Washington DC Travel and Tourist Information
Pennsylvania Avenue is certainly among the world's most famous streets. While the Avenue serves work-a-day Washington as a major east-west transit route, it is known the world over as the heart of the Nation's Capital. America's history has marched, paraded, promenaded, and protested its way up and down the Avenue. The Nation celebrates the election of a president every four years with a parade on the Avenue, while other national heroes and foreign leaders have been honored with parades and motorcades there as well. It is no wonder that Pennsylvania Avenue is called the "Avenue of the Presidents" and "America's Main Street." The Avenue is truly more than just another city street, it is, rather, America's Ceremonial Way, the place where the Nation comes to commemorate its tragedies and triumphs.
The Federal Government has recognized the Avenue's historical and national importance in several ways. On, September 30, 1965, the Secretary of the Interior, with the President's concurrence, designated it the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site. Encompassing the Avenue between the Capitol and the White House, and a number of blocks around it, the Site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. Due to the Avenue's then blighted state, Congress created the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation on October 27, 1972 to plan and carry out the Avenue's revitalization. Declaring its redevelopment to be in the national interest, Congress directed that the Avenue be developed, maintained, and used "in a manner suitable to its ceremonial, physical, and historic relationship to the legislative and executive branches of the Federal Government and to the governmental buildings, monuments, memorials, and parks in or adjacent to the area."*
Today, the Corporation's efforts are complete and Pennsylvania Avenue is once again a lively, vital area. National Capital Parks-Central had taken a larger role in the management, maintenance, and preservation of the Avenue, and the monuments, memorials, statues, parks, and plazas located along it. This Historic Documentation Report serves to document the legislative and historical background of Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation; and it also documents the history of the Avenue's historic buildings, monuments, and parks. In addition, the report provides information on the various functions performed by the National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation along the Avenue, and the various factors that influence the performance of those functions.
Pennsylvania Avenue has gone through a remarkable physical evolution over its 200 year history. The Avenue's history begins with Pierre L'Enfant. L'Enfant was French born and a trained military engineer appointed by President George Washington to plan the new Nation's capital city in March 1791. Placing the "Congress House" on Jenkins Hill and the "President's House" on a low ridge north of the mouth of Tiber Creek, L'Enfant connected them with a broad, diagonal avenue. Besides linking the two most important buildings in the city, the Avenue also allowed a view of each building from the other. L'Enfant hoped to line his "Grand Avenue," with academies, lecture halls and other institutions "of such sort as may be attractive to the learned and afford diversion to the idle."
Andrew Ellicott and his assistant Benjamin Banneker, a free black and self-taught mathematician and surveyor, laid out the Avenue in early 1792, and the clearing of its course began on April 14, 1792. The name Pennsylvania Avenue was first applied to L'Enfant's grandboulevard by Thomas Jefferson in a 1791 letter, but no one is sure why it was named for the Keystone State. One theory holds that this was done in order to appease Pennsylvania, which would see the federal capital move from Philadelphia to Washington in 1800. Others hold that the city's diagonal avenues were named in a logical north to south progression. Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York Avenues lie north of Pennsylvania Avenue, while Maryland and Virginia Avenues lie to its south, just as these states do on a map of the United States.
Pennsylvania Avenue, like the Capital city itself, developed slowly. In 1801, Connecticut Congressman John Cotton Smith found the Avenue to be "a deep morass covered with elder bushes." Like Smith, many Congressmen found walking along the Avenue such an unpleasant experience. So unpleasant that they voted that same year to build a gravel path along side the often muddy street using stone chips left over from the construction of the Capitol. President Thomas Jefferson also took steps to spruce up the Avenue. In 1803, he ordered that the Avenue be graded and paved in gravel. Drains were also installed, and four rows of Lombardy poplar trees were planted along its edge. However, despite these improvements, one observer noted in 1806 that "this boasted Avenue is as much a wilderness as Kentucky."
Despite his grand design, L'Enfant (who had been fired as the city's planner due to his temperamental nature) and his plans were soon forgotten. In 1836, Congress authorized a new and larger Treasury Department Building at 15th Street and the Avenue to replace the 1815 Treasury building that had been destroyed in a fire. Built between 1836 and 1869, the new building's south facade was pushed out into the Avenue's right of way, blocking L'Enfant's intended view of the Capitol from the White House. Today, the Treasury Building, designed by Robert Mills, is itself a historic structure. Regarded by some as the finest Greek Revival style building in the United States, it is surpassed in age only by the White House and the Capitol among Washington's federal buildings.
