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Today, Lafayette Park sits just north of the White House, enclosed by H Street NW (north), Madison Place (east), Pennsylvania Avenue (south), and Jackson Place (west). This seven-acre public park is named after the famous French Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette. It has served as a graveyard, construction site, market, public space, and neighborhood throughout its 200-year history. Lafayette Park was depicted in the original plans for Washington, D.C., and has witnessed countless significant events, including the construction of the White House, various protests and demonstrations, as well as celebrations and commemorations.

This is a copy of Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant's 1791 plan for Washington, D.C. In this version you can see L'Enfant's original plan for a presidential palace features a three-avenue approach, culminating in a semi-circle.

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Following the passage of the Residence Act in 1790, plans were made for a new capital city along the banks of the Potomac River. In 1791, a group of local landowners agreed to deed their land to the government for the creation of this new capital. According to French-born engineer Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for the capital city, a presidential palace would be constructed featuring a grand ceremonial entrance with three approaching avenues culminating in a “semicircular forecourt.”1 However, this plan never came to fruition, and the plans for a large presidential palace were scrapped in favor of a smaller President’s House. When L’Enfant’s palace plans were abandoned, the three-avenue approach was also eliminated. In response, a local landowner and entrepreneur named Samuel Davidson disputed his deeded land transfer. Davidson had agreed to deed the tract of land, originally part of a plantation called Port Royal, to the government, after purchasing the land from a man named John Pearce, whose family had owned the land for several generations. Davidson believed the land would become part of L’Enfant’s grand ceremonial entrance. After repeated instances of insubordination, L’Enfant was dismissed in February 1792, and his plans were altered.2

A 1794 engraving by surveyor Andrew Ellicott instead depicted the space in front of the White House as an open common, surrounded by city lots to be sold and developed.3 Samuel Davidson balked when he discovered the divergence from the L’Enfant plan because the new plan divided his land into fewer lots, which meant less money from selling the tracts. After raising his grievances with the three commissioners overseeing city construction, they agreed to auction the square in front of the White House as one large block, which Davidson then bought for $5,440 dollars to ensure that no one else could develop the land while he advocated for L’Enfant’s original design.4 Although he had several opportunities to sell the property during the 1790s, none of the sales went through. Davidson was ultimately unsuccessful despite directly petitioning President George Washington and arguing with the commissioners “at this day there is no real fixed plan for the City of Washington.”5 Like other property owners that deeded their land to the federal government in 1791, he was disappointed in his investment and continued to quarrel with the commissioners and President Washington, urging them to follow the L’Enfant design. Ultimately, there are still unanswered questions about Davidson’s ownership and use of the square in front of the White House, and the matter appears not to have been settled until after his death in 1810.6

This map, completed in 1876, depicts land ownership prior to L’Enfant’s survey and the creation of plans for the new capital city. Many of the landowners on this map deeded their land to the federal government in 1791 for the construction of Washington, D.C.

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While Davidson battled over the future of the land with President Washington and the commissioners, White House construction began with the laying of the cornerstone on October 13, 1792. Work accelerated the following spring, continuing for the next eight years. In 1791, prior to his removal, L’Enfant ordered the excavation of the cellar, carried out by enslaved African Americans. He also built huts in the park to house enslaved workers.7 In 1792, a carpenter’s workshop was built in the middle of the area, near the location of today’s Andrew Jackson equestrian statue. The following year, the commissioners built housing for additional workers. There were about twenty wooden structures housing American, English, Scottish, and Irish wage laborers and craftsmen. Other brick barracks were also built, and Davidson later purchased one of these barracks for $2,000. Some of these buildings housed enslaved African Americans hired out to work on construction by their owners.8 By the fall of 1793, brick mason Jeremiah Kale had been hired to make bricks for the White House using kilns set up in the square.9 In addition to the brickmaking, Samuel Davidson also cleared his property of trees and sold sixty cords of wood to the government to fuel the fires of the brick kilns in the square.10

