Conference | Two Centuries of Mapping Washington, D.C.

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on April 15, 2012

From the Library of Congress:

Visualizing the Nation’s Capital: Two Centuries of Mapping Washington, D.C.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 18-19 May 2012

“Plan of the City of Washington,” engraving, March 1792 (Wikimedia Commons)

Visualizing the Nation’s Capital: Two Centuries of Mapping Washington, D.C. is the first conference devoted to mapping the nation’s capital, covering the period from Pierre-Charles L’Enfant’s 1791 Plan of the City of Washington to the present. Participants include historians, archaeologists, building and landscape architects, urban planners, cartographers, geographers, land surveyors, Library of Congress specialists and Anthony Williams, the former mayor of Washington, D.C. The conference is presented by the Library and the Philip Lee Phillips Society, which was established in 1995 as an association of collectors, geographers, historians and map enthusiasts, with a shared interest in supporting and promoting the programs and activities of the Library’s Geography and Map Division. The conference is free and open
to the public. Reservations are needed; contact
SpecialEvents@loc.gov or call 202-707-1616.

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Friday, 18 May 2012 (Coolidge Auditorium, Thomas Jefferson Building)

Morning Program 9:00 – 11:30

Welcome by James H. Billington, The Librarian of Congress
Opening Remarks by George Tobolowsky, Chair, Philip Lee Phillips Society

Introductory Address

Introduction by Ralph E. Ehrenberg, Chief, Geography and Map Division

From L’Enfant to the Senate Park Commission: Mapping the Nation’s Capital from 1791-1902
Richard W. Stephenson, Former Specialist in Cartographic History, Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress

In this overview, historic maps, birds-eye views, and photographs will be used to examine the initial plan of the nation’s new capital and the first topographic map of the entire federal district, both drawn in the last decade of the eighteenth century; the haphazard growth and development of the city in the nineteenth century; and the introduction of a new plan of the city for the twentieth century.

Session I: Washington’s Washington

Moderator: Ronald Grim, Curator of Maps at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library

George Washington and His Maps of the Washington Region
Edward Redmond, Reference Specialist, Geography & Map Division

Beginning with his early career as a surveyor and throughout his life as a soldier, planter, land speculator, businessman, and first President of the United States, George Washington was always doing something related to geography and cartography. The maps he drew of Alexandria and Mount Vernon, Virginia, will be featured in this presentation.

Plantation Maps of the Pre-Federal City
Patrick O’Neill, Independent Archaeologist and Historian

Today’s District of Columbia was originally a 100 square-mile tract carved from both the Maryland and Virginia landscapes. Pierre L’Enfant’s vision of the new federal city only incorporated about one-sixth of the district’s available acreage, all in Maryland, which impacted existing landowners. Using maps prepared by Nicholas King, first surveyor of the City of Washington, with additional land patent information and deed maps, this presentation will illustrate the “footprints” of the Federal City.

Afternoon Program 1:00 – 5:30

Session II: Laying Out the New Capital

Moderator: William A. Stanley, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Chief Historian (Emeritus)

Andrew Ellicott and his Survey of the Federal Territory on the Potomac, 1791-1793
Chas Langelan, Professional Land Surveyor and Director, Surveyors Historical Society

Using some of the most accurate and exacting instruments for establishing precision latitudes and longitudes from celestial observations, Andrew Ellicott completed several large surveying and mapping projects including his 1791 survey of the boundaries of the Federal Territory. This presentation covers the surveying and placement of the stones along the original 40-mile boundary and the production of Ellicott’s magnificent Territory of Columbia map in 1793, including the pivotal roles played by Benjamin Banneker and others.

Geometry and Geography of the L’Enfant Plan
Don Alexander Hawkins, Architect, Don Hawkins & Associates, Former Chair, Committee of 100 on the Federal City

When Pierre L’Enfant arrived on the banks of the Potomac River in March 1791, he probably had already decided upon a dramatic design for the new city. Instructed to select the most eligible sites for the placement of government buildings, L’Enfant identified three prominent locations in the landscape and arrayed selected patterns from those known points. In addition to describing L’Enfant’s design concept, Don Hawkins will present surviving cartographic evidence portraying the surveyors’ problems with the concept and the changes they imposed on L’Enfant’s visionary plan before it was fixed on the plan and in Ellicott’s engravings.