While the Avenue did not become the Grand Avenue of L'Enfant's plan, it did become Washington's first downtown street. This role for the Avenue was ensured by the District Commissioners in January 1801. In that year, they replaced the ramshackle stalls and sheds of the city's first market, located on Lafayette Square, with a more proper market on Pennsylvania Avenue between 7th and 9th Sts. Known as Center Market, this 19th Century grocery store offered everything from apples to yams, manufactured goods as well as slaves. After a fire destroyed the old wooden market building in 1872, a large brick pavilion was built to house the Market. It remained on the Avenue until 1931 when it was torn down to make way for the National Archives building as part of the Federal Triangle project.
Other shops and enterprises were attracted to the Avenue as well. For example, city's first financial district was on the Avenue. Part of it survives today as the Sears House (the former Central Bank Building at 7th St. and the Avenue), and a Riggs Bank branch located in the former Washington National Bank building at 7th St. and Indiana Avenue. Among the other businesses attracted to Pennsylvania Avenue were butchers, tanners, dry goods dealers, glassworks, and woolen mills. Even embalmers, who did a booming business during the Civil War, set up shop near Center Market. Photographers, including Matthew Brady, opened studios along the Avenue as well.
Entertainment could also be found along the Avenue as well. "The Hall of the Bleeding Heart" and "The Palace of Fortune" attracted a fashionable clientele to their gaming tables in the mid-1800s. At the same time, The Canterbury Music Hall opened in the Avenue's 900 block, while Poli's Opera House operated in the 1400 block. The Washington Theater, the city's first, opened just off the Avenue in 1805 at llth and C Sts. The theater later housed Carusi's Assembly Rooms, a popular site for balls, concerts, and receptions. Several inaugural balls were held there, including those for John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and James K. Polk. Harvey's Restaurant, located in the Avenue's 1100 block, introduced the Capital to steamed clams during the Civil War. The National Theater occupied the first of its six successive buildings on E St. in 1835, and it remains in business there today.
The Tiber, The City Canal, Flood Control, and Pavement.The early Avenue was often a muddy quagmire that was not successfully paved until the late 19th Century. Flood waters from Tiber Creek, which crossed the Avenue near 2nd St. and from the City Canal, which followed along B St. just south of the Avenue, reportedly reached up as far as 7th St. on several occasions. Planned by L'Enfant in 1791, the Canal was constructed in the Tiber's bed south of the Avenue from 1807 to 1815 in order to link the city and its waterfront to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal that terminated in Georgetown. By 1820, this flooding had washed most of the Avenue's gravel pavement away. In 1832 and 1833, Congress passed bills to spend a total of $131,630 to macadamize the Avenue. Irish laborers, who also laid the Avenue's first water main in 1832, performed the work, but flooding overwhelmed this pavement as well. Cobblestones were laid in 1845-1848, but this proved unpopular with many carriage riders.
Never a commercial success, the Canal became an open sewer instead. The Center Market butchers, for example, routinely dumped rotted fish, poultry guts, and animal carcasses straight into the Canal. Human and animal waste from the Avenue's boarding houses, hotels, and stables also went into the Canal. Even President Lincoln fled its smell for the sweeter air of the Old Soldiers Home on hot summer nights. By 1860, some merchants were leaving the Avenue's southside for the higher ground along F St. Found undesirable by the city's elite, the area between the Avenue and the Canal was the home of warehouses, saloons, and houses of ill-repute. One notorious red light district, centered on old Ohio Avenue between 12th and 15th Sts., became known as "Murder Bay." (During and after the Civil War, this area was also known as "Hooker's Division" after General Joseph Hooker, whose men were encamped in the area for a time.) Alexander "Boss" Shepherd, vice-president of the Board of Public Works, and later District Governor, ended most of the Avenue's flooding problem, and successfully paved the Avenue during his 1871-1874 reign. Shepherd had the foul City Canal filled in, and the Tiber confined to an underground pipe, as part of a flood control project during 1872-1874. Paved with wooden blocks in 1872, thousands of Washingtonians celebrated the Avenue's improvement with a large parade. However, this $2 million project proved a failure as carts and horse's hooves turned the blocks into splinters in short order. However, other, earlier improvements did prove more successful. The Avenue's first gas street lights went up in 1853, and its first house numbers assigned in 1854. Finally, in 1874, the Avenue was successfully paved with asphalt and brick.