President John Adams moved into the White House on November 1, 1800. However, construction efforts continued around the house, and the square did not yet look the part of a public park. It lacked plantings or barriers, was constantly muddy, and it was devoid of private homes and residences. At the time, it was commonly known as President’s Square or “the common.” According to recollections by Benjamin Ogle Tayloe, a later resident of the neighborhood, a racetrack was built in the 1790s adjacent to the park between 17th Street and 20th Street. The curve in the track crossed over 20th Street at one end and 17th Street at the other, therefore extending slightly into what is now considered Lafayette Park at the northwest corner.11

After moving into the White House in 1801, President Thomas Jefferson made great strides to improve the White House Grounds. The grounds were littered with construction materials and huts, kilns, pits, and rubbish piles. An 1807 drawing by Jefferson suggests that he wished to install a straight section of wall along the north side of the White House along what is today Pennsylvania Avenue. By 1808, he had completed several stone ha-ha walls to help enclose the White House Grounds and establish some privacy, while still leaving the White House open for events like the Fourth of July. Jefferson regularly participated in public celebrations of the Fourth of July in the President’s Square. A series of tents and stalls were set up and the public enjoyed a “typical country fair” to celebrate the holiday. There were games, dog races, and cockfights. Revelers also enjoyed an array of food and drinks. Political commentator Margaret Bayard Smith wrote of the celebrations:

“At the time there were no buildings or inclosures [sic] in the vicinity of the President’s House, but a wide extended pleasant and grassy common, where the inhabitants found pleasant walks and the herds and flocks abundant pasture...Temporary tents and boothes [sic] were scattered over the surface, for the accommodation of the gay crowds, who here amused themselves and from whence there was a good view of the troops as they marched in front of the President’s House...”12

Despite the slow development of the new Federal City, the common in front of the White House became a crossroads for the early population of Washington, D.C. after an early market was established. President Jefferson was frequently seen around the park as members of the public—white and Black, free and enslaved—interacted and went about their daily business. Records indicate that an enslaved woman named Alethia “Lethe” Tanner sold vegetables in the park with her owner’s permission. On July 16, 1810, Tanner purchased her freedom for $275 with money saved from her vegetable stand.13 The market later moved down Pennsylvania Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets Northwest, and eventually became known as Center Market.14

Benjamin Ogle Tayloe described the undeveloped nature of the park around the turn of the nineteenth century: “As late as the War of 1812, I recollect the entire square from Fifteenth to Seventeenth Street, as a neglected common, entirely denuded of trees.”15 The White House was burned by the British during the War of 1812 on the evening of August 24, 1814. Reconstruction of the White House took place from 1814 to 1817, and in October 1817 President James Monroe moved into the reconstructed President’s House. The square was once again used to support this construction, with enslaved and free workers laboring to rebuild the White House.16 Following White House reconstruction, President Monroe worked to develop President’s Park. In 1818, the government commenced a large-scale project to grade President’s Square. Topsoil was smoothed with dragged logs and boards. Both free and enslaved laborers hired out by the government worked on this project.17

As the grading project commenced, some of the Pearce family graves, still located in the square, were disturbed in the process. A young Washington, D.C. resident named Christian Hines notified the Pearce family. Although “Mr. Pearce” was out of town, a “Mrs. Pearce” instructed Hines to gather any remains and reinter them elsewhere. Hines returned to the site, communicated the family’s wishes with Samuel Harkness, Commissioner of the First Ward, who had a case made to contain the remains. Hines later recollected:

“After the earth had been removed from over the remains, it was ascertained that there was little else to take up but a few bones and a little black dust, besides, I believe, a piece of hair-comb, some plaited hair, &c. After gathering the remains together and putting them into the case, we had them placed in a cart and proceeded to Holmead burying ground where we deposited them.”

