National Geographic : 1957 Jan
Pennsylvania Avenue, Route of Presidents Landmarks and Shrines of United States History Line the Path of Inaugural Parades from Capitol to White House BY DOROTHEA AND STUART E. JONES With Illustrations by National Geographic Photographer Volkmar Wenizel T HE MAIN STREET of the Nation this month casts aside its workaday look and sits for its portrait in red, white, and blue. As happens every four years in Washington, D. C., the inaugural parade makes its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. Along this ceremonial mile and a half about one-quarter of the Avenue's whole length-massed thousands have paid homage to returning heroes and cheered incoming and outgoing Presidents. Here they have welcomed royalty and soberly watched the funeral processions of warriors and statesmen. Focus of a Nation's Hopes and Fears In the Avenue's 165-year existence as the focal point of a Nation's hopes and fears, its dust has settled on musket and atomic cannon, on Civil War soldier, on rumbling coach-and four, on Stanley Steamer and Cadillac, on silk topper and homburg. Not all of its events have been solemn af fairs of state. Men now living remember seeing on the Avenue the Nation's first com mercially produced automobile-a Duryea that clattered along in 1896, scaring horses and causing onlookers to shake their heads in disbelief. In 1801 "a vast concourse of people, num bering upward of 1,200 souls," ushered in the new Capital's first inauguration. Crowds now run into hundreds of thousands. Before and after every inaugural parade many visitors find time to explore the city's shrines and monuments, many of which lie within sight of Pennsylvania Avenue. Under the myriad flags and beyond the grandstands, what do they see? The best way to find out, we decided, was to walk the historic Avenue. Thus, in a sense, we became an advance guard of two for the 1957 in auguration, making our way on foot and quite unheralded by police whistle or drumbeat (map, page 70). Just as Washington was a planned Capital, fixed on a ten-mile square along the Potomac River by President George Washington, the Avenue did not just happen. It appeared on the plan of Maj. Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the gifted French engineer employed by Wash ington to lay out the new city. L'Enfant directed that the "grand avenue" should be 160 feet wide. The nineteen local farmers and landowners who had agreed to "convey, in Trust," their land for establishment of the Federal City, saw this size as wild extravagance. Many grumbled, and one David Burnes delayed the opening of Pennsylvania Avenue by insisting on bringing in his corn crop before the work men moved in. Burnes's farm was part of Beall's Levels, a grant dating from 1703 and the colonial government of Lord Baltimore. Ninian Beall received the patent as a gift for valor in protecting the Crown's interests. A much larger tract of land into which the Avenue sliced was Duddington, also called Cerne Abbey Manor. What is now Capitol Hill lay within it. The owners were the Carrolls of Maryland, among whom was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Name Honored a Disappointed State Presumably the Avenue was given the name Pennsylvania as a special honor to that key State among the original Thirteen-and per haps also to soften her disappointment when the Founding Fathers decided against making Philadelphia the permanent Capital. Of all the landmarks in this city of vistas, the one that draws men's eyes most compel lingly is the great dome of the Capitol, serene against the sky. Even on close inspection the imposing building appears to have been there always-and in terms of the Federal City that is almost true. The Authors Dorothea Jones, a former member of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE staff, is the author of the recent book Washington Is Wonderful (Harper & Brothers, New York). Her enthusiastic interest in the Nation's Capital, past and present, is shared by her husband, Stuart E. Jones, a member of the Maga zine's editorial staff.