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Washington: The City
National Mall and Memorial Parks
George Washington shaped many aspects of the nation's capital. He championed placing the capital along the Potomac River then personally selected the site. He chose architect Pierre L'Enfant to design the city. L'Enfant envisioned a capital with symbolically-placed key buildings, a cross-grid street system with intersections for future commemorative sites. At its center, L'Enfant planned a grand space known as the Mall, with the houses of government perched on its edges and a monument to George Washington at its cross-axis. The basic concepts of L'Enfant's design still can be seen today.
In 1836 the Washington National Monument Society held a contest to design the monument. Architect Robert Mills proposed a stone pillar, or "obelisk", rising from a low building surrounded by columns. This design was later simplified into the clean lines you see today.