Hines later returned to the site with “Mr. Pearce” to show him the location of his family graveyard.18 The grading in the President’s Square and other improvements to the White House Grounds continued until their completion in 1834. Treasury vouchers indicate that although some topsoil was added in the square, a massive amount of dirt was ultimately removed from the square, therefore lowering its position in relationship to the Potomac River. The grading and improvements followed a plan, unfortunately lost to history, but likely developed by Architect of the Capitol Charles Bulfinch. Meanwhile, original White House architect James Hoban worked to replace and improve sections of Jefferson’s North Entrance and stone wall. This included the installation of wrought iron fencing to the north of the White House along today’s Pennsylvania Avenue.19

Grading the square also inspired landscaping improvements. In 1817, President Monroe appointed Charles Bizet “Gardener to the President of the U. States.” Although, Bizet did not complete much landscaping in the President’s Square, it seems that he may have attempted to establish some ground cover. Research by historian Jonathan Pliska notes references to cartloads of manure and orchard grass seed deposited in the square, along with “a note that it took twelve days to hand mow the entire President’s Square with a scythe.”20

As landscaping in the President’s Square developed, so did the President’s Neighborhood. St. John’s Church was designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe and completed in 1816 on the north side of the park. In 1818, Latrobe also designed Decatur House for Commodore Stephen Decatur at the northwest corner of the park. At about the same time, construction on the Cutts-Madison House began on the opposite side of the square. According to historian William Seale, by the time Monroe’s time in office ended, “the carriageway in front of Decatur House had been graveled and designated as 16 ½ Street,” while the same area across the square was designated 15 ½ Street—today these streets are known as Jackson Place and Madison Place.21

Pennsylvania Avenue was cut through the square during the second term of the Monroe administration (1817-1825), formally separating the White House Grounds from President’s Square.22 In addition, around 1826 as grading efforts continued, a wooden fence was added to the perimeter of the park. Although, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact year the separation was made, maps indicate that it likely occurred sometime in the early 1820s. An 1820 map does not show a separation between the President’s Square and the White House Grounds. However, an 1828 map does show the separation, indicating that the Pennsylvania Avenue cut through likely occurred between 1822 and 1828. This cut through coincided with the Marquis de Lafayette’s extended visit to the United States from 1824-1825. Grading in the square along with improvements to the fencing and entrances along Pennsylvania Avenue was finally completed by 1834.

The map on the left from 1820 does not show a separation between the White House Grounds and the park. However, the map on the right from 1828 does show a physical separation. This separation indicates that the cut through of Pennsylvania Avenue likely occurred between 1820 and 1828.

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A popular myth is that Lafayette Park was named in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette during his visit to the United States from 1824-1825 by either President James Monroe or President John Quincy Adams. However, the designation of the space as “Lafayette Square” did not occur until around 1834. Lafayette died on May 20, 1834, and shortly following his death, Congress appropriated $1,000 to plant trees and repair fencing in “Lafayette Square” on June 30. Maps also started interchanging the names “President’s Square” with “Lafayette Square.” According to research by historian Matthew Costello, by the time of the Civil War, Lafayette Square had become the common name for the neighborhood, and as a true park emerged the Lafayette name applied to both. This was further solidified with the addition of a Lafayette statue in the southeast corner in 1891.23

The next large scale landscaping project occurred in 1851. Renowned landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing was invited to prepare plans for new landscaping in Lafayette Park, the National Mall, and President’s Park. Downing began drafting the plans. However, he tragically drowned during a boating accident on the Hudson River on July 28, 1852. Despite his untimely death, Downing’s layout of Lafayette Park was still largely carried out and “although subsequently altered, may be the most complete example of his work still in existence today.”24

This photograph of the equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson silhouetted against the North Front of the White House was taken by Bruce White for the White House Historical Association on November 14, 2009.

