Grand Avenues: The Story of the French Visionary who Designed Washington, Part 3

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Pantheon Books, 2007 - Architecture - 336 pages
19 Reviews
Grand Avenuestells the riveting story of Pierre Charles L’Enfant and the creation of Washington D.C.--from the seeds of his inspiration to the fulfillment of his extraordinary vision.

L’Enfant’s story is one of consuming passion, high emotion, artistic genius, and human frailty. As a boy he studied drawing at the most prestigious art institute in the world. As a young man he left his home in Paris to volunteer in the army of the American colonies, where he served under George Washington. There he would also meet many of the people who would have a profound impact on his life, including Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe. And it was Washington himself who, in 1791, entrusted L’Enfant with the planning of the nation’s capital--and reluctantly allowed him to be dismissed from the project eleven months later. The plan for the city was published under another name, and for the remainder of his life L’Enfant fought for recognition of his achievement. But he would not live to see that day, and a century would pass before L’Enfant would be given credit for his brilliant design.

Scott W. Berg recounts this tale, richly evocative of time and place, with the narrative verve of a novel and with a cast of characters that ranges from Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers to the surveyor who took credit for L’Enfant’s plans, the assistant who spent a week in jail for his loyalty to L’Enfant, and the men who finally restored L’Enfant’s reputation at the beginning of the twentienth century.

Here is a fascinating, little-explored episode in American history: the story of a visionary artist and of the founding of the magnificent city that is his enduring legacy.

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Review: Grand Avenues: The Story of the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, DC

User Review  - Whitney Hassell - Goodreads

I learned so much! I will say that things got a bit jumbled now and then, going back and forth with dates, but I never knew the magnitude and extent of the turmoil L'Enfant went through during and ... Read full review

Review: Grand Avenues: The Story of the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, DC

User Review  - Debra - Goodreads

This book really should have been called a biography of Pierre Charles L'Enfant. As I was expecting a book about the development of DC, I was disappointed in so much back story about L'Enfant. But it ... Read full review

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About the author (2007)

Scott W. Berg holds a B.A. in architecture from the University of Minnesota, an M.A. from Miami University, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from George Mason University, where he now teaches nonfiction writing and literature. He publishes frequently in The Washington Post and lives in Washington, D.C. Visit his Web sites at and

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