Lafayette Park, Washington D.C.
Lafayette Square is an urban park that lies just north of the White House. It features statues of Revolutionary War heroes at its four corners, and an equestrian statue of Marquis de Lafayette at its center. Of course, most visitors head straight to the White House once they spot it across the square, but there are also a few buildings worth seeing in the area. On each side, the square is lined with beautiful Federal-syle houses, including Decatur House on the northwest corner of the square. This house was built in 1818, and it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in downtown Washington. It is now home to the White House Historical Association.
Another building worth visiting is St. John's Episcopal church, built in 1816. This church is also known as the "Church of the Presidents" because every American president since James Madison has attended a celebration there, sitting in the Presidents' pew (no. 54). Another place worth checking out is the Hay-Adams Hotel, a historic luxury hotel that opened in 1928. While you may not afford to stay there (rooms start at $500 a night in low season), the sharply-dressed doormen won't mind letting you in the lobby of this fancy hotel if you want to take a quick look around for free :o)
Lafayette Square is in downtown Washington DC directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. In 1824 it was named for the Marquis de Lafayette, the French noble who was a hero in the American Revolutionary War. Today, it is considered part of President's Park, the National Park Unit that includes the Ellipse to the south of the White House as well as Lafayette Square.
Lafayette Square has served a number of functions over its history, among other things it has been a racetrack, a graveyard and a slave market. Around the square are several distinguished buildings.
At the center of the Square is the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, erected in 1853. On each of the four corners of the square are statues honoring 4 foreign born leaders in the Revolutionary War. One thing I do not entirely understand is why Jackson is in the center of the square, after all, it is named after Lafayette. Further, though Jackson participated in the Revolutionary War it was only a much smaller role than what was ultimately his great military accomplishment in the War of 1812. It would have seemed logical to put a hero of the Revolutionary War at the center of the square in the place of honor, no?
At one corner of Lafayette Square is the statue honoring Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, who commanded 7,000 French troops sent to fight in the Revolutionary War.
At the other corner, nearest the White House, is the statue of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, a French nobleman who served as a major General in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
At the opposite end of the square from Lafayette is the statue of General Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the military engineer from Poland in the Revolutionary War.
Finally, the last corner of Lafayette Square has a statue of the Prussian General Baron FW von Stueben a tactician and educator who wrote the Revolutionary War Drill Manual.
Each of these will have a separate page with more information and photos. This page is just to get you oriented.
Nearby sights- The White House, The Ellipse, Renwick Gallery, Old Executive Building
Nearby Metro Stations- Farragut North (Red Line), McPherson Square (Orange line)
This statue honors Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben, Baron von Steuben. He attained the rank of Major General in the Contintal Army and his biggest contribution was teaching military discipline, drilling and strategy. He also served as Chief of Staff to George Washington in the final years of the war.
Von Steuben came from an aristocratic-military family in Prussia. In the summer of 1777 he met Benjamin Franklin in Paris and from there he was introduced to Washington later. Interestingly, many of the concepts and practices he introduced persist almost to this day. I found it fascinating that von Steuben spoke little english when he was in the Revolutionary War- he would set out his orders in German, which would then be translated to French by his aide, whereafter a French speaking officer would translate them into English!
Inscription on the statue reads
IN.GRATEFVL .RECOGNITION .OF.HIS
SEPTEMBER 17, 1730
NOVEMBER 28, 1794
TO.THE.AMERICAN.COLONIES.AND WAS APPOINT
INSPECTOR GENERAL IN
THE CONTINENTAL ARMY
HE GAVE MILITARY.TRAIN-
Statue was unveiled in Lafayette Square in December of 1910
At the opposite corner of Lafayette Square, across the street from the so called Church of the Presidents, is the statue that honors the services in the Revolutionary War of Tadeusz Kościuszko.
He was born in what is today Belarus, back then it was the Polish Lithuanian confederation.
He attended the Corps of Cadets academy in Warsaw and moved to France during the outbreak of the polish civil war. He joined the revolutionary effort as a colonel. A military engineer, he oversaw the construction of the garrison at West Point, NY and fortified Saratoga.
After returning to America, he collected his back pay, which he wrote into his will, asking that the money be used to educate and free black slaves. The executor was his friend Thomas Jefferson. The request was illegal in the state of Virginia at the time so it could not be fulfilled.
He went on to become a national hero in his native Poland, Belarus and Lithuania as well as in the United States.