White House Historical Association

On January 8, 1853, an equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson was installed and unveiled in the center of Lafayette Park. Several years earlier, following the 1845 death of Jackson, the Jackson Monument Committee planned for a memorial and artist Clark Mills submitted a design which the committee accepted in 1848. Mills established a foundry at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue near the Treasury Building and cast the bronze monument with the help of enslaved artisan, Philip Reid.25 At the same time the Jackson statue was erected, Congress appropriated some $5,100 to enclose Lafayette Park with an iron fence and four gates topped with eagles. This work was completed in 1854. However, the fencing was later removed in 1889 to provide more public access to the park.26

Between 1872 and 1933, the first major landscaping took place in the park under the authority and administration of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army. Gardeners added ornamental flower beds and decorative palms. Several inventories of the trees and plants in the park were made, including an 1866 inventory by public gardener George H. Brown. During the 1870s, a display of prairie dogs donated to the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds was presented in the park, enclosed with wire and available for public viewing. The first gas lighting and drinking fountains were installed in the park in 1872. In 1890, new drains were installed in the park as older drains were blocked by expanding tree roots. At the same time, the first graded walkways were also added by the Army Corps of Engineers, providing easier access to the government buildings and homes on Lafayette Square.27

In addition to the Jackson statue, four other statues, each representing a European military leader that fought in the American Revolution, were installed around the turn of the twentieth century. The first statue, depicting the Marquis de Lafayette, was designed by sculptors Alexandre Falguière and Antonin Mercié and installed in the southeast corner of the park in 1891, following debate over whether the statue would impact the view of the White House. The second statue in the southwest corner of the park was dedicated on May 24, 1902. The monument honored the Comte de Rochambeau and was designed by sculptor Fernand Hamar. President Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the dedication, noting the warm relationship between France and the United States. A third bronze sculpture by Antoni Popiel celebrated General Tadeusz Koscuiszko of Poland. President William Howard Taft was present for the dedication on May 11, 1910. The final statue was dedicated later that year, on December 7. Designed by Albert Jaegers, it honored Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben of Prussia. President Taft also spoke at this dedication: “We dedicate today the last of the monuments which fill the four corners of this beautiful square and which testify to the gratitude of the American people to those from France, from Poland and from Prussia who aided them in their struggle for national independence.”28

President Theodore Roosevelt in the reviewing stand for a ceremony to unveil the Rochambeau statue in Lafayette Park on May 24, 1902.

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In 1914, a new park lodge was installed on the north side of the park by 16th Street, replacing an earlier structure first built in 1872.29 The original lodge was a combined watchmen’s lodge, restroom, and tool shed. Congress appropriated funds in 1913 for construction of the new lodge. However, Lafayette Square residents protested over the demolition and the War Department held hearings about the future of the lodge. Despite the local outrage, construction continued, and the new lodge was finished on May 15, 1914. Several years later in 1921, the Commission of Fine Arts authorized a five-year plan to remove and transplant some older trees and replace them with new trees. In 1925, administration of the park was transferred to the Director of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital and in 1929 a complete inventory of structures and features in the park was conducted.30 The next major park renovation occurred between 1936 and 1937 and was directed by National Capital Parks and the Works Progress Administration after the National Park Service began managing the park in 1933.31 It included widening pathways and relocating various trees, shrubs, and flowerbeds.

A major act of preservation in the park occurred in 1962. When President John F. Kennedy came to the White House in 1961, he and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy expressed interest in the historic preservation of Lafayette Park and the surrounding townhouses and buildings on the park, often referred to as Lafayette Square. In particular, the Kennedys were concerned with proposals to build several large office buildings on the Square, which would require demolishing many of the existing historic townhomes. Throughout the early nineteenth century, the neighborhood on Lafayette Square had been home to many prominent individuals including Commodore Stephen Decatur, First Lady Dolley Madison, Francis Preston Blair, Henry Clay, John Gadsby, and William Wilson Corcoran. However, during the later nineteenth century and twentieth century, the area immediately surrounding the park became less residential. Following the Civil War, other government buildings and businesses began to appear on the square including the Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company, commonly referred to as the Freedmen’s Bank, The State, War, and Navy Building (today known as the Eisenhower Executive Building), and the Lafayette Square Opera House.32 With fewer residents in the neighborhood, the General Services Administration (GSA) put forward a plan to demolish homes and build office buildings.

