tv Aerial View Paintings of Historic Washington DC CSPAN January 13, 2019 9:15pm-10:01pm EST
c-span2. lenfant designed the paintings in washington. next, mr. waddell describes the research and process of creating his paintings. the george washington university museum and textile museum hosted this effort event. it's about 45 minutes. >> hello, everyone. lcome to d.c. mondays at the museum. my name is jackie streaker here at the george washington university museum. this series d.c. monday features a newspeaker each week who talks bout some aspect of d.c. arts, culture, architecture or something relating to one of our exhibits.
the speaker covers many of those topics. we invite you to come in, enjoy, lunch, coffee, tee or the coffee on us, not the lunch on us and learn more about the city that we live in. with us today is peter waddell who will be discussing how he created the two new bird scale'sation in eye of the bird visions of d.c. past. peter waddell is best known for d.c. history and architecture. he often creates images of history where no images exist. and is the first artist to plan. e laenfant a contribution for the arts in washington. he was recognized when he received the mayor's art award. please join me in welcoming peter waddell.
[applause] peter: thank you, jackie. first of all, i'd just like to thank george washington university museum for this and albert small who very genuously commissioned this place. and these works wouldn't have been possible without their encouragement and support. i loved washington from the first. although, it was a bit chaotic. it's beauty, originality and excitement were immediately obvious. i was determined to make it mill home. its history has been at the core of my work. underneath that history is the plan of the city and the great vision of george washington. it's one of three great works. getting rid of the british which
is the first. creating the founding documents and this city. it's extraordinary. underneath the history of the by is the plan designed the l'enfant who was in revolutionary war with washington. who was an architect and an artist. the city that we live in is a result of the vision of george washington and peter l'enfant. i decided to do two paintings. i really had this urge to recreate his original plan and then to see what the city looked like in 1825 which is the second work i'll be talking about. the first work is called the indispensable plan. this one is called the village monumental. and we'll be looking at those in more detail. now, underneath -- underneath l' the paintings is
enfant's plan of the city. and that was my document in recreating the vision. this whole thing started with the residency act of 1790 which put the sight of the federal city on the banks of the potomak. george washington chose the site himself. i've got a bit of -- i think there's a bit more understandable as far as his plan. this one is obviously very dark. ackie who is now the cue ray or here was my -- curator here was my research assistant. hese are a collaborative work. kim bowling and don hawkins whom i work very closely with, another one of my helpers is jessica smith from the historical society who is also here today.
now, the plan that washington gave me much information to see when i was thinking about what did l'enfant think the city was going to look like. he not only drew the plan of the streets, he also wrote copious notes so that anybody building the city would be -- would know what to do. there is a key. there are colored areas. there are letters and numbers which tell you where the giant statue of george washington was going to go about where the washington monument is today. it was going to be a huge equestrian statue. width of the streets where various monuments were going to be. the church. and jackie and i went to the library of congress and looked at the original plan is one of the first things that i did. and it was extremely moving to have the piece of paper there that the designer worked on. you can see the little tiny pin
prick holes where he had his dividers over it calculating what he was doing. now, i'm going to show you how the painting was made at the same time i talk about the essence of the l'enfant plan. here's what i tried to do and the hard part of creating a bird's-eye view. i learned about bird's-eye view from mr. small's collection. they were the first large scale that i've seen. he showed those to me when i first came to washington. the first thing is to lay out the city plan and perspective. and you can see the curtains around the -- around the painting are already in. and i like the sense of it drawing back the curtain on history. it was a tradition in the 18th and 19th century and one that l' enfant used himself at times. washington is a city on the river. i've got the river there. the basic element of the plan is
this cross. and here is where the white house is. there's the congress house at the far end. the mall coming down. the white house grounds coming forward. and you can see there, the blue line is where constitution avenue is today. that was going to be a canal. it ties the creek which runs underneath constitution avenue. the plan, l'enfant's plan is a grid but it has radiation lines coming from the white house and from the capitol. and they are like rays of light. and i feel that the plan of washington very explicitly in letters and comments by washington, jefferson and l'enfant himself is about life one of the central themes of this city and one of the wonderful things of living in
it. here you see the buildings are starting to come up and the background goes in. there's a little putty here in the for ground. and he's holding the plan of the city. you'll see when you see the paintings upstairs, there the capitol is in. and some of the monuments that l 'enfant planned. he planned that each square would belong to each state. on the plan is a list of suggestions of what sort of monuments would be good her ballistslumns, and sculptures. so you'll see them as we go along. the white house is starting to come in. not only does the city has to be in perspective, but the river has to be in perspective and the cloud shadows have to be in
perspective as well. bird's-eye view are a constructive reality. there's no way to make one with a camera because you've got to be looking down at it at the same time that you're looking across it. it's a complicated business. but it's why -- it's one thing that aters did that photographers never managed to pull off. anyway, on we go. here you can see the little boats have gone in the foreground. the buildings are appearing. the white house, the capital, the canal, it was going to be a city of canals. and you can see how the canal goes right through. next to the canal there, you can see what has become the mall, the great walk. it was -- the canal was practical. it was going to be about shipping materials and moving things. but it also had a ceremonial function. and he designed ceremonial events.