In 1835, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad opened the city's first railroad depot in Henry Morfit's converted boarding house on the Avenue at 2nd Street. Many Congressmen who lived nearby objected to the racket that the depot generated, and, in 1851, the B&O moved to a new station north of the Capitol. However, the Avenue would have an at grade rail crossing at 1st St. until 1907 when that line was placed underground as part of the Union Station project. In 1873, the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad received Congressional permission to lay tracks across the Mall and open a depot near the Avenue at 6th and B Sts. It was there on, July 21, 1891, that Charles J. Guiteau shot President James Garfield. Influenced by the 1902 McMillan Commission report, Congress ordered the railroads off the Mall and away from the Capitol. This lead to the building of Union Station, and the last train left the Mall depot on October 27, 1907.
In 1862, the first of the Washington and Georgetown Railroad Co.'s horse drawn street cars rolled down tracks laid in the Avenue's center. In 1892, the company installed a cable car system similar to that of San Francisco. Two cables pulled the cars up and down the Avenue between the Navy Yard and Georgetown. However, on September 29, 1897, the company's powerhouse at 14th St. and the Avenue burned-down. An electric system replaced the cable cars the next year. On the Avenue, the electric wire for the cars was placed in the old cable system's underground conduit, thus sparing the Avenue from unsightly overhead wires. The Capital Transit Co.'s last electric street car traveled the Avenue from 14th St. to the Navy Yard on January 28, 1962.
Even after Congress forced Boss Shepherd from office in June 1874, attempts to improve the Avenue continued. Turning its attention to the Murder Bay slum, Congress authorized the construction of a new combined Post office Department and City Post Office building at 12th St. and the Avenue in 1892. Designed in the Romanesque Rival style by Willoughby J. Edbrooke, the building was completed in 1899, and its 315 foot tall clock tower remains an Avenue landmark today. This building was followed in 1909 by the completion of the District Building at 14th St. and (what was then) E St. Designed by Cope and Stewardson in the Beaux-Arts style made popular by the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1892, the building was constructed to house the District of Columbia government. Still in use by the District's government today, it too remains an Avenue landmark. However, these two new structures did not bring other new development to the slum areas south of the Avenue as was hoped. By 1914, many of the Capital's leading citizens considered the Avenue's southside an eyesore. Lined with gas stations, tattoo parlors, chop suey shops, rooming houses, and cheap hotels, one writer found that the Avenue's southside consisted of "poor little shops with slovenly fronts that offend citizens with dignified ideas."The Avenue's Historic and National Significance. By the beginning of the First World War, it was clear to many that while Pennsylvania Avenue had fallen far short of L'Enfant's vision, it had fulfilled one of his plans. As the widest street in the city, and as the shortest route between the Capitol and the President's House, L'Enfant intended that the Avenue be used for parades and ceremonies. Indeed, the Avenue's historical significance, and the importance attached to its physical appearance, lies in the Avenue's use as the Nation's "Ceremonial Way." Presidents, national heroes, and foreign leaders alike have been honored with parades along the Avenue, as have military leaders, returning troops, and other national heroes. In addition, untold thousands of average citizens have marched on the Avenue to support or protest a variety of causes and issues. The Presidential Inaugural Parade is, of course, the Avenue's better known ceremony. The custom of a staging a parade for the newly installed President dates to Thomas Jefferson's Second Inaugural on March 4, 1805. After taking the oath of office at the Capitol, Jefferson mounted his horse and rode back to the White House, "followed by a large assemblage of members of the Legislature, citizens, and strangers of distinction." Later Presidents followed this custom and an inaugural parade has honored every president who won office by an action since. An expression of American democratic ideals, the parade serves to symbolize the President's assumption of his powers and duties, while giving the Nation's citizens their first glimpse of the new chief executive. Many presidents have used their inaugural parade to set the tone for their administrations. In 1829, Andrew Jackson rode down the Avenue without a military escort to show his commitment to democracy. A parade of Jackson's often roughhewn supporters followed, with the chaos and disorder of the march continuing at the White House reception. However, this marked the beginning of "Jacksonian Democracy," and the rise to power of the new Western states. In contrast, the pomp of James K. Polk's inaugural parade in 1845 reflected the expansionist mood of the country. Regular Army and militia units, bands, veterans, Supreme Court Justices, Congressmen, Diplomats, and others escorted Polk to the White House, whose term would see the nation's borders extended to the Pacific Ocean by war and negotiation. When Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, 1861, the secession crisis gave his inauguration an air of apprehension. Tight security surrounded the new President and his parade. Army sharpshooters dotted