The Freedman's Bank was founded in 1865 and later moved its headquarters to Lafayette Square. The building cost more than $200,000 to build. Upon completion, new bank president Frederick Douglass described his reaction to the new building, "The whole thing was beautiful...I felt like the Queen of Sheba when she saw the riches of Solomon, that 'half had not been told me.'" Unfortunately, Douglass soon discovered that the bank had been badly mismanaged, and the Panic of 1873 led to the failure of the bank. The building was demolished in 1899 and replaced with the Treasury Annex. The Annex was renamed the Freedman's Bank Building in 2016.

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Landscape architect and urban planner John Carl Warnecke worked to solve this problem, presenting the Warnecke Plan which preserved many of the townhomes while enhancing the nineteenth-century character of the park. It also allowed for the addition of new government buildings behind the townhouses.33 Since 1962, the park has been maintained largely in accordance with the original Downing plan and continued landscaping and infrastructure improvements have been made. In 1970, Lafayette Square became a National Historic Landmark District.34

In this photograph from 1917, suffragists march with banners, picketing outside on the sidewalk in front of the White House.

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As the park developed during the twentieth century, it has also served as a place of protest. Since 1917, Americans have demonstrated in Lafayette Park, picketed the White House, and exercised their First Amendment right of peaceful assembly.35 The suffragists were the first to use protest consistently in Lafayette Park as they brought the issue of women’s voting rights directly to President Woodrow Wilson’s doorstep. On January 10, 1917, twelve “Silent Sentinels” began picketing outside the White House in protest of Wilson’s refusal to support women’s suffrage. The suffragist’s picketing strategy continued even as White House policemen began arresting them on charges of obstructing traffic. Threatened by dissension within his own political party, President Wilson relented on women’s suffrage and advocated for it in his final annual address before Congress. On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified and made part of the Constitution, finally eliminating gender as constraint for voting. The suffragists’ Lafayette Park protests helped provide momentum to the movement by bringing it directly to the White House. Their protest helped serve as a model for future protests in Lafayette Park throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.36

This photograph, taken on January 19, 1968, shows demonstrators staging a protest of the Vietnam War in front of the north fence of the White House. The protesters carry signs including statements such as "No more...Stop the war!" "Eartha Kitt speaks for the women of America", and "Stop the draft." The previous day, singer and actress Eartha Kitt had become the subject of much controversy for her statements against the war during a luncheon at the White House hosted by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.

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Since 1920, many other groups have protested in Lafayette Park. Following World War II, supporters of civil rights and anti-lynching legislation marched in front of the White House. Although unsuccessful at the time, they set the stage for further Civil Rights Movement demonstrations throughout the 1960s. One of the largest civil rights protests in the park occurred in March 1965 in response to Bloody Sunday, when peaceful marchers advocating for voting rights were beaten by law enforcement in Selma, Alabama, as they attempted to march for civil rights. Protestors spent five days and nights picketing the White House before a crowd of 1,500 people gathered for a “Convocation of Concerned Citizens” on March 13, 1965.37

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s additional protests took place in Lafayette Park. A new generation of women protested in support of women’s rights and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to end gender discrimination. Demonstrators protested the Vietnam War in the park consistently until the war’s conclusion in January 1973. During President Lyndon Johnson’s administration protestors employed chants like: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” The first family even acknowledged they could hear the chants from inside the walls of the White House.38 Demonstrators also protested in Lafayette Park in favor of LGBTQ+ rights, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s as the HIV/AIDS crisis primarily affected gay men across the country while the federal government did little to acknowledge the severity of the epidemic. 39

