Menace Turns 'America's Main Street' Into a Sidewalk

Washington Post
Sunday, May 21, 1995
By David Von Drehle

The most famous address in America no longer exists.

Oh, no doubt hte White House will continue to get any mail sent to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But at dawn yesturday, the president stopped living on a street and began living in a subtly fortified park.

Pennsylbania Avenue was closed to traffic between 15th and 17th streets, eventually to become a sort of plaza. From H Street all the way south to the edge of the Ellipse, the White House will be surrounded by fences and gates and guardhouses.

People live on streets. Kings live in parks. This is not a new observation: President George Washington and his secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, argued about this very point 200 years ago. Pierre L'Enfant, designer of the capital city, had envisioned a broad avenue that would lead from the Capitol at one end to the president's house at the other - a brilliant conceptual linkage of the two great constitutional powers. Washington believed this avenue should end at the grounds of a vast presidential balace, befitting a monarch.

Jefferson disagreed. To symbolize that the president was a citizen like any other, he proposed a more modest mansion. He prevailed and for generation upon generation, Americans on their way from one place to another, in the course of their ordinary business, have been able to pass the president's house, on horseback, by trolley, in busses and cars.

The president was a person who lived on a street.

"Pennsylvania Avenue has been routinely open to traffic for the entire history of our republic," President Clinton said yesterday...

Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park