the white chalk lines -- the white lines drawn over the top of the painting, a painting in process especially these paintings took two years, there's a lot of changes have to take place since you've come along. and we decided that we couldn't see where the edge of the original city was and that chalk line is what we called boundary road which is called florida avenue. so we'll just keep blasting long here. now, we're finished. so we're going the look at a few things close up. i've talked to the left here is the white house. this is enormously magnified when you see the actual painting, the white house is this big. but the mall running there, along sides of the mall, l'enfant suggested that houses of diplomats and other grandies, that's what he says on the plan. in later writing he suggests
that there would be places of entertainment. so his view changed as it went along. and he wrote a lot. but as much as possible, if the answer to the question is in the original plan, na's the answer i used. if it's not in the original plan, then i look to his writing or later plans which contain a lot of information which i l'enfant e from himself. so the giant equestrian statue there, it really -- it was a city he really had foresight. he knew it was going to grow. it was designed to grow. everyone mocked them. everyone who came to washington hought they were clever than george washington. but they were looking into the future. they were men of vision. now, here we can see the canal going through at the foot of the
capitol. l' enfant wanted a grand cascade. you can see two arches that appear on the plan as two squares. he planned to put in fountains. there were five enormous fountains. part of that was to supply water. but he was very interested in health. one of his instructions that there should be no burying grounds within the city. he had lived in paris. he knew what conditions in paris was like. kim bowling told me that paris copied washington, not the other way around, by the way. , there are vestigial building plans on his plan which don hawkins has worked on at great length. they've been scanned. they were copied in the 19th century. but for both the white house and the capitol there was a fairly
clear plan of what was intended. and there was going to be an enormous rotunda on the front of the building. going up east capitol street there was going to be -- he roses with arches like in paris today. where we are now, george washington envisioned a national university so that the people graduating from it wouldn't be loyal just to this state but would be loyal to the whole country. and that came about as columbia college. and george washington -- the original plan was that it would be over about where the university is today, although it was first built up by 14th and boundary road. on the plan, there is fortification here. not much has been written about
fortifications that are drawn on the plan. and there is a market on your right there with the columns around it. also from the original constructions. l'enfant wanted the national cathedral, or national church. some writers call it the pantheon. there it is. there is a plan of that building l'enfant., not by but it's based on his ideas. the plan of the white house is very broke. here we have it. it was to be five times the size of the white house that was built. it was called the presidential palace. this didn't fly with the feelings at the time. but there have been many efforts since to enlarge the white house to something closer to this but none have been
successful so far. the navy yard was going to be where fort mcnair is. that's clear from the original plan, so i put it there. the fountain, and there's another church over there. the church -- there are going to be churches all over. he obviously envisioned there would be more churches but i think he gives room for five. there were dozens. and then further up there on the right you can see two on the plan, on his plan he says canal twice, quite close together with the one was going to be a fish market and the other some sort of market he doesn't say. now, what actually happened by 1825? well, the title of this painting, the village monumental, suggests washington had developed but it was really a collection of villages at
this stage. as it built outwards from pennsylvania avenue, moving upwards through the city, it on also moved down here green leaf point by the navy yard over on the far right of the image and then what we would call west end, about where we are now, had kind of become another village, as well. the more you can see beneath the creek, which at this stage had been partially canalized, and you can see the white house and the capitol there. i just want to mention one thing. normally, bird's eye views sit out on a flat plain. if you look at some of mr. small's historical bird's eye views upstairs you'll see they're all on a billiard table essentially but one of the things about washington is that it's quite hilly.