Most recently, Lafayette Park has been the site of ongoing protests concerning police brutality and the disproportionate killing of Black men and women by law enforcement. During the summer of 2020, numerous protests took place in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in protest of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police several days prior on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The protests were largely peaceful; however, some fires and vandalism did occur to buildings and property around the square, including St. John’s Church and Decatur House. In addition, some protestors launched projectiles, including water bottles, at police.40 As a result of the summer demonstrations and additional security concerns ahead of the Inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden following the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the park was closed to the public, with temporary metal fencing adorned with protest posters and flyers including imagery, quotes, and tributes to Black lives that were lost to police violence. The fencing was slowly removed throughout the spring of 2021.

This aerial view of Lafayette Park and the White House was taken by photographer Carol M. Highsmith in 2007.

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Today, Lafayette Park is operated and maintained by the National Park Service, which also oversees the White House Grounds and the wider President’s Park (Reservation Number 1). It is an open public space that continues to support peaceful protests as well as visitors to Washington, D.C. On July 28, 2021, the National Park Service and the White House Historical Association added three new wayside markers on the north side of the park, directly opposite of St. John’s Church where Black Lives Matters Plaza meets the park. The waysides tell the story of protest in the park, the construction of the White House by free and enslaved laborers, and the influence of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in preserving the character of the park.