the rooftops overlooking the Avenue, and people complained that they could not see the President in his open carriage as it was completely surrounded by Cavalrymen. Lincoln signaled his determination to preserve the Nation by having a large float bearing a white robed girl for each state and territory, and the word "Union" in large block letters, follow his carriage. In 1885, Grover Cleveland, the first Democratic president elected since before the Civil War, used his parade to promote national unity. For this first time since that war, the parade included marching units from both the North and the South, including veterans from both the Union and Confederate armies. President since 1901 due to McKinley's assassination, Theodore Roosevelt had to wait until he won election in his own right before he could lead his own inaugural parade in 1905. Marking the confident, exuberant, and optimistic mood of the Nation, the 35,000 marchers in the parade took 3 1/2 hours to pass the reviewing stand. Veterans of Roosevelt's Spanish-American War "Rough Riders," who charged down the Avenue at full gallop, were the parade's featured attraction, while the units of Filipino and Puerto Rican scouts served to remind all of the Nation's new overseas responsibilities that war brought. Franklin Roosevelt used his third Inaugural Parade in January 1941 to emphasize national defense. While most Americans still hoped to avoid involvement in the Second World War, Roosevelt sent troops in combat uniform, rather than parade dress, down the Avenue, along with tanks and artillery. In 1977, Jimmy Carter signaled the end of the "Imperial Presidency" by walking to the White House.
In addition to the joy of Inaugural Parades, the Avenue has also seen the sorrow of seven Presidential funeral processions, including processions for the four who died by assassination. William Henry Harrison, who had caught a chill during his two hour long inaugural address, died from pneumonia on April 4, 1841, one month after taking office. The first president to die in office, Harrison's body was escorted up the Avenue by twenty-six pallbearers, one for each state. The new president, John Tyler, as well as the Cabinet, the Diplomatic Corps, and fourteen militia companies made up the procession. President Zachary Taylor was the next president to die in office, and his, July 13, 1850, funeral procession stretched for over two miles behind the hearse.The death of President Abraham Lincoln, on April 15, 1865, shortly after beginning his second term, and just days after Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant, resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of grief nationwide. The first president to die by assassination, Lincoln's body was escorted from the White House to the Capitol on April 19 by a cortege numbering 30,000. Arriving late and unable to take its assigned position, the 22nd Colored Infantry fell in at the head of the procession, while African-American lodge groups brought up its rear. James Garfield, who was shot at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station just off the Avenue on July 2, 1881, died of his wounds ten weeks later while attempting to recover at the New Jersey shore. Returned to Washington by train to that same station, Garfield's body was escorted up the Avenue to the Capitol by a procession that included the new president, Chester Arthur, and former president Grant. Shot by an assassin in Buffalo, New York on September 6, 1901, President William McKinley's body was returned to Washington by train ten days later. On September 17, the dead presidents casket was escorted down the rain dampened Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. Carriages bearing the new President, Theodore Roosevelt, and former president Grover Cleveland preceded the marchers. President Warren G. Harding died of a cerebral stroke in San Francisco on August 2, 1923. The funeral train arrived at Union Station on August 7th, and the next day, General John J. Pershing and a cavalry escort led the funeral procession from the White House to the Capitol. Shot by an assassin in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy's funeral procession along the Avenue two days later was televised worldwide. The slain president's casket rode on the same caisson that had borne Franklin Roosevelt's body down Constitution Avenue eighteen years earlier, making Roosevelt the only President to die in office whose procession did not take place on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Nation has honored other figures with funeral processions down the Avenue as well. The first state funeral procession on the Avenue was for Vice President George Clinton in 1812. Former presidents John Quincy Adams (1848) and William Howard Taft (1930), serving as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court upon his death, were honored by Avenue processions, as were Generals Jacob Brown (1828), Alexander Macomb (1841), Philip Sheridan (1888), Admiral George Dewey (1917), and Ambassador Adlai Stevenson (1965). On March 2, 1844, the five victims of the USS Princeton gun explosion disaster, including Secretary of State Abel Upshur and Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Gilmer, were honored with an Avenue funeral procession led by President John Tyler. The Nation also honored the Unknown Soldier of World War I with a procession down the Avenue on November 11, 1921. Marching the entire distance on foot behind the caisson were President Harding, General Pershing, and Chief Justice Taft. The ailing former president, Woodrow Wilson rode in a carriage, which was followed by the entire U.S. Congress.
