As We Leave Lafayette Sqaure

Just a couple of tidbits I want to share before we leave Lafayette Square behind and move on.

Regarding the Church, St. John’s Episcopal,

  • Long known as “the Church of the Presidents,” St. John’s Episcopal Church has served virtually as the chapel to the White House for nearly two centuries
  • In the depths of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln would sometimes walk to St. John’s from the White House and settle into a pew at the back.
  • Every person who has held the office of president has attended at least one service at St. John’s, since Madison.
  • Since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s time, St. John’s has offered itself to incoming presidents for a pre-inauguration prayer service.
  • As far back as 1816, records show that a committee was formed to wait on the President of the United States and offer him a pew. James Madison chose pew 54 and insisted on paying the customary annual rental. The next five Presidents in succession–James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison–occupied this pew during their terms of office. Since then, by tradition, pew 54 has been set aside for Presidents of the United States.

A funny Story as to how Blair- Lee House became the preferred abode for visiting dignitaries. With 142 rooms you’d think the White House could find a bedroom for a head of state. Beginning in 1942, the Blair family began leasing the property to the U.S. government for use by visiting dignitaries; the government purchased the property outright the following December. The move was prompted in part by a request from Eleanor Roosevelt, who found the casual familiarity Winston Churchill displayed during his visits to the White House off-putting.On one occasion, Churchill tried to enter Franklin Roosevelt’s private apartments at 3:00 a.m. to wake the president for a conversation.

The last straw was when Eleanor walked in on Churchill in the White House kitchen clad only in his stogie.  According to the story Churchill was moved to Blair House the next day.

Blair House is know known as the World’s Most Exclusive Hotel!


White House, Home of the American People

The official home for the U.S. president was designed by Irish-born architect James Hoban in the 1790s. Rebuilt after a British attack in 1814, the “President’s House” evolved with the personal touches of its residents, and accommodated such technological changes as the installation of electricity. The building underwent major structural changes in the early 1900s under Teddy Roosevelt, who also officially established the “White House” moniker, and again under Harry Truman after WWII. Counting the Oval Office and the Rose Garden among its famous features, it remains the only private residence of a head of state open free of charge to the public.

The White house is small, no Buckingham Palace for the new country of the USA.  According to our tour guide this was because the White House was to represent every man’s home as opposed to “royalty”.

The White House was originally open to the citizen’s of the US. The first fence was not erected until 1803 but that fence was not to prohibit entry to citizens.  To the contrary, Jefferson opened the doors to the White House for citizens to visit, with the exception of when he was sleeping.  The grounds were generally open as if a public park.  That fence and subsequent fences and walls were largely to direct the flow of visitors.

A guard booth was not added until 1835, after an assassination attempt on President Andrew Jackson.

In the 1850s, the gates were open from 8 am until sundown.

Open public access to the grounds during daytime continued until World War II.  During the war, it was prohibited for security reasons.  Those security reasons have not relaxed, since.

Ever wonder why the entrances are refereed to as the east , west, north or south entrances? It’s because we do not want any visiting dignitary to feel slighted by entering through a “back door.”

Abraham Lincoln addressed the nation from the West Portico for the last time before his assassination. John Wilkes Booth and his c0-conspirators were in Lafayette Square when Lincoln made the address. What they heard so angered them that Booth is alleged to say, that will be the last time Lincoln makes a speech from the White House. Originally they only planned to kidnap the President but now incensed , they left  plotting the eventual assassination.

The White House may look small but it holds  142 rooms on six floors with  floor space totaling approximately 55,000 square feet. The “west wing” was added in 1942 and more than doubled the existing space.


Department of the Treasury

No free samples here. Money is printed at the mints around the country. This beautiful building was a symbol of our new country. After all, a country has bills and how can one pay its bills without a treasury so in 1789 by an act of the newly minted Congress created the Department of the Treasury. The purpose of the department was/is to manage the revenue of the country. The Treasury is run by the Secretary of the Treasury who is a member of the President’s cabinet.

Most people know or can guess that Alexander Hamilton served as Secretary of the Treasury in the early years but he’s not the reason for this  little history lesson. Albert Gallatin is. Never heard of him? Neither had I and useless you are a really  history buff I would be willing to bet most people haven’t yet with out him our country might have  a very different look today.

Albert Gallatin was a Swiss American politician. We all know that Switzerland is known as a banking capital of the world and it seems that Gallatin had the banking gene. Appointed Secretary of the Treasury in 1801 by President Jefferson and continuing under President James Madison until 1814, Gallatin was in office nearly thirteen years, the longest term of any Secretary in the Department’s history. He was responsible for the law of 1801 requiring an annual report by the Secretary of the Treasury

But on to the good stuff. Do you remember  a little land purchase called the Louisiana Purchase? The Louisiana Purchase was by far the largest territorial gain in U.S. history.

Now a search of the Louisiana Purchase probably won’t turn up any mention of Gallatin but if not for his ideas and service the U.S> would not have been able to afford the purchase price.

Galletin preached to the congress that the MUST keep a balanced budget. They COULD NOT keep spending money they did not have.

Jefferson and Gallatin focused on the danger that the public debt, unless it was paid off, would be a threat to republican values.  Gallatin was the Republican Party’s chief expert on fiscal issues and as Treasury Secretary under Jefferson and Madison worked hard to lower taxes and lower the debt, while at the same time paying cash for the Louisiana Purchase and funding the War of 1812.

When Joey Explained this as we stood in the cold and rain in front of the Statue of Galletin at the Treasury Building, all I could think was “We need him now!”

Lafayette Square

The tour bus came to a stop near Lafayette Square. Joey told us we were going to walk across the square and meet the bus  on the other side. Time to hustle because Joey doesn’t let any grass grow under her feet. She couldn’t really. Lafayette Square is a total of  7 acres! I’m kind of glad we didn’t explore the whole thing.

The Square is directly north of the White house on H street, Jackson Place is on the west and Madison Place is on the East. The 4th side is Pennsylvania Ave. The square was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1970.

Like a person who has had  many different jobs, one could say that Lafayette Square has a truly varied history. Over the years it has been used as a racetrack, a graveyard, a zoo, a slave market, an encampment for soldiers during the War if 1812 and many political protests and celebrations.. Some of protests continue to this day.

We stopped at the Statue of the Marquis de Lafayette since the square bears his name. Although Lafayette is singled out the square actually honors all the foreigners that have supported and helped the US, especially in the early days as our country was being born.

Today’s plan contains  five large statues dating from the 1930’s. In the center stands Clark Mills’ equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson, erected in 1853; in the four corners are statues of Revolutionary War heroes: France’s General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette and Major General Comte Jean de Rochambeau; Poland’s General Tadeusz Kościuszko; and Prussia’s Major General Baron Frederich Wilhelm von Steuben.

The area around Lafayette Square became one of Washington’s most upscale Neighborhoods. The White House, small and unprepossessing, anchors the neighborhood which includes The Blair-Lee House, Old executive Office Building, the Department of the Treasury, St. John’s Episcopal Church and the Renwick Gallery.