Lafayette Statue, Washington, DC

The Major General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette statue in Lafayette Square, opposite the White House in Washington, D.C., around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The statue in 2018:

Lafayette Square has been parkland since Washington, D.C. was laid out in the 1790s, but it did not receive its current name until 1824, when it was dedicated in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette. It is located directly to the north of the White House, on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, and during the 19th century the other streets around the square became one of Washington’s most desirable residential areas.

The first statue in the square was, ironically, not of Lafayette. Instead, it was an equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, which was dedicated in 1853 in the center of the park. This statue of Lafayette, located in the southeast corner of the square, was not added until 1891. Officially titled Major General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, the 36-foot statue was the work of French sculptor Alexandre Falguière. Lafayette stands atop the pedestal, but the monument also includes figures of four other French military leaders of the American Revolution: Comte d’Estaing and Comte de Grasse on the right, and Comte de Rochambeau and the Chevalier Duportail on the left side. In the center, looking up at Lafayette, is a female figure representing America.

The first photo was taken within about 10 to 15 years after the Lafayette statue was dedicated. Around this time, it was joined by three more statues, with one on each of the other three corners of the square. Like the Lafayette statue, these all honored prominent foreign leaders of the American Revolution, starting with Rochambeau in 1902 and followed by statues of Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben in 1910.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, the area surrounding Lafayette Square has undergone significant changes. Many early 19th century townhouses are still standing, but they are no longer used as private residences, and they are now joined by more recent government buildings. However, the square itself is not much different from its early 20th century appearance, and all five statues still stand here, including the Lafayette one that is shown here. These statues are now part of the Lafayette Square Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, on April 12, 1943. Image taken by Ann Rosener, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The Jefferson Memorial is, along with the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, one of the three major monuments to prominent United States presidents here in Washington, D.C. It was built on the south side of the Tidal Basin, nearly in line with the White House and the Washington Monument, and its construction was championed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who admired Jefferson.

The design of the memorial was the work of noted architect John Russell Pope, who was also responsible for the National Archives building and the West Building of the National Gallery of Art. Like these other two buildings, Pope’s designs for the Jefferson Memorial drew heavily from classical architecture, and it features a large columned portico on the front. It bears a particularly strong resemblance to the Pantheon, with its domed rotunda behind the portico.

However, Pope never lived to see the project completed; he died in 1937, two years before the cornerstone was laid. The construction took four years, but it was completed in 1943, in the midst of World War II. The memorial was formally dedicated on April 13, 1943, just one day after the first photo was taken. This was the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth, and the ceremony was attended by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who gave the dedication address.

Today, more than 75 years after the first photo was taken, essentially nothing has changed in this scene except for the size of the trees on either side of the memorial. During this time, the only significant change to the memorial has been the 19-foot statue of Jefferson in the center of the rotunda. This statue, which is not visible from this particular angle, was delayed because of wartime shortages of bronze, but it was installed in 1947, and it has stood here ever since, facing across the Tidal Basin in the direction of the White House.

National Savings and Trust Company Building, Washington, DC

The northeast corner of New York Avenue and 15th Street NW in Washington, DC, around 1910-1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The origins of the National Savings and Trust Company date back to 1867, when Congress chartered the National Safe Deposit Company. It was located in an earlier building here at this corner, and it housed safe deposit boxes for Washington residents to store their valuables, at a time when this type of service was still a relatively new concept. Three years later, this company was joined by the National Savings Bank, which was located in the same building.

The two companies enjoyed a prominent location, diagonally across from the Treasury Building and only a block away from the White House, and in 1888, they moved into a new building here on this site, as shown in the first photo. It was built in brick, was five stories in height, and it originally extended 130 feet along 15th Street to the left, and 65 feet along New York Avenue to the right. It featured a Queen Anne-style design, with a distinctive clock and cupola atop the corner, and it was the work of noted Philadelphia architect James H. Windrim.

In 1890, the two companies merged to form the National Safe Deposit, Savings and Trust Company, which was later simplified to the National Savings and Trust Company in 1907. As the name was getting shorter, though, the bank was continuing to grow. In 1911, probably soon after the first photo was taken, the bank purchased the adjacent Lenman Building, seen on the right side of the scene. It was subsequently demolished, and in 1916 the bank built a 50-foot addition on the site, followed by another 50-foot addition in 1925. However, these 20th century additions featured the same architectural style and building materials as the original building, so the three sections are nearly indistinguishable from each other.

