Pierre Charles L'Enfant



Pierre Charles L'Enfant was an architect, engineer and city planner who, most famously, designed the spatial plan for Washington, D.C.

Born in Paris in 1754, L'Enfant was the eldest son of painter Pierre L'Enfant. He studied under his father at the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture), France's most prestigious art institution. In 1776, he left in order to join the American Revolution, serving first with the French Colonial Troops and then as an officer in the Continental Army Corps of Engineers. He served on George Washington's staff at Valley Forge, suffered a serious injury at the Siege of Savannah (October 1779) and, captured by the British during the battle for Charleston (May 1780), spent six months as a prisoner of war. Commissioned as a captain, L'Enfant was promoted to brevet major in recognition of his sacrifices. 

After the war, L'Enfant established his reputation as an architect, receiving major commissions in Philadelphia and New York. He also designed furniture, coins and medals, including the Purple Heart medal and the insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of Continental Army officers. In 1791, President George Washington appointed him to design the "federal city" that would be the new nation's capital. The L'Enfant Plan (whose original copy resides at the Library of Congress) envisioned Washington, D.C. as a four-quadrant grid, with north-south and east-west streets crossed by grand diagonal avenues.

Despite his later renown, L'Enfant died in poverty on June 14, 1825. He was originally buried on a farm in Prince George's County, Maryland, which was owned by his friend and benefactor William Dudley Digges. In 1908, the Board of Commissioners of the City of Washington asked the Secretary of War to make available a suitable burial site in Arlington National Cemetery. On December 17, 1908, Secretary of War Luke E. Wright informed the Board of Commissioners that he had approved a site, located between the General Sheridan Monument and the Arlington House flagstaff. On April 28, 1909, L'Enfant's remains were exhumed from the Digges farm, placed in a casket draped with the American flag and transported to Washington, D.C. The casket lay in state at the U.S. Capitol before being transported with military escort to Arlington National Cemetery. There, L'Enfant's remains were reinterred on a hillside overlooking the city that he had designed. 

On May 22, 1911, President William Howard Taft presided over the ceremony to dedicate a monument at L'Enfant's gravesite. More than 350 guests attended the ceremony, including Ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand of France, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and high-ranking military, diplomatic and city officials. William Dudley Digges' great-granddaughter, Elanora Carroll Morgan, unveiled the monument, and a band played the national anthem while two soldiers from the Engineers Corps raised the American flag. 

Made of white marble, the monument consists of four slabs supported on six posts, with an oak leaf at each corner and a scalloped design around the edges. The east end (facing the Arlington House) depicts L'Enfant's plan for Washington, D.C., with an epitaph below. In 1931, the Daughters of the American Revolution added a bronze marker to the monument. 

Section 2, Grave S-3