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Grand Avenues: The Story of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the French Visionary Who Designed Washington,by Scott W. Berg
Synopses & Reviews
Grand Avenues tells the riveting story of Pierre Charles L’Enfant and the creation of Washington D.C.--from the seeds of his inspiration to the fulfillment of his extraordinary vision.
L’Enfant’s story is one of consuming passion, high emotion, artistic genius, and human frailty. As a boy he studied drawing at the most prestigious art institute in the world. As a young man he left his home in Paris to volunteer in the army of the American colonies, where he served under George Washington. There he would also meet many of the people who would have a profound impact on his life, including Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe. And it was Washington himself who, in 1791, entrusted L’Enfant with the planning of the nation’s capital--and reluctantly allowed him to be dismissed from the project eleven months later. The plan for the city was published under another name, and for the remainder of his life L’Enfant fought for recognition of his achievement. But he would not live to see that day, and a century would pass before L’Enfant would be given credit for his brilliant design.
Scott W. Berg recounts this tale, richly evocative of time and place, with the narrative verve of a novel and with a cast of characters that ranges from Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers to the surveyor who took credit for L’Enfant’s plans, the assistant who spent a week in jail for his loyalty to L’Enfant, and the men who finally restored L’Enfant’s reputation at the beginning of the twentienth century.
Here is a fascinating, little-explored episode in American history: the story of a visionary artist and of the founding of the magnificent city that is his enduring legacy.
From the Hardcover edition.
In 1791, shortly after the United States won its independence, George Washington personally asked Pierre Charles L’Enfant—a young French artisan turned American revolutionary soldier who gained many friends among the Founding Fathers—to design the new nation's capital. L’Enfant approached this task with unparalleled vigor and passion; however, his imperious and unyielding nature also made him many powerful enemies. After eleven months, Washington reluctantly dismissed L’Enfant from the project. Subsequently, the plan for the city was published under another name, and L’Enfant died long before it was rightfully attributed to him.
Filled with incredible characters and passionate human drama, Scott W. Berg’s deft narrative account of this little-explored story in American history is a tribute to the genius of Pierre Charles L'Enfant and the enduring city that is his legacy.
A compelling portrait of French architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant is set against the backdrop of the design and creation of the nation's capital, describing his youth, service under George Washington during the Revolution, plans for the capital, troubled sojourn and dismissal from the project, and efforts to restore his reputation during the twentieth century. Reprint. 15,000 first printing.
About the Author
Scott W. Berg holds a BA in Architecture from the University of Minnesota, an MA from Miami University and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University where he is now teaching non-fiction writing and literature. Since 1998, Berg has published over 60 pieces in the Washington Post on various subjects, many of them historical, including a lengthy feature story about L'Enfant out of which GRAND AVENUES grew.
Table of Contents
A note on L'Enfant's English — A pedestal waiting for a superstructure — An infinity of small moments — A powerful friend among the princes of the earth — The remembrance of my former services — In every respect advantageously situated — A plan wholly new — The wheel to give motion to the machine — The whole leveled and thrown to the ground — Measures of the most immediate moment — An implicit conformity to his will — The disappointment of absolute dues — Getting the go by — A share in the undertaking — The assurance of things hoped for.
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