WASHINGTON D.C. (John L. Trout, 1901)

This picture is an areal view of Washington that was painted by John L. Trout in 1901. This piece of art is placed at the Library of Congress in the Geography and Maps Division. The style of the picture is interesting because of the green, red, blue and white tonnes that facilitate the recognition of the main elements of the city. Beside this, it was painted in watercolours and gouache which is a type of opaque watercolour and then it was decorated with a wood frame and golden paper. As it can be seen, this painting portrays the city of Washington during the 20th century with its main elements like the Capitol, The White House, The Washington Monument, and the Library of Congress.

George Washington founded the city of Washington D.C. in 1791 with the idea of a new Capital for the United States, where ancient Greek and Roman democratic ideas were presented. Years later, in 1871, as a result of Washington D.C. growth, the Congress established that George Town was going to be incorporated to Washington City. George Town is placed in the top left of the image and it is possible to appreciate some details of St. John’s Church, designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

Washington City is next to Maryland and Virginia states. This city goes through the Potomac and Anacostia’s river shore, which had an important role in George Washington decision of where to place the city, because these rivers were an ancient way of transport and their shores produced fertile lands. The town planning was designed by Pierre L’Enfant, who had the idea of a grand European style capital. Big avenues crossing important monuments were thought to be the main points of the town planning. However, the cost of this planning was very high and, therefore, the Government decided to stop the works. Before this, the city started to grew uncontrollably until 1901 when the ideas of L’Enfant where took into a count again.

In the picture it can be distinguished a regular and radio centric planning as it can be appreciated in the situation of the main streets across the Capitol. It was a proposal of George Washington, who wanted a classical town planning based on a monumental conception, big avenues, parks and with the main streets going across the most important buildings like the Capitol and the White House. The main streets were thought to improve the access and the movements of pedestrians. Consequently, they were straight, wide and with lots of crossroads. Some examples are: Pennsylvania Avenue, Maryland Avenue, South Capitol Street, New Jersey Avenue, East Capitol Street and North Capitol Street.

Regarding the monuments in the scene we can distinguish the following.

On the right side we can see the Capitol, which is one of the most important buildings of the U.S history. The Capitol was ordered to build by George Washington in 1793 because he wanted that the Congress and Senate were together in one building. In 1800 the Senate wing was finished and fourteen years later, during the Anglo – American War, the British burned the Capitol and other monuments. After this event the Capitol was rebuilt and redesigned by Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Nevertheless, in 1850 it was necessary to enlarge this building due to the increasing number of Congressmen and Federal States. It was completely restored in 1868. The style of the Capitol is Neoclassical as it can be seen in the varied use of columns, arcs, vaults and straight windows. Inside the Capitol there is a fresco entitled The Apotheosis of George Washington that is behind the vault and shows the president´s ascension to the sky.

The White house was started to be built in 1792 and in 1800 President John Adams moved there with his wife. Then, in 1814, the British burned it. After this, it was restored in 1817 in the presidency of James Monroe. The White House has been rebuilt many times, starting in 1902 with the presidency of Roosevelt and finishing in 1952 with the presidency of Harry S. Truman. The style of the architecture is the same as the Capitol. Both have a Neoclassical style as it can be seen in their elements. The porticos on the entrance and the background were built during 1824 and 1828, and have four and six columns, respectively.

The Library of Congress was established in 1800 inside the Capitol for the Congressmen but unfortunately the British burned it in 1814 and all the books were lost. Although President Thomas Jefferson was retired, he donated his own personal library to the Congress Library one month later. Seventy-two years later, in 1886, the Congress authorized the construction of a library outside the Capitol with an Italian Renaissance style in the outside. In the inside the architect Edward Pearce Casey, with the support of forty-two sculptors and painters, decorated the library imitating the Paris Opera House, with marble, ionic columns, and sculptures.

To conclude, I want to highlight that during the 20th century Washington City suffered an increase of its population, even when the World War two was taking place. However, when the War finished a big migration from other cities to Washington suburbs took place.

Diego Guzmán Medrano.


WASHINGTON ( Edward Sachse, 1852)

This work of art is «View of Washington DC», which displayed a panoramic view of the city of Washington focusing on architecture and American social life in 1852. The artist who produced this lithograph is Edward Sachse (1804-1873), who was born in Germany, the country where he specialized in printmaking, graphic design, topography and cartography. In 1848, E. Sachse moved to United States where he designed many works that portray some of the most important places of the country.

 Washington D.C, officially called District of Columbia, was founded on July 16th 1790 by the Congress of the United States with the aim of being a place to meet and transact the business of government. They decided to build it there because due to the Potomac River watershed, it was going to be a good place for trade. In this way, few years later they decided that the capital was going to be established there. The president hired the French architect Pierre L’Enfante to design a glorious capital like Paris.

This picture shows a part of the federal capital of the United States with a variety of colors. This colorfulness enables us to differentiate the diverse parts that make up this area as the built zone, the river, the big green area and the hill. In this last one, we find the main monument, the Capitol. In this last part, we can also appreciate the inhabitants’ activities, above all the rich and the middle classes who were dedicated to those activities that required a certain level of education, and therefore they had access to the best services and resources.

 Thus, Washington D.C is divided into quadrants which center is the Capitol, monument that is the main focus of the painting. The Capitol, located higher than the rest, was built by the architect Charles Walter and General Montgomery Meigs. This important building is made up of a central area called “Rotonda”. The Rotonda, which is formed by a huge dome and galleries, is a ceremonial space where, from the time of Abraham Lincoln, are effected state funerals for Presidents, members of Congress, military heroes and other prominent citizens. Furthermore, The Capitol is formed by two side buildings. The right part corresponds to the Senate, and the left part to the House of Representatives. On The Capitol, Congress meets to draft laws of the nation. It is also where presidents take office and they pronounced his speeches about the state of the Union. During more than two centuries, the Capitol has grown and new wings have been built because of the addition of new states.

 Taking a look at the image, if we go down the hill we find the National Mall, a principal avenue that separates the area in two parts. On both sides of the National Mall we find a green area full of trees and open spaces where workers took the opportunity to relax and sunbathe. Next to the green areas, we find a zone of buildings which layout is regular and dispersed in the left and irregular and concentrated in the right. Finally, if we focus on the area of the left, we appreciate the Washington Monument, which is a 169 meters obelisk that was built by Robert Mills, and the Potomac River. The latter is used economically as potable water supply, trade zone or area of battle and as a means of communication between the different peoples who dwell along it.

If we compare this picture with the view that we can see nowadays, we appreciate some differences. For example, the National Mall has shifted to the left so nowadays it lies just between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. One of the reasons that have caused this is the disappearance of the river channel that was surrounding the monument. Furthermore nowadays, bordering the National Mall, the largest museum complex in the world (the Smithsonian Institution) is located. Another difference is the increase of human elements, that is, the construction of parallel roads and buildings, which are arranged with an open weave and a regular layout in the area.

Currently, the federal capital is a highly political and residential center. All economic activities revolve around the administration, diplomacy and trade. This is because it contains the headquarters of several international financial and political organizations. It is also a major center of touristic activities due to the great amount of museums and famous monuments that it has. That is why there are tourists and business people throughout all the year.

Inés Bergad Granados