Session III: Charting Washington’s Waterways and Waterfronts

Moderator: Charlene Drew Jarvis, Former Council Member, District of Columbia

Shifting Perspectives: Evolving Visions of Washington’s Waterfronts and Stream Valleys
Timothy Davis, Historian, Park Historic Structure & Cultural Landscapers Program, National Park Service

From the earliest renditions of the federal district to the monumental visions of the McMillan Plan and twentieth century proposals for motor parkways and recreational developments, the ways in which map makers have portrayed Washington’s waterfronts and stream valleys trace the transformation of the nation’s capital. This presentation will examine a succession of maps and plans emphasizing the professional, technical, and social concerns of their creators as much as the underlying physical geography.

Two Rivers and the City: Reclaiming a Vision
Iris Miller, ASLA, Director, Urban Institute Studio/Landscape Studies, School of Architecture and Planning, The Catholic University of America
Gail S. Lowe, Senior Historian, Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, has developed largely between two rivers, the Potomac and its Eastern Branch, also known as the Anacostia. The earliest visions of the capital city considered Thomas Jefferson’s suggestion that the city expand beyond the areas adjacent to both rivers. Time and circumstances changed those early visions of the city and uses of its rivers. Through historic maps, plans, drawings, and visionary strategies created by architecture students, Iris Miller and Gail Lowe will compare and attempt to reconcile efforts along both the Potomac and Anacostia rivers to re-imagine land use in the federal city, restore or recover green space, and provide new opportunities for citizen engagement with the city’s natural and built environments.

Keynote Address

Introduction by Douglas Richardson, Executive Director, Association of American Geographers

The Mayor as City Planner
Anthony Williams, Former Mayor of the District of Columbia

Reception: 5:45 – 7:15, Thomas Jefferson Building, Room 119

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Saturday, 19 May 2012 (Mumford Room, James Madison Memorial Building)

Morning Program 9:30 – 12:30

Session IV: Names on the Land

Introduction by Jon Campbell, Geographer, U.S. Geological Survey, and Member, U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Leaving Their Mark: Street Names in the Developing City
Pamela Scott, Architectural Historian

On September 9, 1791, the District Commissioners, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison met, officially naming the capital city “Washington” and deciding on an alphabetical and numerical framework for the irregular grid of streets on L’Enfant’s plan. At the same time, they improved on Philadelphia’s system by creating four quadrants emanating from the Capitol, the streets in each carrying a suffix (NW, NE, SW, and SE) that clearly delineated its location within the city. In her presentation, Pamela Scott will discuss the development of street names, including those found on L’Enfant’s 1791 design and those added as the city grew beyond its initial bounds.

Session V: Mapping Across Generations

Moderator: Roberta Stevens, Assistant Chief, Geography and Map Division

Visualizing L’Enfant’s City of Washington Through Computer Simulation
Dan Bailey, Director of Imaging Research Center and Professor of Visual Arts, University of Maryland Baltimore Campus

In 1791, Pierre-Charles L’Enfant arrived in Georgetown with orders from President George Washington to lay out the new Federal City. What did he actually see as he rode the land on horseback? Creating an accurate depiction of Washington, D.C., from the days of Pierre L’Enfant required triangulating multiple points of reference, both in terms of spatial data and the unique perspectives of a collaborative group of researchers. This illustrated presentation details this evolving process of mapping D.C. from its eighteenth century design by L’Enfant to twenty-first century computer simulations.

From Maps to Apps: Visitor Orientation at the National Mall
Thomas Patterson, Senior Cartographer, National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center

Over 25 million people visit Washington D.C.’s National Mall each year, with 60 percent using public transport. To help visitors orient themselves during their visit, the National Park Service launched a $2.2-million wayfinding program which, in addition to its traditional park brochure map, incorporates new signage and panoramic or bird’s-eye view maps. The initiative also includes something new for the National Park Service: the development of a downloadable smart phone mobile application to enrich visitors’ experiences. In this presentation, Tom Patterson will examine the design and integration of maps across these various media types, accessibility, cost, and new challenges surrounding the changing definitions of maps.

Beyond Map Brochures: Wayfinding, Education and Experiencing the National Mall in the 21st Century
Susan Spain, Executive Director, The National Mall Plan, National Park Service
Eliza Voigt, Planner, National Mall and Memorial Parks, National Park Service

The National Mall Plan, developed by the National Park Service, has an element which focuses on developing new and more engaging maps, orientation and education elements, and interactive experiences for visitors. This presentation will provide an overview of the current National Mall pedestrian guide system which includes much more than maps: pedestrian guide pylons and posts, future plans to add three dimensional models, quick response (QR) codes for mobile phones, and the increased use of geographic information systems (GIS) to enhance access.

1:30 – 3:30 Tours of the Geography and Map Division, James Madison Memorial Building

View the original L’Enfant Plan, early manuscript and published plans of Washington, D.C., and eighteenth-century surveying artifacts similar to those used in the laying out the city.

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