web site hit counter Grand Avenues: The Story of the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, D.C. - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Grand Avenues: The Story of the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, D.C.

Availability: Ready to download

"Grand Avenues" tells the riveting story of Pierre Charles L'Enfant and the creation of Washington D.C.--from the seeds of his inspiration to the fulfillment of his extraordinary vision. L'Enfant's story is one of consuming passion, high emotion, artistic genius, and human frailty. As a boy he studied drawing at the most prestigious art institute in the world. As a young m "Grand Avenues" tells the riveting story of Pierre Charles L'Enfant and the creation of Washington D.C.--from the seeds of his inspiration to the fulfillment of his extraordinary vision. L'Enfant's story is one of consuming passion, high emotion, artistic genius, and human frailty. As a boy he studied drawing at the most prestigious art institute in the world. As a young man he left his home in Paris to volunteer in the army of the American colonies, where he served under George Washington. There he would also meet many of the people who would have a profound impact on his life, including Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe. And it was Washington himself who, in 1791, entrusted L'Enfant with the planning of the nation's capital--and reluctantly allowed him to be dismissed from the project eleven months later. The plan for the city was published under another name, and for the remainder of his life L'Enfant fought for recognition of his achievement. But he would not live to see that day, and a century would pass before L'Enfant would be given credit for his brilliant design. Scott W. Berg recounts this tale, richly evocative of time and place, with the narrative verve of a novel and with a cast of characters that ranges from Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers to the surveyor who took credit for L'Enfant's plans, the assistant who spent a week in jail for his loyalty to L'Enfant, and the men who finally restored L'Enfant's reputation at the beginning of the twentienth century. Here is a fascinating, little-explored episode in American history: the story of a visionary artist and of the founding of the magnificent city that is his enduring legacy.


Compare

"Grand Avenues" tells the riveting story of Pierre Charles L'Enfant and the creation of Washington D.C.--from the seeds of his inspiration to the fulfillment of his extraordinary vision. L'Enfant's story is one of consuming passion, high emotion, artistic genius, and human frailty. As a boy he studied drawing at the most prestigious art institute in the world. As a young m "Grand Avenues" tells the riveting story of Pierre Charles L'Enfant and the creation of Washington D.C.--from the seeds of his inspiration to the fulfillment of his extraordinary vision. L'Enfant's story is one of consuming passion, high emotion, artistic genius, and human frailty. As a boy he studied drawing at the most prestigious art institute in the world. As a young man he left his home in Paris to volunteer in the army of the American colonies, where he served under George Washington. There he would also meet many of the people who would have a profound impact on his life, including Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe. And it was Washington himself who, in 1791, entrusted L'Enfant with the planning of the nation's capital--and reluctantly allowed him to be dismissed from the project eleven months later. The plan for the city was published under another name, and for the remainder of his life L'Enfant fought for recognition of his achievement. But he would not live to see that day, and a century would pass before L'Enfant would be given credit for his brilliant design. Scott W. Berg recounts this tale, richly evocative of time and place, with the narrative verve of a novel and with a cast of characters that ranges from Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers to the surveyor who took credit for L'Enfant's plans, the assistant who spent a week in jail for his loyalty to L'Enfant, and the men who finally restored L'Enfant's reputation at the beginning of the twentienth century. Here is a fascinating, little-explored episode in American history: the story of a visionary artist and of the founding of the magnificent city that is his enduring legacy.

30 review for Grand Avenues: The Story of the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, D.C.

