Mapping the Plan of the City of Washington

15:18 Published September 21, 2016

David Maloney and Pranita Ranbhise, DC Historic Preservation Office Despite its international significance as a landmark of civic art, the 1791 Plan of the City of Washington has only now been mapped using modern GIS technology. The DC Historic Preservation Office began this work in June 2016. The mapping project has several motivations: it will support a National Historic Landmark nomination for the plan; it will improve the capacity for graphic analysis of street vistas in major building projects such as the redevelopment of the FBI site on Pennsylvania Avenue; and it will create a management tool to help avoid unanticipated degradation of the plan, as happened recently with a new apartment building that intrudes into the New Jersey Avenue vista of the US Capitol dome. We started the project with mapping the Plan of the City of Washington (the L’Enfant Plan) to understand the component elements (avenues, streets, and various public places), historic qualities (views, vistas, and landscapes); and understanding its significance to the planning and cultural heritage of the District of Columbia. Additional historic documents, including the 1803 King Plats of the City of Washington, the 1861 Boschke map, an 1894 map, and a 1937 WPA map were used to created GIS layers which include street networks, land parcels, and shorelines for each of the years. These layers when compared with the existing street network help analyze various changes in the streets, the shrinking and expanding of land parcels, and changes in shorelines. This data will help evaluate the consistency of the historical plats with current conditions. It will also help to inspect field conditions and analyze various aspects of the plan, such as alterations and intrusions, and to identify locations where there are gaps in historic protection.

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