Early Republic

The City That Was... And The City That Never Was

“The Indispensable Plan: 1791”  A painted portrait of what DC would have looked like if the city was laid out  exactly to L’Enfant’s plans. The image has red painted curtains framing  a familiar DC but with key differences. The colors are vibrant but there are a lack of people.

Walk up the spiral staircase at the GW Museum, take a right into the first gallery, and you will be met with a pair of large (5’ x 6’) bird-eye's-view paintings of Washington, DC. Both represent the capital city in the 1820s and, at first glance, the two works look very similar, with comparable coloring, landscape, and style. That’s not suprising as both were done by the same artist and, significantly, the two pieces share the same view – looking down on the District from Arlington Heights. But, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the paintings represent different perspectives of the fledgling national Capitol – one aspirational, the other more realistic.