people say, and i heard someone and he got grumpy with me when i contradicted him, that washington was built on a swamp. but anyone who has ridden a bicycle around washington knows that it would be very difficult to be a swamp, because it is quite steep. even streets that don't seem -- and they've been flattened a lot -- even streets that don't seem to have much incline, once you're puddling up them. now, obviously it is a tidal river, so places down by the river, water rose, and the water went down. pennsylvania avenue, itself, the lowest point was only 36 inches above the height of the river so that got squishy at times. but there was no standing water in the district of columbia at . e time that it was started george washington was a surveyor, a brilliant man. he chose the site himself. it was going to carry his name. the idea that he would have chosen a swamp is just -- i
don't know why people say that. in order to show the three dimensional nature of the dawn's top d one of graph call maps and made a model of the topography of the city. it is actually in the exhibit. then i -- you can see it coming along there. then i painted it. i tried putting the top ogg raff doin and putting the plan over it but you can't do it. you can see the white house coming in there. figures in the foreground. so here we are. washington in 1825. by this stage it was already a draw to tourists. here we have a group in the fashions of 1825, which were spectacular. there is a dress upstairs , a y loaned by the d.a.r.
fabulous costume collection, and willing to share it. the little boy is holding a guide book. there were guide books printed to washington. that one is special. it was loaned to the exhibit by tudor place, and it's inscribed to lafayette, who was here in he city in 1825. you can have a look at it. it's up there. in the background there, you can see two things that are sort of interesting. on the left you see what is now the island and mason's island which had a house or plantation on it. above the lady's head you can see what was marked as glass works -- no, glass house. it was called glass house. to begin with i drew a glass house like you grow tomatoes in, which was strange, but it turns out glass house means a factory manufacturing glass. here we injure the central part of the town. on the right-hand side there
you can see what became center -- well, it was center market as well as an old burial grounds. lafayette didn't want any food markets in the middle of the city because they were filthy and rat infested and so on but that didn't work out. between the two back buildings of the market you can see a little fire station there. fire stations were a big thing because fires were a problem. you could, in the city, he wanted everything to be built of stone or brick. that didn't work out. about half the houses were built of wood. but the wooden houses were only allowed to be much smaller than the brick houses. so he wanted it to be row houses. every house had to be square with the street. and a lot of that sort of harmonious thinking survived to today. i'm always amazed when i move around washington how closely the city is to his vision.
here's the white house. that's the glass house down there. at this stage the white house was still recovering from the war of 1812 and the burning of 1814. wall around it put nd in by jefferson. you can see a gate over on the right-hand side with a tiny carriage. i challenge you when you're looking at the painting to find the carriage. it's the size of a grain of rice. pennsylvania avenue did not go through to begin with. at this stage they had cut it through above the white house. you can see lafayette square, which is finally getting tidied up and then to the left of lafayette square you can see blair house. above it, decatur house. at this stage, 18 ta, the south portico had just gone in.