The expanded building would continue to serve as the headquarters of the National Savings and Trust Company throughout the 20th century, although in 1987 it changed its name to Crestar Bank. The company has since been acquired by SunTrust Bank, but this building remains in use as a branch of SunTrust, more than 130 years after it first opened its doors to banking customers. Overall, aside from the early 20th century additions, the appearance of the building has not changed much during this time, and in 1972 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

White House, Washington, DC

The north side of the White House, seen from Pennsylvania Avenue around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The White House in 2018:

Construction on the White House started in 1792, although it would not be occupied until 1800, when the national capital was moved to Washington and John Adams moved into the house. However, the White House has undergone significant changes since then, and today very little survives from the building that John and Abigail Adams moved into nearly 220 years ago.

The original design for the White House was the work of Irish-born architect James Hoban. He likely modeled the north facade, shown here in this view, after Leinster House in Dublin, and the south facade may have been inspired by Château de Rastignac in France. The north facade also bears a strong resemblance to the Charleston County Courthouse in South Carolina, which had been designed by Hoban several years earlier.

In 1814, the White House was burned by invading British forces, completely gutting the building and leaving only its exterior walls still standing. The White House was soon rebuilt, but most of the walls had to be reconstructed, leaving only a small portion of the original structure in the new building. James Hoban was involved in this reconstruction work, as was Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who also worked to rebuild the Capitol after it was likewise burned.

The new White House was completed in 1817, although without its distinctive porticoes on either side. The curved south portico was constructed in 1824, during James Monroe’s presidency, and the portico here on the north side was added five years later, at the start of Andrew Jackson’s presidency. Subsequent presidents would make further changes to the White House, although these generally involved the interior. It would not be until 1902 that the building itself would be expanded, with wings on the east and west sides of the original structure.

The first photo was taken only a few years later, about halfway through the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. The wings that he had added – which would later be replaced by the current East and West Wings – are not visible from this angle, but the photo provides a good view of the original section of the building as it appeared at the turn of the 20th century.

By far the most dramatic change to the White House came during the presidency of Harry S. Truman, nearly 50 years after the first photo was taken. By this point, the building was almost 150 years old, and it was beginning to show its age. The various renovations and additions over the years had severely compromised its structural integrity, and by the late 1940s the second floor was in imminent danger of collapse.

As a result, the White House underwent a massive renovation starting in 1949. For the second time in its history, the interior was gutted, leaving nothing but the exterior walls. A new interior was built with a steel frame, and the rooms were reconstructed inside of it, with few changes to the overall layout of the first and second floors. Much of the historic fabric of the interior was salvaged during the demolition process, and some of it was incorporated into the rebuilt White House, although other materials were sold to the public as souvenirs. The project was completed in 1952, with Truman returning to the renovated White House near the end of his second term.

Despite these dramatic changes to the interior, the exterior has not changed much in more than a century since the first photo was taken. One major difference, though, is the level of security at the White House and the surrounding area. The public once had unrestricted access to both the White House and the grounds, but over the years this has been steadily limited due to security concerns. Pennsylvania Avenue, seen in the foreground, has been closed to vehicular traffic since 1995, because of its proximity to the White House. More recently, the street and the south sidewalk have been closed to pedestrians, and today visitors must view it from across the street at Lafayette Square, as shown in the 2018 photo.

Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool, Washington, DC (3)

The view of the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool, seen from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 20, 1925. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

These photos show nearly the same view as the ones in the previous post, but they were taken from the opposite side of the Lincoln Memorial steps. As discussed in that post, very little has changed in this scene in nearly a century since the first photo was taken. Both the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument remain iconic features of Washington, along with the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Castle further in the distance. However, there have been a few changes on the left side of the Reflecting Pool, where the Main Navy and Munitions Buildings once stood. Intended to be only temporary, these buildings were constructed as military offices during World War I, but they remained here until 1970, when they were finally demolished to create Constitution Gardens on the site.

Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool, Washington, DC (2)

The view of the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool, seen from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 20, 1925. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

These photos show the view from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, facing toward the Reflecting Pool,with the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol further in the distance. This angle is very similar to the photos in a previous post, but the first photo here was taken almost 20 years before the one in that post, and it gives a wider view of the surrounding area. Some of the other landmarks visible in the first photo include the Old Post Office in the distant center, the National Museum of Natural History to the left of the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Institution Building to the right of the monument. Closer to the foreground, beyond the trees to the left of the Reflecting Pool, are the Main Navy and Munitions Buildings, a group of temporary buildings that were constructed during World War I.

Today, nearly a century after the first photo was taken, remarkably little has changed in this scene. The trees around the Reflecting Pool are taller now, obscuring most of the Washington skyline, but the Old Post Office is still there, as is the Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution Building. Only the temporary World War I buildings are gone, having been demolished in 1970 and replaced by the Constitution Gardens. The Reflecting Pool has seen a few minor changes, including the addition of paved walkways along the perimeter in 2012. Otherwise, though, the only significant addition to this scene is the World War II Memorial. It was dedicated in 2004 on the former site of the Rainbow Pool, and it can be seen on the far end of the Reflecting Pool in the 2018 photo.