c/o National Coalition
     to Save Our Mall
P.O.Box 4709
Rockville, MD 20849
Phone: 301-340-3938

THE NATIONAL MALL: An Illustrated History
III. The 19th Century and the McMillan Plan of 1901-1902

FIGURE 3: The Mall in the 1892.

By the end of the 19th century, haphazard growth resulted in the Mall being covered with trees and gardens, a variety of public and industrial buildings, and the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station and tracks at the foot of Capitol Hill.

FIGURE 4: The McMillan Commission Plan of 1901-1902. Click on map for higher resolution (180k).

In 1901 Senator James McMillan of Michigan organized the Senate Park Commission, better known as the McMillan Commission, to undertake a new plan for the Mall.

The McMillan Plan revived and extended the L'Enfant concept of the Mall as a broad and open vista. The Commissioners, who included renowned City Beautiful architects Charles McKim and Daniel Burnham, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and sculptor Augustus St.-Gaudens, envisioned the Mall as a continuous green park framed by rows of elms and white classical museum buildings.

The kite-shaped McMillan Plan extended the Mall westward and southward over former river beds to form new parkland, Potomac Park, and the sites for the future Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial.

FIGURE 5: Bird’s Eye View of the McMillan Plan of 1901-1902.

The reclaimed land is also the location of recent memorials, including the Vietnam and Korean Veterans Memorials, the FDR Memorial, and the World War II Memorial.

The McMillan Plan is the design basis for the Mall today, below.

FIGURE 6: Aerial view of the Mall in the 1980s

FIGURE 7: Aerial view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol, c. 1980

The McMillan Commission's siting of the Lincoln Memorial reinforced the historic symbolism of the Mall, as described in 1911 by Henry Bacon, architect of the Lincoln Memorial:

"...the site in Potomac Park was the best one for a monument to Abraham Lincoln -- we have at one end of the axis [of the Mall] a beautiful building which is a monument to the United States Government [the Capitol]. At the other end of the axis we have the possibility of a Memorial to the man who saved that Government [Lincoln] and between the two is a monument to its founder [Washington]. All three of these structures, stretching in one grand sweep from Capitol Hill to the Potomac river, will lend, one to the others, the associations and memories connected with each, and each will have its value increased by being on the one axis and having visual relation to the other."

Next: The Mall as Public Forum in the Twentieth Century