This article was originally published September 17, 2021

Footnotes & Resources

  1. William Seale, To Live on Lafayette Square: Society and Politics in the grounds’s Neighborhood, (The White House Historical Association, 2019), 1.
  2. These landowners worked with the city commissioners, Thomas Johnson, David Stuart, and Daniel Carroll to make the agreement. While government officials considered how to make use of the land, these individuals were permitted to retain ownership of their properties and use the natural resources from them after deeding their land over to a set of trustees, Thomas Beall and John Mackall Gantt. Then as the federal government held these deeded assets, the property owners were either paid by the federal government for the construction of government buildings, or the land was auctioned off as city lots. The nature of this agreement led to much confusion and dissent about ownership of these properties. Some landowners were ultimately unsatisfied with how their land was used and they continued to assert their ownership. “Editorial Note, To George Washington from Pierre L’Enfant, 21 November 1791,” Founders Online, accessed July 27, 2021,
  3. “Plan of the city of Washington in the territory of Columbia, ceded by the States of Virginia and Maryland to the United States of America, and by them established as the seat of government after the year MDCCC,” Library of Congress, 1794,
  4. At the time of construction, an old farmhouse belonging the Pearce family stood in the southeast corner of the square, along with several Pearce family graves, and some apple trees from a former orchard. The house was removed during construction and the graves and apple trees were removed by the 1820s. Bob Arnebeck, Through a Fiery Trial: Building Washington 1790-1800, (Lanham, Maryland: Madison Books, 1991), 135-136.
  5. Samuel Davidson quoted in Bob Arnebeck, Through a Fiery Trial, 458.
  6. William Seale asserts that the matter of ownership of the square was not settled until after Samuel Davidson’s death in 1810. Seale also indicates that the land may have reverted to the Pearce family rather than the federal government. However, the question of ownership is complex. If Davidson really purchased the square for $5,400 from the federal government in 1792, how was the land used for White House Construction? Was there an additional agreement with Samuel Davidson? Additional research must be undertaken of the commissioners’ records in Record Group 42 at the National Archives and Records Administration to shed light on these questions. William Seale, To Live on Lafayette Square: Society and Politics in the President’s Neighborhood, (The White House Historical Association: 2019), 2-3.
  7. Jonathan Pliska, “Historic American Landscapes Survey: White House Grounds”, National Park Service, 20.
  8. Bob Arnebeck, Through a Fiery Trial, 160, 285.
  9. The White House & President’s Park: Administrative History 1791-1983, National Park Service, Accessed July 29, 2021,; Pliska, “Historic American Landscapes Survey,” 23.
  10. Arnebeck, Through a Fiery Trial, 122.
  11. Benjamin Ogle Tayloe, Our Neighbors on Lafayette Square, (Washington, D.C: Library of the American Institute of Architects, 1872), 12.
  12. Margaret Bayard Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society, portrayed by family letters of Mrs. Samuel Harrison Smith (Margaret Bayard) from the Collection of her grandson J. Henley Smith, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons New York, 1906), 331-332. Pliska, Historic American Landscapes Survey, 53.
  13. Lina Mann, "The Complexities of Slavery in the Nation’s Capital," The White House Historical Association, Accessed August 6, 2021, https://www.whitehousehistory..... Alethia Tanner is also commonly referred to as Alethia Browning Tanner. This article uses Alethia “Lethe” Tanner to honor the spelling used by Alethia. She signs her last will and testament as “Lethe Tanner.” Her name is spelled a variety of different ways across various documents including “Allethia,” “Allethea,” “Lithe,” or Lathee.” In addition, numerous secondary sources repeat the claim that Alethia paid $1400 for her freedom. However, her manumission document states that she paid $275. The $1400 figure seems to come from an 1871 report titledSpecial Report on the Commissioner of Education on the Condition of Public Schools in the District of Columbia, submitted to the Senate, June 6, 1868, and to the House, with Additions June 13, 1870. This document states that Tanner purchased her freedom for $1400 dollars and indicates that she did so through a series of payments, the last of which being $275 paid by through a third party, Joseph Daugherty. After extensive family research, Tanner descendent Susan Cook believes that this figure is conflated with a different emancipation. In 1826, Alethia pays a total of $1450 to John Davidson for the purchase of her sister, Laurana and six of her children. This bill of sale indicates payment installments were made and may have been accidentally confused with her 1810 emancipation.
  14. George J. Olszewski, “Lafayette Park: Washington, D.C,” National Park Service, 1964, 7.
  15. Benjamin Ogle Tayloe, Our Neighbors on Lafayette Square, 10-11.
  16. Pliska, Historic American Landscapes Survey, 82.
  17. Ibid, 20; Lina Mann, “Enslaved Workers on the White House Grounds,” White House Historical Association, Accessed July 29, 2021, https://www.whitehousehistory.....
  18. Christian Hines, Early Recollections of Washington City, (Washington, D.C.: The Columbia Historical Society, 1981), 40-41.
  19. Today, similar wrought iron fencing exists to the North of the White House; Pliska, 84-92.
  20. Ibid, 94.
  21. Seale, To Live on Lafayette Square, 21.
