Digital Archives Exterior & Political #5

St. John’s Episcopal Church, located just outside of the perimeter of Lafayette Square. The church is Greek revival Episcopal Church, originally built in 1816 and has been visited by every president to reside in the White House since its construction. The location of the church, directly outside the square and in a straight line with the White House contributes to the layered aspect of the Squares rhetoric. The church adds a final layer to the location, fusing the greek roots of the church with the presence of American power seen through every President’s visit. This fusion of international and national power and influence is seen in its finale at the edge of the Square within the church.

Digital Archives Exterior & Political #4

The statue of General Thaddeus Kosciuszko, situated at one of the four corners of Lafayette Square, was a Polish general, credited with aiding the American Revolution in numerous ways, specifically in the battle of Saratoga, New York. The general stands as one of the four international figures in the Square, paying tribute to the immense help of international aid in the American Revolutionary War. This statue helps solidify the perimeter of the park’s fine, yet strong, line of international appreciation.

Digital Archives Exterior & Political #3

The Hay-Adams Hotel, located down the street from Lafayette Square, is a five star hotel that emphasized its “discreet, intimate” nature as well as its “excellent services”. This upscale location is popularly used by those visiting the capital on business and is also a popular wedding destination. The regal, upscale location is starkly contrasted with the less than upscale past of its surrounding area, drawing its reputation from the political pieces of its surroundings rather than that actual past of Lafayette Square.

Digital Archives Exterior & Political #2

Major General Comte Jean de Rochambeau, an aid in the American Revolutionary War, contributed to the making of The United States of America much like the other three men with statues in their name outside of Lafayette Square. While the information regarding Major Général Comte Jean de Rochambeau is not entirely different from that of the other foreign dignitaries in the square, the placement of the statue as well as the history and reasoning for its placement is certainly relevant to the layered structure of the Square.

 

Digital Archives Exterior & Political #1

Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab restaurant sits right outside of Lafayette Square. The upscale, two-story restaurant is known for its American cuisine and rated 4.6 stars on yelp.com. The rhetoric of this space in relation to Lafayette square is relevant in two areas. First, the upscale nature of the restaurant attracts a certain clientele. This clientele drastically differs from either the homeless population that hovers around Lafayette park as well as the drug dealers that used to plague the area. The restaurant also contributes to the layered theme of the Square in that it lays just outside of the international perimeter of the park, yet offers the best of American cuisine.

Digital Archives: Interior and Cultural

This photograph speaks to the layered culture of the square that I spoke about in my first essay. While I originally focused on the layers of the square in an international and domestic sense, this photo shows the the inner layer of the park as a defensive or offensive sense, depending on how one looks at it. The cannons, all facing outwardly, protect the centerpiece of the park, seeing as a physical and metaphorical barrier to the statue. While layered dimension of the park only contains two layers, the placement of the figures certainly follows the layered theme of the park.

 

This photograph depicts a homeless woman along with her cart of belongings, seemingly sleeping in Lafayette Square, just a few yards from the White House and National Mall. This image, initially, did not strike me as very different from other public outdoor squares or parks in Washington DC. While parks are not explicitly placed for the use of the homeless, they are often found setting up camp in such locations. The proximity of this area to the White House and such highly esteemed landmarks makes the presence of a homeless person stand out. In my writing, I can use this when I talk about the layered aspect of the Square with its surroundings.

 

This photograph does a good job of depicting probably the most typically seen type of person in Lafayette Square. While it is not abnormal to see a local walking through the park, or a homeless man or woman sleeping or sitting on a bench, the majority of those found in Lafayette Square are tourists. These tourists make up a large portion of the Squares guests, often either on tours or simply stopping to take a photograph. The type of person seen in the square provide a solid image of the culture of the park, it being a destination and national landmark.

 

This photograph shows two signs help up on the perimeter of the park, serving as a sign of protest. What this photograph says about the park is not simply that it is a space in which people are permitted to state their political opinion, but it is a place of symbolism, in which this statement is more powerful. The placement of the Square, directly in front of the White House, allows for political discourse in an impactful, symbolic way.