  1. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    July 6th, 2013: Nope. I just can't do it. Even when I'm at work on a slow Saturday afternoon with nothing to do. It's just so... Boring. Ugh. I may never (attempt to) read this again. And I feel bad, because he signed it, to me! Argh guilt books are the worst books. ----------------------------------- July 21st, 2012: It's funny how I've been living in DC for over a year and have yet to finish this book. (I even still have my bookmark in it, about halfway through!) Time to give this another go. ------ July 6th, 2013: Nope. I just can't do it. Even when I'm at work on a slow Saturday afternoon with nothing to do. It's just so... Boring. Ugh. I may never (attempt to) read this again. And I feel bad, because he signed it, to me! Argh guilt books are the worst books. ----------------------------------- July 21st, 2012: It's funny how I've been living in DC for over a year and have yet to finish this book. (I even still have my bookmark in it, about halfway through!) Time to give this another go. ------------------------------------ You have to give it to Scott: he studied architecture as an undergrad. Then he got an M.A. in I-forget-what, and an M.F.A. in creative writing. He came to my Creative Non-Fiction class and gave a speech. He was a cool guy, and his book isn't bad, it's just... Well, I've been to D.C. once, with my eighth grade class. I don't remember much. Were I invested in the city, or its history, I would have finished this book. (If we had been told to read the book more than two days prior to his talk, I would have finished it as well.) He does a decent job at taking what looks to be an incredibly dry story, and makes it a little more real by delving into the characters present in the book: both that of L'Enfant and the other notables of the day, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. I'm sure it's great for D.C. natives or American history nerds or architecture majors, but unfortunately, I am none of those things.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (My full review of this book is larger than GoodRead's word-count limitations. Find it at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com].) Of all the relatively "modern" topics to develop since the rise of the Industrial Age in the early 1800s, the subject of city planning is one I think particularly fascinating, since by its very nature it seems almost like science-fiction; the attempt to pack millions of humans into a space clearly not designed to naturally hold that many, (My full review of this book is larger than GoodRead's word-count limitations. Find it at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com].) Of all the relatively "modern" topics to develop since the rise of the Industrial Age in the early 1800s, the subject of city planning is one I think particularly fascinating, since by its very nature it seems almost like science-fiction; the attempt to pack millions of humans into a space clearly not designed to naturally hold that many, in a way that's not only safe and physically healthy, but that God forbid might actually produce a couple of benefits as well, things that are simply impossible to replicate in a rural setting. It is a pursuit rooted in real problems that exist in the physical world, but one still deeply associated with pure theory; an industry whose practitioners most often think on a big scale, but almost never get their plans actually implemented past a small realization. It is a topic where creative brilliance mingles with both private enterprise and public politics; a combination of art form and engineering challenge that requires billions of dollars and millions of people in agreement to make happen. And no matter where on the planet you look or at what time in history, the topic has created instant and overwhelming controversy, without a single exception over the last 200 years. Take for example the infamous case of Washington DC, capital city of the United States, whose complicated origin story gets tackled once again in the new book Grand Avenues, by full-time scholar and Washington Post contributor Scott Berg; a city literally created wholecloth from scratch by an act of the very first Congress, its very existence has been a sore point of contention for over two centuries, much less the piecemeal way it's been developed over that time period. As told by this engaging historian and writer, the story of Washington DC is the gripping story of America itself, and both its finest and worst traits: a story of compromise, a story of arrogant geniuses, a story of how capitalism can both move mountains and ruin even the simplest plans. It's a story I think a lot of Americans don't even realize, in fact -- that the seat of federal government we take so much for granted these days almost never came into being, with it certainly being a miracle that the city assumes the shape and feel that it currently has -- and a story I think a lot of Americans will find inherently gripping, as well as those like me who are naturally fascinated by the entire subject of urban planning. In fact, the story of Washington DC's struggle goes all the way back to...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laynie

    I picked this up, with the primary interest in learning the history of the planning and development of Washington D.C. With the exception of one signle chapter, the book reviewed the eccentric character of Pierre L'Enfante, and the challenges he faced in implementing his plan without compromise. The writing is good, but the story theme is repetitive... miscommunication, miscommunication, miscommunication. Go ahead and skip it. I picked this up, with the primary interest in learning the history of the planning and development of Washington D.C. With the exception of one signle chapter, the book reviewed the eccentric character of Pierre L'Enfante, and the challenges he faced in implementing his plan without compromise. The writing is good, but the story theme is repetitive... miscommunication, miscommunication, miscommunication. Go ahead and skip it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    christie