the north portico had not been finished. john quincy adams had become the president but his great gardening efforts had not really gotten under way. down in the foreground you can boons' cottage. john quincy adams used to swim in the river all the time. there is a good diary entry where he says he went down to the willows. the mansion is just above the college there and you can see the octagon up there. and got his boat and with his son, john jr., and his servant antoine they were going to row across the river and antoine was going to row back. the adamses were going to swim. they must have been good swimmers because the river was much wider in those days. i wong twice before striking out. i'm a good swimmer. i would think twice before striking out to national airport. is another this
painting by me for another job. this was for the white house historical association. here we have john quincy adams, his servant, and son sitting out on that fateful journey. you can see the wall there. it's called aha ha wall, an nglish tradition, from the white house you were unaware there was a giant wall around the place. from the outside, people are standing on top of the wall if you look closely, and the boat sank. they thought he had drowned. he had to remove all his clothes. he lost his silk hat. and they wound up naked sitting on the shore in virginia while the servant went looking for some clothes and came back to town to get a carriage. the birds in the tree in the foreground are carolina parakeets unfortunately now
extinct because they were so tame and sweet. you can see the jefferson gate over there on the right. decatur house. oh, yes. lafayette square had sort of a motley start. it was used as a builder's yard to begin with. here in another early, earlier painting by me, here we have the white house under construction but in the top right there you can see what became of lafayette -- what became lafayette square. there are brick kill ns -- kilns, a large builder's shed, which became the first masonic lodge in d.c. and then on the far side you may not be able to see them where you are, but there is a row of small houses which were going to be workmen's cottages but which were turned into -- what is a good word? brothels. we'll use that. so a long tradition of hankie
pankie in the vicinity of the white house. and here it is in 1902, laid out as sort of a romantic -- the square finally complete. pennsylvania avenue, things built up from there. and there it's running between the two. it was pretty rough but set out very wide. once again, l'enfant's sense of grandeur and the future. you can see the tidal creek coming around. it ran down about where north capitol street is. it had some very deep pools. there were swimming holes in it. people swam. it was 500 feet wide in front of the white house. it was not nothing. and at the bottom of capitol hill there, it was 20 feet down from the road because there is an account of a guy driving a coach and horses off the road
into the creek. the horses drowned. so it obviously had water in it. but the people got away alive. and there's center market and pennsylvania avenue and the unitarian church is the large church up there above the market. the capitol, at this stage, the west side of the capitol had been completed and the stone for the east side, you can see , that's round, there just about done as well. obviously a giant extension later in the century. behind the west front of the capitol was the library of congress, another painting, a library for the whole nation this was called. so that was originally behind the west side, the west portico of the capitol. i was searching for a fire to
put in the painting but the only fire i could find in the newspaper was the fire in the library of congress and it wasn't until december and this was june so i was out of luck with that. this is the -- at this stage the view of the capitol that we saw, this is the rotunda, eplaced later. than sculpt your of george washington which at -- sculpture of george washington which was sitting in the rotunda now sadly hidden at american history but a truly wonderful sculpture and portrait but people were appalled by the fact that he was naked. and the mall at this stage was pretty rough. if you get close to this you can see some tiny cows. people grew wheat. there were wood lots, there were trash heeps. you can see the canal was about to change direction. i think i might have a close -.
sorry about this. the canal ran up the side of pennsylvania avenue but it gave trouble. it was too close to pennsylvania avenue. and the government decided to get some more land out so it cut the canal running across from there straight up. you see photos taken during the civil war. that's the situation of the canal. and then they gave the piece of land that resulted between there and pennsylvania avenue to the district who promptly saw this but then it came back again in 1902 with the mcmillan commission when they got rid of the railroad station and a lot of stuff off the mall that ntruded into the mall. including that little piece of land. down at the bottom there you can see the bluffs that ran along the side of the river and on the right you can see green leaf point running down.
