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.

Annotated Bibliography 7 & 8

Crothers, Lane. “American Culture, American Influence.” TheEuropean, The European, 19 Sept. 2011, www.theeuropean-magazine.com/lane-crothers–2/6201-american-culture-american-influence. Accessed 20 Apr. 2017

In the article “The Hegemony of Pop” written by Lane Crothers, Crothers details the ways in which the American influence over global popular culture is not only strong, but will likely outlast the power of our military and politics. Lane goes on to explain how American cultural influence has been the leading global influencer for decades. He then goes on to analyze the fluctuation of the american economic system in relation to the cultural influence of the United States. Brothers comes to the conclusion that though America is not the only economic powerhouse in the world, our cultural influence will likely remain supreme even if other countries surpass us economically.

I will likely use Crothers’ analysis of American international influence on a smaller level, relating it to the layered domestic→ international→ domestic layout of Lafayette Square. I intend to use the article as as supplement to my other research. This document is less factual and more open-ended, which will be useful in my project as far as varied sources go.

 

Ron. “US Slave.” Lafayette Park Slave Market, 1 Jan. 1970, usslave.blogspot.com/2011/08/lafayette-park-slave-market.html. Accessed 24 Apr. 2017.

 

Blog post, “Lafayette Park Slave Market” written by author that goes by the user name Ron, illustrates the park/Square’s horrific past as a hotspot of the slave trade. Ron mentions the use of certain areas of the park as grave sites for the slaves, these same sites that stare at the White House today. The blog post includes a photograph of the view of the White House from the area used centuries ago as a grave for numerous slaves. This photograph chosen by Ron is incredibly impactful and important to his message. By including not only words to describe the proximity of slavery to our nation’s core, but photographic evidence as well, Ron sheds real light on the horrendous events of our nation’s past. Ron does this while unveiling even more so the government’s perpetration of these acts both physically and lawfully.

I will be able to use this blog post by Ron to illustrate the type of American history and values that are inadvertently preserved in the Square in the attempts to limit the influence of foreign influence. I plan on illustrating the dark side of the history that is represented through the monuments of the square, and how this dark history is so well preserved due to the fact that it physically stands at the core and peripheral of the park. With the slave graves located in the outskirts of the park and Andrew Jackson on horseback located directly in the center, this article will help me prove yet another layered dimension in the park.

 

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.  

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.

BED #3

The second monument in honor of the revolutionary, Lafayette, stands in the middle of the square, enclosed inside of a fenced off, grass circle. Visitors cannot get as close to this monument as they can to his other statue, which they can climb on and touch. Unlike, the first monument, this was put in place in in the 1900s, 1924 exactly. This statue stays in line with the Washington Monument, which is visible directly behind the statue in this photograph. The enclosed nature of the statue as well as the placement in the square and in accordance to the Washington Monument gives this statue a more centric, important and historic feel.

BED #1

This photograph taken at Lafayette Square, shows a group of of young girls seated on a bench. Next to this group of females is a black homeless male, laying horizontally on another bench, presumably trying to sleep. On one hand teenagers can be found looking to find a nice place to sip their starbucks lattes, where on the other, a man tries to find somewhere to sleep because he has no home of his own. This side-by-side imagery captured the spectrum of people that can be found in Lafayette square in very close proximity. This disparity was heightened with the fact that this space shares a city block with the White Hous