    I love reading historical stuff that I can relate to, and it's pretty interesting to find out about how DC was built. However, this book focuses more on Pierre L'enfant, and it's hard, honestly, to read about his difficulty getting people to care about "the federal city" as much as he did. He died penniless, and was still owed money by the government at the time of his death. I really enjoyed this book, and will be checking out more DC history next time I go to the libs. I love reading historical stuff that I can relate to, and it's pretty interesting to find out about how DC was built. However, this book focuses more on Pierre L'enfant, and it's hard, honestly, to read about his difficulty getting people to care about "the federal city" as much as he did. He died penniless, and was still owed money by the government at the time of his death. I really enjoyed this book, and will be checking out more DC history next time I go to the libs.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    I was given this book by a person who knew my wife and I were moving to the DC area where the two of us had worked previously and where I had visited many times in my professional career. Although I am an engineer who appreciates topics like this, I simply could not finish this book. Sadly, because I hate to walk away from a book without finishing it, I was deprived of the Joy of Reading. The author has done a meticulous job of researching and reporting on L'Enfant's plan for DC, so for the part I was given this book by a person who knew my wife and I were moving to the DC area where the two of us had worked previously and where I had visited many times in my professional career. Although I am an engineer who appreciates topics like this, I simply could not finish this book. Sadly, because I hate to walk away from a book without finishing it, I was deprived of the Joy of Reading. The author has done a meticulous job of researching and reporting on L'Enfant's plan for DC, so for the particular reader who might have an avid interest in the topic might find it rewarding.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Loved this book! Made me an absolute fan of Pierre L'Enfant. I hope to visit his memorial in Arlington National Cemetery someday. Loved this book! Made me an absolute fan of Pierre L'Enfant. I hope to visit his memorial in Arlington National Cemetery someday.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    The plan to read this prior to a tourista week in DC never panned out. This is ok though as, after reading this I discovered nary a trivial factoid that would have impressed my family, friends, nor the DC Ducks driver (not a recommended investment, btw.). Nonetheless, this is a swell book. With the predictable dearth of documentation – and necessarily focusing only on specific aspects of L’Enfant’s life – Berg manages something that reads as a complete biography of the pouty, pompous Frenchman. The plan to read this prior to a tourista week in DC never panned out. This is ok though as, after reading this I discovered nary a trivial factoid that would have impressed my family, friends, nor the DC Ducks driver (not a recommended investment, btw.). Nonetheless, this is a swell book. With the predictable dearth of documentation – and necessarily focusing only on specific aspects of L’Enfant’s life – Berg manages something that reads as a complete biography of the pouty, pompous Frenchman. It’s a fairly interesting story if you’re unfortunately tied into the whole Architecture/Urban Design thing and, I suspect, if you have a thing for ye olde US History and the wig-bedecked characters who pieced it all together. For those architecture types, this offers yet another tale of just how disposable we apparently are in any scheme of things. Yes, L’Enfant (at least a sort-of architect as all you had to do back then was say “I’m an architect.” NCARB be damned…) was a bit presumptuous and egotistical when forcing an essentially self-commissioned scheme upon the President (that is, Washington. The French dude was merely hired to survey the proposed land). But the President embraced the scheme and everything seemed set. Yet the incompetence that we now know to expect from any assemblage of high-ranking peeps, bureaucrats, and speculators forced him out after just a few weeks and resulted in half-assed Capitol city for another century. His strong connections to virtually everyone important in those days ultimately meant squat. Other subsequent jobs dissolved for similar reasons and he ended up destitute as seems to be the fait accompli for our noble profession. And just how many damn people even called themselves a planner/architect in 1791! Two? It’s all very depressing, but a pretty decent read overall.