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Biographies Unit Biographies

Pierre L'Enfant 1754–1825
City Planner

Pierre L'Enfant (Lhan FAHNT) was a Frenchman who came to America to help the colonists win the Revolution. He arrived in 1777 with a group of French engineers. He served as an officer in the Continental Army. During the war, L'Enfant was wounded and also taken prisoner.

After the war, L'Enfant stayed in the United States and worked as a designer. He designed Federal Hall in New York City, where George Washington was sworn in as president. In 1789, President Washington chose L'Enfant for the job of planning the nation's capital city. L'Enfant created a plan for a large city with broad avenues and grand buildings. Congress liked his plan, but officials in charge of construction thought L'Enfant himself was difficult to work with. He lost his job as city planner. His name did not appear on the first published map of the city. Yet without Pierre L'Enfant's vision, Washington, D.C., would not be the grand city that it is today.

Comprehension Check

Why did Pierre L'Enfant come to America?

Critical Thinking

Why is it important to know who Pierre L'Enfant is?