Layered Gratitude: A Look at Preserved National Pride at the Heart of The Capital

 

Prezi

Lafayette Square, on the surface looks to be a symbol of unadulterated patriotism, a space in which those who had helped craft today’s United States of America were honored in the heart of its own capital. While this square does still stand as a place of honor, through this essay, I will argue that the symmetric and systematic placement of the monuments within the square’s reach contribute to a much more complex commonplace, using lines of placement within the space to contain elements of international influence and allow national presence to govern the area. Lafayette Square, located adjacent to the White House was named for General Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, a French revolutionary who significantly aided in the American Revolution (Biography of the Marquis De Lafayette). Since the unofficial creation of the square, the space has been used as a soldier encampment, graveyard and slave market among other things (Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.).

Not until its official construction in 1891 did the Square honor the man for which the space is named, General Lafayette (Lafayette Square, Washington, DC). Previous to this the square was home to only one statue. Located at the center of the square, a statue was erected in 1853, depicted President Andrew Jackson riding atop a rearing horse (Lafayette Square, Washington, DC). The physical monuments of this site prove to create hard lines and borders. Through the placement and memoriam of these statues, a layered effect is created in the space, contributing to the containment of foreign influence in the area.

At the heart of these multilayered organism is Andrew Jackson. The statue created in honor of The United States seventh president shows Jackson riding atop a rearing horse, as reported by the US General Service Administration (Lafayette Square, Washington, DC). The GSA also reports that this very statue was the first in the nation to be cast in bronze, a trend that would soon be followed by many sculptors (Lafayette Square, Washington, DC). The placement of this statue at the heart of the square is bold enough to leave many wondering why the Square was not named for the man whose image the statue was created in. A few feet beyond the statue and the pristine grass that surrounds it, is a fence meant to keep the statue and its surroundings untouched by the squares visitors. This fence differentiates this monument from the others in the square, marking it as the only one in which guests can not interact with.  This emphasis does not go unnoticed on the larger scale of the square. The placement of Andrew Jackson’s memorial as well as the architecture surrounding it creates an untouchable American figure at the heart of Lafayette Square, establishing the purely American core of the area.

Beyond the nationalistic core of the square is an open space filled with manicured grass, fountains and benches, creating the ideal space for anything from a tour group to a protest. This meat of the Square is forever changing, based on the areas clientele at any given moment. Beyond this, the perimeter of Lafayette Square holds tribute to four individuals:  Major General Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette,  Major Général Comte Jean de Rochambeau, Brigadier General Thaddeus Kosciuszko, and Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (Lafayette Square, Washington, DC). These monuments cover each of the four corners of the square, creating an international perimeter. The relative location of these four statues to the central statue of Andrew Jackson creates the first glimpse of the layered structure of the area. The foreign influence for which the park is named, lays only on the perimeter of the square, while Andrew Jackson’s presence holds most of the inner square. The differing levels of influence present in both of these layers allows for the containment of each to their specified area of the square. Moreover, these statutes, unlike that of President Andrew Jackson have no surrounding barriers separating them from the public’s reach. This further signifies the shift in ranking for layer to layer of the square.

Solidifying the layered rhetoric of the square lays in what is located just beyond the foreign perimeter of the area. Beyond the square, only a short distance away, are two extremely american locations, serving to enclose and contain the layer of foreign influence that is the perimeter of Lafayette Square. Just outside of this perimeter sites St. John’s Episcopal Church, also knows as “The Church of the president’s” (Welcome to St. John’s Church). The church gets its street name from the fact that every president, starting with President James Madison, has attended a service at this very church (Welcome to St. John’s Church). The traditional decor as well as its rich nationalistic history solidifies this location as one of great national influence. This influence, paired with its proximity to the perimeter of Lafayette Square helps to further contain the thin layer of international culture present in the area. Another nearby barrier for this international influence is a somewhat less prestigious location. 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 (History of Joe’s). The rhetoric of this space in relation to Lafayette square is that of final American dominance over the area. The addition of yet another respected, well revered American staple in such close proximity to the already contained foreign influence in the area solidifies the third layer of the space as nationalistic.

While it was no secret when beginning my research on Lafayette Square that the space would be on of national pride and focus, what did surprise me was the space’s acknowledgement of foreign influence and simultaneous containment of this influence to a thin perimeter. While analyzing the rhetor of the square and learning more about the space’s history and the American government, I can not help but feel that this containment is not coincidental. It seems only logical to me that from a nationalistic point of view, the honoring of foreign dignitaries in the heart of our nation’s capital and an area of such American pride, would be contained to small, less significant areas.

Works Cites:

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

 

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

 

“Joe’S.net.” Joe’S.net, joes.net/dc/. Accessed 2 May 2017.

 

“Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 May 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lafayette_Square,_Washington,_D.C. Accessed 2 May 2017.
“WELCOME TO SAINT JOHN’S CHURCH.” St Johns Church, stjohns-dc.org/welcome-to-saint-johns-church/history/. Accessed 30 Apr. 2017.