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This book is story of the design and manifestation of Washington, DC. The main focus is Pierre L'Enfant, but also includes many surveyors, landscape architects and city planners who created Washington, DC. My main gripe of the book is not telling you the location of major monuments in context of the original layout. Example: Jenkins Hill. You don't find out until the last section of the book that it's now known as Capitol Hill. This would explain why L'Enfant not only stopped the building on Dud This book is story of the design and manifestation of Washington, DC. The main focus is Pierre L'Enfant, but also includes many surveyors, landscape architects and city planners who created Washington, DC. My main gripe of the book is not telling you the location of major monuments in context of the original layout. Example: Jenkins Hill. You don't find out until the last section of the book that it's now known as Capitol Hill. This would explain why L'Enfant not only stopped the building on Duddington's house, but dismantled it brick by brick so it wouldn't disrupt the long diagonal road. I especially loved the end, where L'Enfant is formally recognized for his vision after dying destitute. The last years of his life he ironically lived as a guest of Duddington's daughter and husband. Yes, the house he abruptly dismantled would become his saving grace in the end. I need to find more books about city planners. (Wren is a personal favorite of mine)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Too boring and slow. There is an interesting story in here, sort of, or there should be, but there are a few problems holding it back. 1. There are a lot of blanks in the history of L'Enfant, where the author needs to turn to speculation or assumption. 2. L'Enfant has a really self-destructive personality, making it hard to get invested in him. 3. The author is very invested in the subject, which should help, and apologia can be good, but what it really leads to is weaknesses being detailed then ju Too boring and slow. There is an interesting story in here, sort of, or there should be, but there are a few problems holding it back. 1. There are a lot of blanks in the history of L'Enfant, where the author needs to turn to speculation or assumption. 2. L'Enfant has a really self-destructive personality, making it hard to get invested in him. 3. The author is very invested in the subject, which should help, and apologia can be good, but what it really leads to is weaknesses being detailed then justified over and over again. 4. The author is just too pedantic. It wasn't so awful that I would abandon it, though I kept putting it aside to keep my sanity, and I totally agree that it would have been better if the original plans had been followed at the time, and L'Enfant was a visionary, but mainly I am relieved that it's over, and I can't recommend it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    This book was decent. The language at times was a little grandiloquent but I think that was actually a good touch considering the subject. I would've appreciated more information about Washington D.C. Past L'Enfant's involvement in the project, the book was a little sparse with the development of the city. I understand that it was more of a biography, but Washington was L'Enfant's creation, and without Washington, Berg would've probably found someone else to write about, so a little more history This book was decent. The language at times was a little grandiloquent but I think that was actually a good touch considering the subject. I would've appreciated more information about Washington D.C. Past L'Enfant's involvement in the project, the book was a little sparse with the development of the city. I understand that it was more of a biography, but Washington was L'Enfant's creation, and without Washington, Berg would've probably found someone else to write about, so a little more history of the city itself would be helpful. Now I'm going to have to pick up another book to find out more about Washington.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Luis