The Nation has also honored a variety of foreign leaders and American heroes with parades and motorcades along the Avenue. The Marquis de Lafayette was the first foreigner to be honored by a parade down the Avenue in 1824. Military and civilian units conducted the Revolutionary War hero from the Capitol and down the Avenue to the Franklin House at 21st St. In October 1899, Admiral George Dewey, the victor at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War, received the acclaim of the Nation during a parade on the Avenue. General John Pershing, leader of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I, paraded down the Avenue on September 15, 1919, as did General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1945. Other heroes have also been honored on the Avenue as well, including Charles Lindbergh in 1927, and John Glenn in 1962. In May 1990, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev stopped his motorcade and shook hands with some of those who were standing along the Avenue to greet him.The greatest parade ever held on the Avenue was the Grand Review of May 23 and 24, 1865 that honored the victorious Union Army at the end of the civil War. President Andrew Johnson, the Cabinet, and General Grant reviewed the parade from a stand in front of the White House, while members of Congress and the Supreme Court occupied a stand in Lafayette Square. General George C. Meade, the victor of Gettysburg, led the Army of the Potomac down the Avenue, up 15th Street, and then past the reviewing stands. From morning until late afternoon the regiments moved down the Avenue in well-ordered ranks. General George Custer caused a sensation when his horse, which had been spooked by a garland thrown at it, galloped wildly past the reviewing stand. The next day, General William T. Sherman led his Army of the Tennessee down the Avenue and past the reviewing stand in another day long parade of the Union's military might. Regarded by many as more unkempt and disorderly then their eastern counterparts, the tens of thousands who saw the Westerners enthusiastically cheered them nevertheless.
A number of nationally significant protest marches and demonstrations have also occurred on the Avenue. While these marches may have helped change the economic, political, or social fabric of the Nation, many others have been all but forgotten. One of the first large protest marches on the Avenue was that fo "Coxey's Army" on May 1, 1894. Left idle by the Panic of 1893, unemployed workers around the country organized "armies" to protest their condition. Led by bagpipes and the drums, Jacob S. Coxey of Massillon, Ohio led 500 unemployed men down the Avenue to the Capitol, where Coxey and his staff were arrested for walking the grass. In the early 1900s, protesters supporting women's suffrage were regular visitors to the Avenue, and the massive Suffragist Parade of 1913 helped bring that issue to the attention of the Nation's leadership. The Ku Klux Klan parade of 1925 helped demonstrate the strength of that organization to the nation as well.In 1932, during the Great Depression, over 60,000 unemployed World War I veterans came to Washington to protest their condition, and to seek increased borrowing privileges on their bonus certificates. While they did not hold a formal march, the "Bonus Marchers" simply engulfed the Avenue, with many camping out in vacant buildings in the Federal Triangle area. Others camped on the Anacostia Flats. After the Senate rejected the Patman Bonus Bill on July 15, many of the marchers down the Avenue to remove the remaining veterans. Many veterans attempted to sit down in the street, but were routed by tear gas. MacArthur's troops continued down on to the Anacostia camp which they then burned. In the 1960s a number of large civil rights and anti-Vietnam War marches were held on or near the Avenue. In January 1992, thousands marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House to protest the Nation's involvement in the Persian Gulf crisis.
By the start of the First World War, the Avenue's southside was regarded as an eyesore by many leading Washingtonians. During President Woodrow Wilson' s first administration, a Fine Arts Commission report on the Avenue stated that "nothing short of radical measures" could save the sordid south side of the Capital's main street and the Nation's Ceremonial Way. Although delayed by the World War, such measures would eventually be taken to improve the Avenue's southside--the wholesale demolition of its buildings, and the construction of the Federal Triangle, the largest office building project in the Capital's history.The drive to spruce up the Avenue with government buildings was also fueled by the growth of government itself. With federal employment in Washington tripling between 1901 and 1926, the demand for office space grew enormously. This led to the creation of the Public Buildings Commission in 1919. Charged with the construction of new government offices, the Buildings Commission took the Fine Arts Commission findings to heart, and settled on the blighted area between Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues from 15th to 6th Sts. as the site for a group of massive departmental office buildings. Congress approved that plan in the Public Buildings Act of 1926, and, by the end of 1928, the government had purchased all of the Triangle's 70 acres. The next year, the old buildings of Murder Bay and the Avenue's southside began falling to the wrecker's ball. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, who oversaw the Public Buildings Commission, promised Congress that "no newfangled notions of architecture" would influence the new buildings. Borrowing openly from the Louvre in Paris, his architects agreed on a uniform, neoclassical design, decorated with friezes, statues, and inscriptions. With the advent of the Great Depression in 1929, the Federal Triangle became one of the largest public employment projects in the country. While never completed as planned, the Triangle's buff colored limestone buildings totally transformed the Avenue's southside. The earlier Victorian era commercial buildings were replaced with a group of massive government office blocks whose bureaucrats and clerks generally left the Avenue by 5:00 p.m. The Triangle also wiped out 23 of L'Enfant's original city blocks, and his vista from Market Square to the Washington Monument.
