in general charge of the work advertised a sale of lots for October 1791 and requested L'Enfant to furnish his plan to be engraved and pub lished. This he refused to do, asserting that speculators would purchase the best locations in the °vistas and architectural squares" and °permanently disfigure the city" by °huddles of shanties" For this insubordination Washington ordered his dismissal, 1 March 1792. For plan

ning the °federal city" and devoting his time for months to the survey and other preliminary operations L'Enfant received only $2,500 and a lot near the executive mansion, a compensation quite in accord with the general economy with which the work was prosecuted. He requested the commissioners to recall the order for the money and °not take any further trouble about the lot.° Later, Madison appointed him pro fessor of engineering at West. Point, but he declined the post Ile designed several public works at Philadelphia and was appointed to construct the present Fort Washington (on the Potomac). He partly executed the work, but disagreed with his superiors and was dismissed. He lived latterly at Chellum Castle, the resi dence of Dudley Digges, near Bladensburg, Md., and frequented the halls of Congress seek ing in vain for a reward for past services. The execution of his plan for Washington was con tinued by his assistant, Andrew Ellicott, later professor of mathematics at West Point. L'Enfant's design may be viewed in the Library of Congress. To L'Enfant is chiefly due the fact that to-day Washington is one of the most picturesque cities of the world. See WASHING TON.