    A comprehensive look at the life of the man who designed the original layout of Washington D.C. An interesting look at the series of patrons and events that led him to this position and eventually how eleven months into to the project he was fired. My favorite chapters had to have been the resurrection of his role in the shaping of DC at the turn of the 19th century and the Olmsted the younger and Burnham's role in getting him the credit and attention he deserved for his vision of America throug A comprehensive look at the life of the man who designed the original layout of Washington D.C. An interesting look at the series of patrons and events that led him to this position and eventually how eleven months into to the project he was fired. My favorite chapters had to have been the resurrection of his role in the shaping of DC at the turn of the 19th century and the Olmsted the younger and Burnham's role in getting him the credit and attention he deserved for his vision of America through his early ideas of this space. I simple book that raises the conflicts of planning, politics, and money as a constant for planners not matter the time period. An enjoyable read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    T.

    Having traveled to many of the world's capitals, and living near our's I found this book very interesting. There is an element of sadness to it; in his lifetime L'Enfant never received the credit for either his hard work or his incredible vision. I found it especially interesting how our capital arose from nothing, although it was influenced by the great world cities, such as Paris or Rome, or even the cities of Boston and Phila. that were already in existence at the time of the American Revolu Having traveled to many of the world's capitals, and living near our's I found this book very interesting. There is an element of sadness to it; in his lifetime L'Enfant never received the credit for either his hard work or his incredible vision. I found it especially interesting how our capital arose from nothing, although it was influenced by the great world cities, such as Paris or Rome, or even the cities of Boston and Phila. that were already in existence at the time of the American Revolution.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    I loved reading about the history of how Washington came to be, partly because its fun to look around and see how it could have turned out differently. But I think my favorite part was reading about the founding fathers when they were interacting about where the White House would be or what a landowner should be compensating. Everyone has heard about the disputes between Jefferson and Hamilton, or Adams and Jefferson, but I had never really thought about George Washington's relationship with all I loved reading about the history of how Washington came to be, partly because its fun to look around and see how it could have turned out differently. But I think my favorite part was reading about the founding fathers when they were interacting about where the White House would be or what a landowner should be compensating. Everyone has heard about the disputes between Jefferson and Hamilton, or Adams and Jefferson, but I had never really thought about George Washington's relationship with all of these men.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Whitney O'Halek

    I learned so much! I will say that things got a bit jumbled now and then, going back and forth with dates, but I never knew the magnitude and extent of the turmoil L'Enfant went through during and after his time as architect or DC. What a story of triumph, even nearly 90 years after his death. I recommend it to anyone interested in the true history of DC and L'Enfant. Very informative and well written. Learning about the other key players was a great insight. What a feat to bring DC back to L'En I learned so much! I will say that things got a bit jumbled now and then, going back and forth with dates, but I never knew the magnitude and extent of the turmoil L'Enfant went through during and after his time as architect or DC. What a story of triumph, even nearly 90 years after his death. I recommend it to anyone interested in the true history of DC and L'Enfant. Very informative and well written. Learning about the other key players was a great insight. What a feat to bring DC back to L'Enfant's vision, or as close to it as possible.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne Van

    A very interesting book about the design of Washington, DC. The writer, who first trained in architecture, brings a knowing (and heart breaking) account of how L'enfant's passion for the beauty and intricacy of his design becomes his undoing with the land commissioners (short sighted and commercial minded). L'enfant is fired (and his life ruined, really), then redeemed a century later by Frederick Law Olmstead. Hang in there, designers everywhere! A very interesting book about the design of Washington, DC. The writer, who first trained in architecture, brings a knowing (and heart breaking) account of how L'enfant's passion for the beauty and intricacy of his design becomes his undoing with the land commissioners (short sighted and commercial minded). L'enfant is fired (and his life ruined, really), then redeemed a century later by Frederick Law Olmstead. Hang in there, designers everywhere!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Al

    As a D.C. resident, I especially appreciated the true story of Pierre L'Enfant's vision for the new American capital, and his struggles to see the realization of his plans. Berg provides a fascinating study of the trials and tribulations that L'Enfant faced, leading ultimately to a sad ending where he was all but forgotten. This is a part of history every lover of D.C. should read. Recommended. As a D.C. resident, I especially appreciated the true story of Pierre L'Enfant's vision for the new American capital, and his struggles to see the realization of his plans. Berg provides a fascinating study of the trials and tribulations that L'Enfant faced, leading ultimately to a sad ending where he was all but forgotten. This is a part of history every lover of D.C. should read. Recommended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steven Yenzer

    Considering the length of L'Enfant's life, this book feels surprisingly short. It suffers, as L'Enfant's own life did, from repetition -- the man never seemed to learn from his mistakes. But the book does a great job of providing both a history of Washington, D.C. and the life of Pierre L'Enfant. I found it quick to read and very interesting. Considering the length of L'Enfant's life, this book feels surprisingly short. It suffers, as L'Enfant's own life did, from repetition -- the man never seemed to learn from his mistakes. But the book does a great job of providing both a history of Washington, D.C. and the life of Pierre L'Enfant. I found it quick to read and very interesting.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tim Weakley