Although it had fared better than the Avenue's southside, its northside faced decline in the years after World War I as well. Even before the Federal Triangle project began in 1929, many of the city's premier retail establishments had moved off the Avenue to newer buildings elsewhere in the city. The Great Depression of the 1930s also affected the Avenue, as a number of businesses went bankrupt or closed due to the poor economy. World War II ended almost all private construction and renovation work on the Avenue, like elsewhere in the city, as men and resources were poured into the Nation's war effort. After the war, the general movement of people and jobs to the suburbs brought a further decline in the Avenue's fortunes. Through the 1950s and 1960s, businesses continued to move uptown, and a number of buildings were demolished on the Avenue, with most being replaced by parking lots or garages. Only two new buildings went up along the Avenue during those years, the 1953 Pennsylvania Building on the northeast corner of 13th St. and the Avenue, and the 1968 Presidential Building that was built on the site of the Raleigh Hotel on the northeast corner of 12th St. and the Avenue. By 1953, the Avenue was held in such disregard that the Pennsylvania Building was given a 13th Street address, while in 1968, D.C. government offices occupied most of the Presidential Building rather than private firms.The greatest blow to the Avenue came after the April 1968 riots in central Washington that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Although no violence occurred directly on the Avenue, buildings and shops along F, 7th, 10th, and 14th Sts. were looted and several were burned. After the riots, recalled one downtown merchant, "business completely dropped dead," as shoppers fled to the suburban shopping malls then springing up around the Capital Beltway. Avenue businesses closed, or moved to the suburbs as well. Those who remained were reluctant to invest in improvements to their buildings, and in any case, most banks had redlined the Avenue. The symbolic death of the Avenue came on, July 15, 1968, when the Willard Hotel closed. Standing vacant and awaiting demolition, the 449 room hotel was stripped nearly bare by salvage crews and vandals. Abandoned by businessmen, many local residents, and suburban shoppers, the Avenue appeared to be active only during the morning and evening rush hours, as the thousands of government employees who worked along the Avenue came to and left work. With nothing to attract people to the Avenue after work, the Avenue was generally lifeless after 5:00 p.m. Between 1960 and 1969, one study found that the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor suffered a 42% loss of business. In 1969 there were 10 completely vacant buildings in the corridor, and 82 more were vacant above the first floor. Of the 177 firms still in business on the Avenue and its nearby side streets, there were six bars, a burlesque house, six coffee shops, three fireworks stands, six discount stores, twelve hat or wig shops, six liquor stores, three palm readers, and seven pornography shops. The Avenue's remaining department stores, Landsburgh's (located at 7th and E Sts.) and Kann's (7th St. and the Avenue), closed in 1973 and 1975 respectively.
The federal government's efforts to revive the Avenue did eventually continue under President Lyndon Johnson. On March 25, 1965, he issued Executive order 11210 which created the Temporary Commission on Pennsylvania Avenue, with Owings serving as the chairman of this group as well. The Commission had a small staff that included architects John Woodbridge and David Childs. The commission's plan, issued in 1968 and known as the "Blue Book," incorporated the planned FBI and Labor Department buildings, and, while still calling for the demolition of the Willard and Washington Hotels, it down-sized the proposed National square. In addition, this plan called for the construction of another Owings idea, a huge "Italian Hill Town" housing complex at Market Square. The plan also called for a 50 foot set back from the Avenue's curb, which was incorporated into the new FBI building's design, allowing several rows of trees to be planted down Avenue's northside.
* Public Law 92-578 (86 Statue 1266).
information provided by National Park Service
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