Plan of the City of Washington after Andrew Ellicott, Early 19th Century

By Andrew Ellicott (1754-1820) and Pierre Charles L'ENFANT (1754-1825). Plan of the City of Washington. Published by Thackara & Vallance, Philadelphia, 1792 [but later impression printed on 19th century wove paper].

This is a fine 19th century copy of the "official" plan of Washington, D.C.  The map was first published in November 1792, this is a copy of the fifth recorded engraving of the L'Enfant/Ellicott city plan. Three of the four earlier engravings were issued in periodicals, making the present large scale work only the second separately-issued engraving of the planned lay-out of Washington.

The first appearance of the plan (also engraved by Thackara & Vallance) was in March 1792, when it was produced to illustrate an article "Description of the City of Washington, in the territory of Columbia, ceded by the States of Virginia and Maryland to the United States, by them established as the Seat of their Government after the year 1800"  included in the March issue (pp.155-156) of the periodical The Universal Asylum and Columbian Magazine (Philadelphia: William Young, March 1792).

The national capital city, as depicted in the present plan, is laid out according to a plan originally proposed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant and modified by Andrew Ellicott.  L'Enfant was born in Paris, where he trained to be an architect.  He came to America in 1777, and served under George Washington as an engineer during the Revolutionary War.  In 1791, Washington asked L'Enfant to design the new capitol city in the District of Columbia.

Trouble arose between the city and L'Enfant. The City Commissioner had an urgent and pressing need for a finished, printed copy of the plan in order to sell building lots.  L'Enfant worked slowly and released only incomplete plans, and proved to be quiet obstinate.  On instruction from President Washington, Thomas Jefferson on February 27, 1792 wrote a letter to L'Enfant dismissing him as city planner.  This brought about Andrew Ellicott's involvement in the project.  Trained as a mathematician and surveyor, Ellicott had previously conducted a full survey of the city in 1791, and was an obvious pick for L'Enfant's replacement. 

Ellicott made several changes to L'Enfant's original plan.  He changed the alignment of Massachusetts Avenue, eliminated five short radial avenues, added two short radial avenues southeast and southwest of the Capitol, and named the city streets. A few months later Ellicott, like L'Enfant, found himself at odds with the Commissioners and resigned from the project.

The authority to establish a federal capital was provided in Article One, Section 8, of the United States Constitution, which permits a "District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States."  James Madison explained the need for a federal district on January 23, 1788 in the Federalist No. 43, arguing that the national capital needed to be distinct from the states, in order to provide for its own maintenance and safety. The Constitution, however, does not specify a location for the new capital. In what later became known as the Compromise of 1790, Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson came to an agreement that the federal government would assume war debt carried by the states, on the condition that the new national capital would be located in the South. On July 16, 1790, the Residence Act provided for a new permanent capital to be located on the Potomac River, the exact area to be selected by President Washington. Both Maryland and Virginia ceded portions of their territory to form the new capital, and a new 'federal city' was constructed on the north bank of the Potomac. On September 9, 1791, the federal city was named in honor of George Washington and the district was named the Territory of Columbia.

Unframed Map Size: 21.75"x 29"
Framed dimensions: 36" H x 43 1/2" W x 3" D



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