 

While this photograph appears to be just another image of the White House, it is actually a photograph taken from the grounds of Lafayette Square. This photograph shows the view of the White House one would have while standing in Lafayette Square. The image gives the White House the sense that it looms over the Square as a greater presence just outside its perimeter. This affects the feel of the Square, making it more of a piece of the White House and National Mall than its own, separate, grounds.  

Lafayette Square Location Analysis

While most do not see the green square of Lafayette Park as much more than another monument in an area saturated with similar memorials, the space holds a rich history and speaks leagues of the areas disposition. The space, now called Lafayette Square, has not always technically been utilized as government property, the square has always been a staple of its surrounding community. Originally used as a cemetery, a racetrack, and even a slave market, Lafayette square was a public space used until it was purchased by the government in the 1700’s (Lafayette Square, Washington, DC). The space’s first official governmental purpose was to serve as the original construction site for the White House and then again for repairs after the British destruction during the War of 1812 (Lafayette Square, Washington, DC). Since then, the square has seen numerous changes, undergoing its latest update in 1970, when the square became an official historic landmark.

Lafayette Square, often referred to as Lafayette Park, originally went by the name of ‘President’s Park’ in the 1800’s, when it first became a landmark of significant use to it’s community (Lafayette Square, Washington, DC). Likely, the locations original name was a result of the proximity of what is now Lafayette Square to the white house and the National Mall. Marquis de Lafayette, for which the square was named, was a French revolutionary, holding a large role in the American Revolutionary war as well as revolutions in France, particularly, the revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830 (The Marquis de Lafayette). Lafayette, often referred to as “The hero of two worlds”, helped shape not only American as a country, the patriotism and attitude that has lived inside American citizens since the revolution. The square in his honor is home to five statues, one in each corner of the Square commemorating a significant European figure in the revolution and Andrew Jackson in the center on Horseback (Monuments to the American Revolution in Lafayette Park). One statue, situated at the corner of the square farthest from the White House, shows Lafayette standing above three other men in a position of triumph. This statue aligns clearly with his image of a successful revolutionary and greets you as you enter into the Square. The second statue is erected precisely in the middle of the square. This statue shows President Andrew Jackson sitting on his horse, his stance and positioning connoting less a sense of victory and more a sense of honor and patriotism and pride.

Two of the Squares monuments, while both the same in their message of honoring and patriotism, are entirely different in their structure and in their subliminal, covert messages. The placement of these statues and how they are situated so differently also symbolic in the meaning of the Square as a whole. The statue of Lafayette is situated in the Southwest corner of the park (Monuments to the American Revolution in Lafayette Park). The monument is not fenced off from the public. Tourists and locals alike can go as close to the statue as they would like, many even climbing onto the base of the structure to take photos or sit down. The statue is also incredibly close to the busy street, with strips of sidewalk bordering two of the four sides of the monument. The placement of the statute ensures that it is not the centerpiece of the Square while also creating a less monumental, sacred tone around the space that is so often seen in and around historical monuments. Unlike the placement and construction of the monument of Lafayette on the southwest corner of the square, the monument to President Andrew Jackson sits in the center of the square, eluding a very different message and level of importance. Fenced off and surrounded by a circular, pristine patch of grass, President Andrew Jackson sits on top of his horse. The parks guests are not permitted to pass through the fence that separates this monument for the rest of Washington D.C.. The closed off nature of the monument in comparison to the more open monument at the corner of the park, subliminally relays to the citizen that this central statue is to be viewed as something placed in the park, and the four corner statutes are to be experienced as a part of the park. As the first statue to be placed in the Square, its central location seems only logical. Though, the placement along with the fact that it is the only statue that passersby are not permitted to get close to as well as the fact that not only is it the only American depiction in the park but an American president says something different. While the Square is named for the French revolutionary who helped gain American independence, it is the American President who holds the dominant place in the square. This, matched with the placement of the Square in regards to the white house solidifies national dominance over foreign influence in the area. The few blocks surrounding Lafayette Square, speak of more nationalism, patriotism and American pride than almost any other space in the country. While this Square is named for a foreigner who helped fight for those three things, the foreign influence is far from overshadowing the American influence in the park, as seen through the monuments.

