Yesterday, I visited a small exhibition at the Decatur House about the buildings and statues surrounding the White House and Lafayette Square—The President's Neighborhood.
Since the White House was first occupied by President John Adams in 1800, influential people and organizations—or those who hoped to have influence—have bought property and built homes and offices along the streets surrounding the White House. In front of the White House, across Pennsylvania Avenue, is Lafayette Square and its park, the centerpiece of many of Washington’s and the nation’s most historic sites.
That these structures have survived today is owed to a first lady and the modern preservation movement. In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy intervened to block a congressional plan that would have replaced the historic structures with modernist government office buildings. This effort, among many, led to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
The key sites within Lafayette Square featured in this exhibition include Blair House, Dolley Madison House, Decatur House, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Hay-Adams Hotel, St. John’s Church, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Treasury Department. Note the beautifully illustrated cut-outs of these various structures lining the exhibition space, images created by a local artist, then blown up large scale by the White House Historical Association.
The exhibition runs through September 27, 2016.