The Patent Office
The Patent Office, c. 1855, Edward Sachse & Co. chromolithograph, From the original in the National Portrait Gallery Smithsonian Institution
On a swell of ground midway between the President's House and the Capitol, city planner Pierre Charles L'Enfont (1754—1825) set aside a square of land for a nondenominational national cathedral or a pantheon to American heroes. To the south of it, he linked, physically and symbolically, the two seats of government with the grand Pennsylvania Avenue. With a few strokes of his pen, L'Enfant changed the destiny of the scattered forms and tobacco fields that made up Washington in 1 791. Over the next century, the square mile north of the avenue between the White House and the Capitol became the cultural and commercial center of Washington. The practical young nation replaced L'Enfant's idea of a cathedral in 1836 with the Patent Office, a monument to American ingenuity that still stands at the center of a changing neighborhood after 174 years.