The square, to me, has a layered layout. The innermost layer of the park, The statue of President Andrew Jackson, depicts a core of American emphasis. As the first statue erected in the Square, the monument displayed a sense of dominance over its space, creating a museum in which the spectator viewed. The next layer, which would be installed in the years to come, consisted of four statues, each of foreign influence. This layer, while responsible for the naming of the Square, holds less physical influence over the space. The layer trades in the experience of viewing for a more holistic experience. The third layer, the surrounding area, which holds everything from the White House to Historic Washington DC homes. This layer corresponds with the core of the square, reinstating the American dominance of the space, despite it having been named for a foreign ally. I see this layering effect as a measure of containment. By creating a strong American presence on either side of the international Tribute that is the perimeter of Lafayette Square, the foreign tribute is politely contained to its space. The strength of the American history that resides over the space directly outside of the square as well as at the core keeps the tribute to Lafayette and other foreign dignitaries relatively minimal. This, along with the fact that the square is placed in an area that is so saturated with American monuments, history and symbolism, ensures that the strength of the American Presence in the area will far outheign the strength of the foreign presence.

While I do not see this layering effect of dominance and containment as particularly negative, the effect of it is certainly evident when looking at the Square by itself, and in connection to its surrounding environment. The monuments erected in honor of these men, Lafayette included,  do not extend passed the sidewalks in which the are situated next to. They are not tall enough to see from a great distance away as are other monuments, nor do they demand a great amount of space. All of the elements of the construction and the placement of these figures serves to pay tribute to their subjects, while not overpowering any aspect of American tribute or honor in the nearby area.

This is further emphasized by the fact that each of the foreign honoring statues subjects are being honored due to their service to the United States of America to begin with. This shows not only the containment of the foreign influence in their placement, but in their message as well. In this, not only is the layering effect in full force, but and intrinsic containment is also present. This containment, as I see it, is done to maintain consistency within the area that the park sits. As the very center of our nation’s capitol, the purpose of the area is, at its core, to convey the strength, patriotism and core of The United States of America. This message of strength would be undercut by a such a strong message of international aid. In maintaining this image of American national pride, strength and unity, the introduction of such a strong foreign presence would be contradictory and alter both the consistency of the space and the message of the area as a whole.

 

Works Cited

 

“Biography of the Marquis De Lafayette.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association,

www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/served/lafayette.html. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

“Lafayette Square, Washington, DC.” GSA Home, www.gsa.gov/portal/content/214547.

“Monuments to the American Revolution in Lafayette Park.” The White House Historical Association , Library of Congress,

www.whitehousehistory.org/monuments-to-the-american-revolution-in-lafayette-park.

Accessed 26 Feb. 2017.

“Why ‘Lafayette’?” New Lafayette.org, 13 Aug. 2010,

www.newlafayette.org/lafayette-history/why-lafayette/. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

 

BED #5

This photo shows the edge of Lafayette Square, where a group of students all sitting in black sat on the front steps of a private building. This group sat on the steps for about thirty minutes before they all got up at once and started walking in the direction of the White House. Whether this was a tour or a protest of some sort, I found the meeting place to be significant. Not only did they all meet directly across from the Square, but they sat and stayed in those positions for quite a while.

BED #4

This photograph plays into many different aspects of Lafayette Square as a whole. Initially, I noticed the divide that the Square created in the geographical layout of the city. The Square serves to somewhat separate the political buildings from the more business oriented sector of the city. While this divide is not finite, it is definitely present. Another interesting thing I noticed about the park that can be found in the photograph is the amount of the park that is fenced off from the public. Many grass-covered areas or benches where fenced off from the general public, creating an environment where it would feel more natural to ‘walk through’ than to ‘linger’. This made the area seem less like that of a park and more like something to view.