the navy right here, yard. the day of the painting is the day that they launched the ship that took lafayette back to france. it was called the brandywine. jackie found a wonderful first person account by a slave who worked at the navy yard called michael shiner. .e talks about that day it's he that said quincy adams was on the ship as it went down the slip way. and there were 2,000 people watching. above that you can see the marine barracks, the house and the marine barracks, the oldest continuously used building in the district, i understand. the marine barracks is remarkably -- the whole area -- there are a lot of things still intact around there including
the entrance into the navy yard which is a beautiful thing. if -- someone asked me what l'enfant would think if he came back today. what would he recognize of the city? and i feel that he would recognize much of the city. he would know where he was. and it amazes me how much of what he planned actually got built. and if you go up like massachusetts avenue around dupont circle he said that the city would spread around the circles and it did. they weren't kind of owned by one state but grand houses were built around them and the grand houses spread along the grand avenues and the less grand houses behind the grand avenues. then someone asked me what he would not recognize and i think
perhaps what he would not recognize is the change to the coast line. so how the mall got extended, the tide got filled in. the washington monument got built. if you are at the washington monument there is a stone there nd it says this is where the tiber came up to. it is a long way from the river. everything where the glass house was, that is all changed and unrecognizable. but much of the city remains the same and i think the feel of the city remains the same and credit belongs to the citizens of washington for holding on to that and for making a big noise when dramatic changes are planned that are not going to be advantageous and perhaps most recently the effort to get rid of the height restriction where the citizens rose up to counter
that despite it being an immensely profitable enterprise, well funded to get that. it never happened. it'll come back again and again and i hope future generations fight as hard as the people here today. you can tell i love the city. now, in the lower right corner, i painted l'enfant, himself, just before his death. his name is clearly on the original plan. peter l'enfant, not pierre, peter. but thereafter his name never appears on anything. he wasn't paid. he spent his time trying to get paid. he was a difficult man. but he ended up a pauper. and without credit. and he's come back in my painting to look at the city. and the tree he is leaning on, there is a great quote that jackie found about the growth of the city being like tuition
from -- like sprouts coming from an old trunk. and the tree that he's leaning on is sprouting anew and i think that will always be the case with washington. it will always sprout anew and it will always be a wonderful city. thank you so much. [applause] >> so we have about 15 minutes for questions. please raise your hand and wait for a mic to get to you so we can make sure to record all of your great questions. >> and after that i'm going to go upstairs if anyone twoonts look at the painting so i can hang questions and about. yes? plan, i think of his
he showed at first. [inaudible] mr. waddell. . l'enfant's plan is that map but he wrote what were called memorials and we have the expert on l'enfant memorials here today, pam scott. much e long letters and of the drawing -- he lost a trunk full of his stuff. so some people say he never had plans for other buildings that were going to be in the city, but i believe he did have plans. e was a prodigous creator. so there are -- there is more. he did write. yes, there are other -- and then at the ellicott plans, the
later plans have plans of buildings which i believe are connected with l'enfant. how directly, it's hard to say. nybody else? i had the pleasure of watching this process unfold and i was wondering if you could comment on how long this took you and a comparison between the two paintings. which was more difficult? the one of what wasn't built or the one of what was built? were there particular challenges for each? >> well, it took two years. i've been thinking about it for a long time before that. the idea of recreating l'enfant's plan had been in my head for years before that. i had been talking to people about it and people had been ncouraging me and actually
turning it into reality. i thought the painting of the unbuilt city would be much more difficult, but, strangely, because there was much less information -- there was a lot of information about 1825, most of it unknown, but people wrote a lot. they wrote a lot of descriptions. early issues of the historical society journal have people who actually remembered or knew ople who remembered 1825 and newspaper reporting was very detailed. long paragraphs of description. so these are the first paintings i've ever done that are fully annotated. jackie kept track of every piece of research information and upstairs you'll see a tablet next to each of the paintings in which you can click on things in the paintings and find out what
they are, so it's like a book. many, many, many of the buildings in the 1825 painting are actual buildings in their actual situation. jessica went through the census for that time and connected people's occupations with addresses, which was a huge and complicated job and for which i'm grateful. so we know where brickyards were, where soap makers were, and a whole lot of other people in the city. so the paintings are a mine of information. i'm not usually anyone who's been to my studio will see stacks of paper and loose heeps. keeping track of that kind of information is not my forte. so it was only possible through working with the museum and mr. small's staff that i managed to keep it in line and hopefully it will be -- it is not the
last word. i've made mistakes. there is no doubt. i don't know what they are yet but i'll be told. [laughter] but it's a beginning and it can be built on. and i hope that it brings to mind -- because the period between the burning and the civil war is like nothing, you know, like nothing happened. and lots happened. and it's great. i've got so much material. i could do 10 more paintings. in my mind's eye i could look in the windows of the houses so i could tell stories about the naughty -- the firemen in washington were originally -- if you joined the fire brigade you could get out of being in the militia, so the firemen were all gentlemen who just didn't want to go into the militia. then they dropped that law so you didn't have to go in the militia. so gentlemen stopped going into the fire brigade. and the fire brigades were taken over by naughty boys.