Utopian Discourse

In chapter 9 of David Flemings “City of Rhetoric” Fleming emphasized the need for a public, shared area that is to act as an environment where citizens with many differences can coexist long term. Fleming sees this place as an area in which those living in it do not deny their differences or similarities in hopes of coexistence, rather, find common ground within their similarities, and discuss their differences positively. Fleming states that before the construction of these places is possible, people today must rethink the ways in which their environments are made up today. Things such as public access to necessities like grocery stores and laundromats. This example of the physical changes that must be done in order to achieve Flemings ideal, adds to the idea of greater equality that Fleming leads to.

This chapter ties back to Fleming’s position on homogeneity in his book’s earlier chapters. Fleming states previously that homogeneity in an area, he uses the example of a neighborhood, births low or weak real political discourse. Naturally, one would think that the opposite of homogeneity, diversity, would birth a more intense or strong political discourse scene. Fleming combines these to idea in his last chapters, combining healthy diversity in an environment with positive but palpable political discourse within said environment. Fleming manages to tie together main themes of his work, while not coming to a simple ‘blank+blank=a combination of blank’, but rather fusing his ideas into his version of the most progressive, positive environment.

Contentless Cover Art

The television show, The Magicians, follows a group of adults with magical powers unknown to the mainstream world in which they have always lived. The cover art for this show depicts a female lying horizontally in the air, almost as if she had been thrown into this position by a strong force. This woman is dressed in an extremely short skirt and shirt. The woman’s outfit and positioning gives this image a slightly sexual undertone, regardless from the fact that the show is not very sexual in its nature. Another reason this coverart does not make much sense, is the fact that the main character of the show is not this female, or any female at all, rather the storyline follow, primarily, a male magician. It seems to be that the placement of the woman in this image, while inconsistent with the context of the television show, was not done accidentally. Beauty and sex are two of the most coveted things in society today. By creating cover art for a product, in this case a television show, that depicts one of these two things, the creators can ensure some sort of traffic surrounding their product. The woman on the cover of this TV show advertisement may have very little to do with the show, but as long as people like the aesthetic presented and click on the photography, then the creators goal is reached.

Annotated Bibliography #1

 

Source 1:

“Lafayette Square, Washington, DC.” GSA Home,

www.gsa.gov/portal/content/214547.

In the U.S General Service Administration’s article on Lafayette Square in Washington DC, the GSA provides a detailed history of the park from its construction to present day. Additionally, this article notes the disparity between the historical uses of the park and the way that the park is used today. The article is written chronologically, beginning with the original use of the park in the 1700’s. These uses included a family graveyard, a zoo and a slave market among other things. The article then goes on to note the specific changes that certain presidents made to the square of the surrounding area. For example, President Thomas Jefferson who fenced off the square during his time in office. The article then takes us into the 1800’s and the rise of the square’s status, describing the area around the square and the way in which it was built up throughout the century. The status of those who lived around the square and the reputation of the area continued to rise. The article later describes the architects involved in making the square what it is today, as well as the stop put on the construction around the square due to its proximity to the white house.

I plan to use this source as a solid background source throughout my project. The article gives me a clear, chronological look on the timeline of Lafayette Square. This source also touches on external factors that have influenced the square throughout history, which will hopefully be useful when creating my project. Another aspect of this source that will most likely serve to help me when creating my project is the fact that it is relatively unbiased. The government nature of the site in which this article is posted leads me to believe that the piece is mostly fact based. Overall, I intend to use this article and what I learned while reading this article as a basis of information regarding the square as well as a good jumping off point.

Source 2:

Godfrey, Sarah. “Lafayette Park Is No Longer a Home for the Homeless – City Paper.”Lafayette Park

Is No Longer a Home for the Homeless – City Paper, 6 Aug. 2004,

www.prop1.org/history/2004/040806.dccitypaper.lafayettepark.Abandon%20Quip.htm.

The article, Lafayette Park is no Longer for the Homeless, by Sarah Godfrey, serves to illustrate the numerous ways in which past presidents have manipulated the square, in regards to homelessness, to fit their agenda. This piece, Godfrey examines the ways in which presidential nominees and presidents themselves used the well known homelessness in the square to their advantage, all the while the level of homelessness not changing. Godfrey goes on to highlight the image of inequality in America that the square exemplifies. For example, Godfrey notes the distance from the White House to the square, highlighting the difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. Godfrey further explains how the proximity of the most powerful, elevated place in the country to a square full of homeless people shows two opposite ends of the American socioeconomic spectrum.

I will most likely use this article when incorporating elements of demographic into my project. The different types of people that inhabit an area have a lot of influence over that area. This being said, if those inhabiting Lafayette Square differ greatly from those surrounding the square, it will be worth noting in my environmental analysis. I also like the way that this article brings up the bigger idea of the socioeconomic gap that is so prevalent in America today. I will hopefully incorporate this idea into my project in some way.