At the opposite end of the square facing the White House is the statue of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Whereas Rochambeau was a more experienced military man, Lafayette was much younger when he went to America to serve in the Continental Army under George Washington.
After the Revolutionary War Lafayette went back to France and served with great distinction. He later attained the rank of Field Marshal and was active in the French Revolution and politics. Interestingly, though he died and was buried in France, he asked that soil from Bunker Hill cover his grave.
Lafayette's statue in the square bearing his name was unveiled in April 1891. On the south face of the monument a female figure, symbolizing America, and lifts a sword, imploring. Congress gave Lafayette honorary American citizenship in 2002.
The Statue of Andrew Jackson was done by Clark Mills and was dedicated in 1853.
Andrew Jackson was the 7th President of the United States, nicknamed "Ol Hickory"
Jackson lived in the Carolinas at the time, what was later to become the State of Tennessee. He and his brother were prisoners of war, though very young ones, during the Revolutionary War. Jackson was an orphan by the age of 14. Though he had a scanty legal education, he served as a frontier lawyer in Tennessee and was elected to represent the state in Congress and then the Senate.
He gained great fame for defeating the British at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. He was President of the United States from 1829-37. During his time in office he paid off the national debt in full, the last time that has been done. Though he is associated with the idea of popular democracy and states' rights, he is also associated with the forceful removal of the Indians as well as his support for slavery.
On the Jackson statue it reads:
OUR FEDERAL UNION
IT MUST BE PRESERVED
Next, let's go to the corner of Lafayette Square to see the Rochambaeu statue
At the one corner close to the White House is the statue of Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, the French nobleman who played an enormous role in the eventual success of the American Revolution.
In 1780 Rochambeau, by then a man with significant battlefield experience in Europe, was appointed to command the 7,000 French troops being sent to participate in the American Revolution. Ultimately, his forces joined with Lafayettes forces and played a significant role in the victory at Yorktown. Interestingly, Rochambeau commanded more troops than Washington did, but when Cornwallis came to surrender to Rochambeau he was directed to Washington instead.
His statue in Lafayette Square was unveiled in 1902 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Inscription on the north base of the statue reads:
We have been
in the cause
and we have lived
as brothers should do
in harmonious friendship
WASHINGTON TO ROCHAMBEAU
Feb. 1, 1784
the space directly in front of the white house (north facade) is where they have protests. There are always protests there.
There is one which is composed of placards protesting nuclear bombs that was started in 1981 by William Thomas. Its called the White House Peace Vigil. Mr Thomas died in 2009 but his place was taken my Concepcion Picciotto a tiny little lady with boundless energy. The vigil is manned 24 hours a day, either by Concepcion or various volunteers.
The last time I went down here there were several protests going on at the same time. One was teachers protesting attempted privatization in some of our school districts and another was a group of Iranians waving the old Iranian royal flag. The teachers were active and excited, the Iranians were the entire opposite.
“Unless you become more watchful in your states and check the spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will, in the end, find that…the control over your dearest interests has passed into the hands of these corporations.”
— Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)
AN AGE OLD PROBLEM Corporations growing too powerful is nothing new, it seems.
Seven-acre Lafayette Park is located directly north of the White House, and across the street from it. This National Historic Landmark was originally called President’s Park. The park was separated from the White House grounds in 1804, when Thomas Jefferson ordered Pennsylvania Avenue cut through. The park was renamed to honor the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824, the year he toured the United States.
At the park’s center is an equestrian bronze of Andrew Jackson. Designed and cast by Clarke Mills, the work was unveiled on 8.January.1853, the 38th anniversary of Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans. The total cost was $19,000, covering Mr. Mills’ five years of labor, as well materials. Two other castings of this bronze were made; one is in Nashville and the other in New Orleans.
The Marquis de Lafayette came from France to America to serve in the War of Independence. He helped to bring France into the war, and to secure American freedom. This park is named for him. Located directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, it has statues of Lafayette, General Andrew Jackson, and other heroes of the war.
It's long been a gathering place for protestors. One of them has been camped out there for over 25 years (you have to give her credit for perseverance).
Lafayette Park lies directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the north facade of the White House. Formerly known as President's Park when Washington was in office, it was renamed to honor the French general Lafayette in the early 1800s. It has an inviting prospect and is currently open to the public. I especially enjoy the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson which is much livelier than the same figure on horseback near the capitol building at Nashville.