i have many great stories about the fire brigades in washington. and one of the things -- i'll shut up in a second -- one of the things i discovered and love about washington is what happened at the very beginning keeps happening. there were street crews here right from the start. there were block gangs. there were the georgetown gangs. there were the d.c. gangs. and they were at each other's throats. i mean, it's just -- i don't know what it is but if it starts here, it goes on here. and so often things happen. i think oh, that's just like 825. >> comment on your brushes. >> my brushes. i was actually thinking of bringing a brush today. the paintings start with fairly large brushes but rapidly devolved until i was using
brushes which are fave zero. zero is a very small brush. five zero is a miniscule brush which a friend describes as being made from the eye lashes of unborn mice. and so i could spend hours and hours painting but at the end of it i would have worked over an area this big. jackie used to come in on friday afternoons and we'd do research and other things and i'd say, well, i've worked all day and here is the result and it's like a shadow and an outhouse on a tiny house. so that was madness. i always vowed i'd never be the kind of artist who used tiny brushes. i was an expressionist when i started. oh, yes. >> do you have plans to write up or does somebody else to write up this information and key it in to, you know,
standard maps? >> well, there is, i think, going to be a scholarly article written about the paintings. and it won't be long enough to contain all the information that we've got. it would be very nice to have a book one day because the stories are so good. and some of these booths -- there is one upstairs -- there are close-ups of sort of highlights of the city around it. that's not actually d.c. it's something else. frederick. and one of my first thoughts about this was to do the booth with close-ups of particular things, you know, but it didn't work out that way. but i would very much like to create vignettes that are in the big paintings so just sort of expand on them but how it would work -- quite how it
would work i don't know. >> thinking about the next project, the clara barton project for missing soldiers. >> yes. at the moment anyone on 7th street who wants to see a really interesting d.c. museum, there is the missing soldiers office. which they discovered in i think the 1980's on the top floor of a building owned by the g.s.a. when clara barton pulled out she just left it all there and they found it. you might remember seeing it in the paper. now it is a beautiful little museum and very moving. because they recreated all the wall paper and everything and they've done amazing lighting as well so it's just like the gas lighting. it is very interesting. but they commissioned me to do a large mural for them about clara barton's life. it's in the form of a kind of fairground banner of the 1860's. she was just such a -- just
something else, clara barton. and i am over there working frequently during the week, so ou can come in and talk to me. 7th and "e." there is a starbucks on the corner. it is two back from the starbucks next to the hair dresser. yes? >> the naughtiest fireman story and could you also tell us whether you were able to resist in some discreet way placing some image related to it in the painting? >> well, i certainly would have liked to have painted -- one of d.c. boys got -- the were, some d.c. firemen were swimming in the creek beneath the lower bridge of the rock creek. and the georgetown boys stole their clothes.
and then threw stones at them to make them get out of the water, but the figures were too little to be in -- they were just too little to see. they used to ring the fire bells to make people get out of church. that was a popular trick. but the worst one, which i noticed is still popular in this area with volunteer firemen is setting fire to things. they did quite a bit of that. and then they got money. if you got to the fire first the insurance company would pay whoever got there first. so there were a lot of fights on the way to fires. yes? >> when will we be able to see these paintings again? what happens to these after the display? >> well, eventually they will be on permanent view, but mr. small is so attached to them he wants them back for a while. so jackie might be able to say something on that topic.
>> they'll be on display for about a year, it looks like, and we are hoping to bring them back in for an exhibit potentially on things that were planned and never built, unbuilt washington. we are hoping to eventually hopefully on somewhat permanent display with living >> thank you so much for coming. i really appreciate it. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] you are watching a american history tv, only on c-span3. >> bob dole served kansas and in congress. he became the republican presidential nominee. next the assistant director and senior archivist at the dole institute of politics shares stories about the senator's life and career and highlights his legislative accomplishme