  22. Pliska, 110; “A Correct Map of the city of Washington 1820,” Library of Congress, Accessed August 23, 2021,; “Map of the City of Washington 1828,” Library of Congress, Accessed August 23, 2021,
  23. Matthew R. Costello, “Lafayette Square: The People’s Park,” Washington History 32 (1/2), 10-12. Retrieved August 18, 2021, from
  24. Pliska, 164.
  25. Sarah Fling, “Philip Reed: Enslaved Artisan in the President’s Neighborhood,” The White House Historical Association, December 8, 2020, https://www.whitehousehistory.....
  26. The fencing was donated to the Gettysburg Memorial Association and erected on the Gettysburg Battlefield; Olszewski, “Lafayette Park: Washington, D.C,” 20.
  27. Olszewski, “Lafayette Park: Washington, D.C,” 17.
  28. Evan Phifer and Joel D. Treese, “Monuments to the American Revolution in Lafayette Park,” The White House Historical Association, May 12, 2016, https://www.whitehousehistory....; “Praise by Taft: President Eulogizes Von Steuben’s Services to America,” Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), December 8, 1910, 9.
  29. Today, a park service lodge structure is still located on the north side of the park near 16th Street. Olszewski, “Lafayette Park: Washington, D.C., 21.”
  30. Olszewski, “Lafayette Park: Washington, D.C,” 17-21.
  31. The Lafayette Park area has been managed by many different people and organizations throughout its history. As a result of the 1790 residence act, President George Washington appointed three commissioners to establish the capital city. When the Office of the Commissioners was abolished in 1802, management of the park fell to the Commissioner of Public Buildings. Later, with the creation of the Department of the Interior (DOI) in 1849, the Commissioner of Public Buildings position, which had previously answered to the president was transferred to the DOI. In 1867, the Commissioner of Public Buildings position was eliminated and management of the park was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army. Then, in 1925, Congress established the independent office of Director of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital. Finally, control of the park returned to the DOI in 1933 and today, the National Park Service manages the park. See George J. Olszewski, “Lafayette Park: Washington, D.C,” 1.
  32. The Freedman’s Bank was founded in 1865 and later moved its headquarters to Lafayette Square. The building cost more than $200,000 to build. Upon completion, new bank president Frederick Douglass described his reaction to the new building: “The whole thing was beautiful…I felt like the Queen of Sheba when she saw the riches of Solomon, that ‘half had not been told me’.” Unfortunately, Douglass soon discovered that the bank had been badly mismanaged, and the Panic of 1873 led to the failure of the bank. The building was demolished in 1899 and replaced with the Treasury Annex. The Annex was renamed the Freedman’s Bank Building in 2016. The EEOB was constructed from 1871-1888 and still stands today. The Lafayette Park Opera House opened its doors in 1895 and in 1905 changed its name to the Belasco Theatre. It was later acquired by the government.
  33. John Carle Warneke, “The Rescue and Renaissance of Lafayette Square, The White House Historical Association, May 17, 2010,
  34. “National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form,” National Park Service, Accessed August 23, 2021,
  35. “Bill of Rights,” Bill of Rights Institute, Accessed August 12, 2021, https://billofrightsinstitute.....
  36. Matthew Costello, “Mr. President, Can You Hear Us?: A History of Protest in Lafayette Square,” The White House Historical Association, June 22, 2020, https://www.whitehousehistory....; Colleen Shogan, “From the Suffragists to the ERA: Women’s Rights Protests and Lafayette Park,” The White House Historical Association, June 15, 2020, https://www.whitehousehistory.....
  37. Costello, “Mr. President, Can you Hear Us?,” Lina Mann, “Civil Rights Protests and the White House,” The White House Historical Association, June 18, 2020, https://www.whitehousehistory.....
  38. Lindsay M. Chervinsky, “Vietnam War Protests at the White House,” The White House Historical Association, June 15, 2020, https://www.whitehousehistory.....
  39. Lafayette Park was the main “public cruising area in Washington,” throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This meant same-sex couples engaged in sexual and romantic meetings in the park. As this practice became more popular, police increased their surveillance of the park, see Genny Beemyn, A Queer Capital: A History of Gay Life in Washington D.C. (United States: Taylor & Francis, 2014); Sarah Fling, “LGBTQ+ Protests in Lafayette Square,” The White House Historical Association, June 18, 2020, https://www.whitehousehistory.....
  40. On June 1, 2020, President Donald Trump spoke in the Rose Garden around 6:43 pm about the nationwide demonstrations and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd. Loud booms could be heard in the background as protestors were forcibly removed from the area surrounding the park. At the end of his speech, he concluded with, “Thank you very much. And now I’m going to pay my respects to a very, very special place” and abruptly walked away from the podium. Several minutes later, live video footage showed the president, flanked by Attorney General William Barr and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, cross the park and H Street which had been cleared of demonstrators. He then posed with a Bible in front of the St. John’s Church rectory. The incident captured national attention and demonstrated the importance of Lafayette Park as a site of protest for over a century. Philip Bump, “Timeline: The Clearing of Lafayette Square,” The Washington Post, June 5, 2020,

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