Lafayette Square is a public park on seven acres of land (30,000 m²) that is located directly north of the White House on H Street within President's Park in Washington, D.C. At the boundaries of Lafayette Square, Pennsylvania Avenue is on the south, Jackson Place is on the west and Madison Place is on the east. The public Park was named for Marquis de Lafayette who was a French aristocrat and hero of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Contained in the Lafayette square are several statues of revolutionary heroes from Europe, including Marquis de Lafayette. The center of the park features a famous statue of early 19th century U.S. president and general Andrew Jackson on horseback with the front hooves of both horses raised.
Lafayette Square was previously known as President’s Park and in 1800 the land on which the park stands served as a construction staging area for the White House. Also, the land served at various points before the land became a park and an historic landmark, as a zoo, a racetrack, a slave market, a graveyard, an encampment for soldiers during the 1812 War, and the site of many celebrations as well as political protests.
Even as it became Lafayette Park, it continues to serve as a gathering place for public events. It was during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency which was from 1801 to 1809, that the land was fenced and after that the land was then made a part of the grounds of the executive mansion. Currently, the GSA owns and maintains many of the structures surrounding Lafayette Park. Some of the structures owned and maintained by the GSA are Trowbridge House, Dolley Madison’s House, Blair House also known as the President’s Guest House, the Cosmos Club which contains the Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House, and the Cornelia Knower Marcy House.
The Lafayette Square had humble beginnings even though it is now an elegantly designed park. It was a plot of land used as a zoo, a family graveyard, an apple orchard, a racetrack, and a slave market during the 1700s. However, when the land was bought as part of the White House grounds, this changed. It was used for construction staging by the crews that were building the original White House and it was also used for construction staging again after the White House was burnt by the British during the War of 1812.
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After the revolutionary war, the grounds were cleared, graded, and planted with trees. The plan of what was called "the President's Park," which would just be adjacent to the White House was devised by Architect Charles Bullfinch and during the development of the President's Park, President Thomas Jefferson involved himself personally in it.
He made a decision to erect 12-foot stone wall fencing on the south border and on the other three borders, he erected rail fencing. In addition to this, President Jefferson also saw to the landscaping of the grounds of the executive mansion and in 1803, two sections were formed when he ordered Pennsylvania Avenue to cut through President’s Park.
Among the earliest buildings constructed near Lafayette Square were the Decatur House which was constructed in 1818 and St. John’s Church which was constructed in 1815. Both buildings were designed by Benjamin H. Latrobe who was America's first professional engineer and architect. In the District Within Washington Metropolitan Area, the Decatur House was the first private residence there. The house is among the few that remains of slave quarters in an urban area, and it is also the only known one where you can see evidence that African Americans were held in bondage.
Over the next fifty years, the Square became one of the city’s. Its location near the White House attracted numerous residents of note, including members of the Cabinet, Congress, and the diplomatic corps.