The Devil and Monsieur L'Enfant

The Real Reason for Washington's Crazy Streets

Currier and Ives Lithograph shows L'Enfant's radial street design in Washington, DC in 1892
Currier and Ives Lithograph shows L'Enfant's radial street design in Washington, DC in 1892. Photo by SuperStock/SuperStock/Getty Images (cropped;resized)

Watch out. Here comes the end of the world again. Viewers of the History Channel's Ancient Aliens have learned that the crazy streetmap of Washington, DC, with its roundabouts and angled avenues, is based on celestial navigations, ancient aliens, and Luciferian New World Order. City planner Pierre Charles L'Enfant would be shocked to hear about this.

Born August 2, 1754 in France, Monsieur L'Enfant is best known for designing the DC roadways of circles and spokes, a 1791 master plan (view map) that transformed a patch of swamp and farmland into the capital of the United States.

Even today, much of Washington DC with its wide boulevards and public squares follows L'Enfant's original concept. But was L'Enfant's design inspired by Freemasonry, aliens, and the occult—or maybe the orderly French Baroque styles of the day?

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) of the National Park Service has given us the answer. In documenting the significance of L'Enfant's design, they say:

"The historic plan of Washington, District of Columbia—the nation's capital—designed by Pierre L'Enfant in 1791 as the site of the Federal City, represents the sole American example of a comprehensive baroque city plan with a coordinated system of radiating avenues, parks and vistas laid over an orthogonal system. Influenced by the designs of several European cities and eighteenth-century gardens such as France's Palace of Versailles, the plan of Washington, D.C, was symbolic and innovative for the new nation. Existing colonial towns surely influenced L'Enfant's scheme, just as the plan of Washington, in turn, influenced subsequent American city planning....L'Enfant's plan was magnified and expanded during the early decades of the twentieth century with the reclamation of land for waterfront parks, parkways, and improved Mall, and new monuments and vistas. Two-hundred years since its design, the integrity of the plan of Washington is largely unimpaired—boasting a legally enforced height restriction, landscaped parks, wide avenues, and open space allowing intended vistas."—HABS NO, DC-668, 1990-1993, pp. 1-2 (PDF)

L'Enfant had come to America to fight in the Revolutionary War, serving with the Corps of Engineers of the Continental Army. His passion for America's future was well-understood by the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but his stormy reluctance to compromise did not sit well with the City Commissioners.

L'Enfant's plan lived on, but he was uninvolved with its development and died penniless on June 14, 1825.

Where is Pierre Charles L'Enfant buried? >>

Learn More About Designing Washington, DC:

  • History of the National Mall in Washington DC from About.com DC Expert
  • American Treasures of the Library of Congress
  • The L'Enfant and McMillan Plans, National Park Service
  • L'Enfant-McMillan Plan of Washington, DC (HABS NO, DC-668, 1990-1993, researched and written by Elizabeth Barthold and Sara Amy Leach), Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service, Department of the Interior (PDF)
  • Ancient Aliens DVD Box set, The Complete Seasons 1–6
    Buy on Amazon

Visit Architecture in Washington, DC:

Sources: Arlington National Cemetery website; The Revelation website; A Brief History of Pierre L'Enfant and Washington, D.C., Smithsonian.com; HABS NO, DC-668, 1990-1993 at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/habshaer/dc/dc0700/dc0776/data/dc0776data.pdf [websites accessed July 30, 2012]

Note: Baroque street plan of 1791 Washington, DC designed by Pierre L'Enfant from the L'Enfant-McMillan Plan, HABS DC,WASH,612- (2 of 32), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division