    This was an excellent book to read this weekend in combination with watching the John Adams mini-series. A well done historic point of view of the designer of Washington DC. It also gives a bit of insight into the careers of President's Washington and Jefferson. Enough in fact to make me somewhat anxious to obtain biographies of both of them as a follow up read. This was an excellent book to read this weekend in combination with watching the John Adams mini-series. A well done historic point of view of the designer of Washington DC. It also gives a bit of insight into the careers of President's Washington and Jefferson. Enough in fact to make me somewhat anxious to obtain biographies of both of them as a follow up read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    Having recently moved to D.C., I was curious to know more about the man that planned this amazing city, one that is incredibly French aesthetically. I learned a great deal, including the fact that he barely got to see any of his plans come to fruition. It makes me even more eager to explore the city and to learn more about both the history of our country and the building of its capital.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bill Sleeman

    This was an interesting, informative and engaging history of not just L’Enfant but also the politics and history of how the District of Columbia came to be. Was Pierre Charles L'Enfant America’s first urban planner? Author Scott Berg makes a good case for that claim and in the process brings to light a valuable piece of our nation’s history. This was an interesting, informative and engaging history of not just L’Enfant but also the politics and history of how the District of Columbia came to be. Was Pierre Charles L'Enfant America’s first urban planner? Author Scott Berg makes a good case for that claim and in the process brings to light a valuable piece of our nation’s history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    This book really should have been called a biography of Pierre Charles L'Enfant. As I was expecting a book about the development of DC, I was disappointed in so much back story about L'Enfant. But it turned out to be an interesting story about how he finally gained recognition for his design of DC. And he's buried at Arlington Cemetery, who knew? This book really should have been called a biography of Pierre Charles L'Enfant. As I was expecting a book about the development of DC, I was disappointed in so much back story about L'Enfant. But it turned out to be an interesting story about how he finally gained recognition for his design of DC. And he's buried at Arlington Cemetery, who knew?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Scott Fuchs

    My enthusiasm for this book is greatly colored by the fact that I'm a native Washingtonian. I've read masny dozens of books about Washington and its history, but this one was filled with a plethora of information and incidents unknown to me. Of course, the subtitle tells it all; this is a fascinating look at the character of L'Enfant. A wonderful history lesson. My enthusiasm for this book is greatly colored by the fact that I'm a native Washingtonian. I've read masny dozens of books about Washington and its history, but this one was filled with a plethora of information and incidents unknown to me. Of course, the subtitle tells it all; this is a fascinating look at the character of L'Enfant. A wonderful history lesson.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Matt Schirano

    An interesting look at the man who designed Washington DC. I enjoyed seeing our founding fathers from a different perspective, as well as a truly insider's look at how DC was envisioned versus how it was implemented. I don't read historical books like this often, but it makes me want to change that habit. An interesting look at the man who designed Washington DC. I enjoyed seeing our founding fathers from a different perspective, as well as a truly insider's look at how DC was envisioned versus how it was implemented. I don't read historical books like this often, but it makes me want to change that habit.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tony Taylor

    For anyone who loves Washington, DC, the city, this is a fascinating story about the trials and tribulations of Pierre L'Enfant in designing the city and getting it built. Another history story that should be read. For anyone who loves Washington, DC, the city, this is a fascinating story about the trials and tribulations of Pierre L'Enfant in designing the city and getting it built. Another history story that should be read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    G.

    Well researched. The first third and the final third about L'Enfant's plan after his death read quickly and are fascinating. The middle section dragged for me and could have used a bit of summarizing. Well researched. The first third and the final third about L'Enfant's plan after his death read quickly and are fascinating. The middle section dragged for me and could have used a bit of summarizing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kellie

    This was a great book for the history of how Washington DC was designed - and fun to read while we were visiting.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Xdw

    drags in quite a few places

  28. 4 out of 5

    Louis Frillman

    fabulous story of a visionary

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Great if you like history books and even better if you've lived in D.C.! Great if you like history books and even better if you've lived in D.C.!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.