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The National Mall is an open-area national park in downtown Washington, D.C.marker, the capital of the United Statesmarker. The National Mall is a unit of the National Park Service, and is administered by the National Mall and Memorial Parksmarker unit. The term "National Mall" commonly includes areas that are officially part of West Potomac Parkmarker and Constitution Gardens to the west, and often is taken to refer to the entire area between the Lincoln Memorialmarker and the Capitolmarker, with the Washington Monument providing a division slightly west of the center. The National Mall receives approximately 24 million visitors each year.


In his 1791 plan for the future city of Washington, D.C., Pierre Charles L'Enfant envisioned a garden-lined "grand avenue" approximately in length and wide, in an area that would lie between the Capitol building and an equestrian statue of George Washington that would be placed directly south of the White Housemarker. The National Mall occupies the site of this planned "grand avenue", which was never constructed. The Washington Monument stands near the planned site of its namesake's equestrian statue.

During the early 1850s, horticulturist Andrew Jackson Downing designed a landscape plan for the Mall. Over the next half century, federal agencies developed several naturalistic parks within the Mall in accordance with Downing's plan. In addition, railroad tracks crossed the Mall west of the Capitol. Near the tracks, a large market (Central Market) and a railroad station rose on the north side of the Mall. Greenhouses belonging to the U.S.marker Botanic Gardenmarker appeared near the east end of the Mall.

In 1901, the McMillan Commission's plan, which was partially inspired by the City Beautiful Movement and which purportedly extended L'Enfant's plan, called for a radical redesign of the Mall that would replace its greenhouses, gardens, trees and commercial/industrial facilities with an open space. The plan differed from L’Enfant’s by replacing the wide "grand avenue" with a wide expanse of grass lined on either side by symmetrical rows of American elm bordered by streets and buildings. A path reminiscent of L'Enfant's "grand avenue", but of lesser width, would traverse the length of the mall at its center. However, in 2002, the National Mall had instead as its central feature a grassy lawn flanked on each side by unpaved tree-lined paths.

On October 15, 1966, the National Mall was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2003, the United States Congress passed the Reserve Actmarker to restrict further construction on the National Mall.



1. Washington Monument

2. National Museum of American Historymarker

3. National Museum of Natural Historymarker

4. National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

5. West Building of the National Gallery of Artmarker

6. East Building of the National Gallery of Artmarker

  7. United States Capitolmarker

8. Ulysses S.marker Grant Memorialmarker

9. United States Botanic Gardenmarker

10. National Museum of the American Indianmarker

11. National Air and Space Museummarker

12. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gardenmarker

  13. Arts and Industries Buildingmarker

14. Smithsonian Institution Buildingmarker

15. Freer Gallery of Artmarker

16. Arthur M.marker Sackler Gallerymarker

17. National Museum of African Artmarker

West side of Jefferson Pier
As popularly understood, the National Mall also includes the following areas west of the Washington Monument: the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Poolmarker, the National World War II Memorialmarker, the Korean War Veterans Memorialmarker, the Vietnam Veterans Memorialmarker, the District of Columbia War Memorialmarker, and the Jefferson Piermarker. By such a definition, the National Sylvan Theatermarker, southeast of the Washington Monument, is also part of the Mall. The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorialmarker, scheduled for completion in 2009, will be located on a 4 acre (1.62 ha) site that borders the Tidal Basinmarker and is within the sightline of the Jeffersonmarker and Lincoln memorials.

The National Museum of African American History and Culturemarker will be located at the southwest corner of Constitution Avenuemarker and 14th Street, Northwest, adjacent to the National Museum of American Historymarker.

Other nearby attractions

Other attractions within walking distance of the National Mall include the Library of Congressmarker and the United States Supreme Court Buildingmarker east of the Capitol; the White Housemarker (on a line directly north of the Washington Monument), the National Archivesmarker, the Old Post Office Pavilionmarker, the National Theatremarker, Ford's Theatremarker, and the Albert Einstein Memorialmarker to the north; the National Postal Museummarker, and Union Station to the northeast; and the Jefferson Memorialmarker, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorialmarker, the George Mason Memorialmarker, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museummarker, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to the south.

Usage of the National Mall

The National Mall, in combination with the other attractions in the Washington Metropolitan Area, makes the nation's capital city one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. However, it has uses other than as a tourist focal point.

Protests and rallies

The National Mall's status as a wide, open expanse at the heart of the capital makes it an attractive site for protests and rallies of all types. One notable example is the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a political rally for African American civil rights, at which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

The largest officially recorded rally was the Vietnam War Moratorium Rally on October 15, 1969. Although larger rallies may have occurred since that time, the United States Park Police no longer releases official estimates of crowd sizes on the Mall. One later rally that is claimed to have been the largest rally on the Mall was the 2004 March for Women's Lives. On January 27, 2007, tens of thousands of protesters opposed to the Iraq War, converged on the Mall, drawing comparisons by participants to the Vietnam War protest.

Presidential inauguration

During presidential inauguration, people without official tickets gather at the National Mall. Normally, the Mall between 7th and 14th Streets, NW is used as a staging ground for the parade.

On December 4, 2008, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced that "for the first time, the entire length of the National Mall will be opened to the public so that more people than ever before will be able to witness the swearing-in of the President from a vantage point in sight of the Capitol." This arrangement was made because of the massive turnout – projected to be as many 2 million people – expected for the inauguration of Barack Obama.


Independence Day fireworks display between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, July 4, 1986
The National Mall has long served as a spot for jogging, picnics, and light recreation for the Washington population. It is also host to several large annual events. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival takes place on the Mall each year for two weeks around Independence Day. On that holiday, the A Capitol Fourth concert takes place in the late afternoon and early evening on the west lawn of the Capitol. This and other Independence Day celebrations on and near the Mall end after sunset with a fireworks display between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. On Monday nights during July and August, the Mall hosts the annual Screen on the Green movie festival. The free classic movies are projected on large portable screens and typically draw crowds of thousands of people. The National Book Festival takes place on the Mall each year during the early autumn.

On September 4, 2003, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Aretha Franklin, Aerosmith and others performed in a nationally-televised "NFL Kickoff Live from the National Mall Presented by Pepsi Vanilla". Preceded by a three-day National Football League "interactive Super Bowl theme park", the event had primarily commercial purposes, unlike earlier major activities on the Mall.

On July 7, 2007, one leg of Live Earth was held outdoors at the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall. Former Vice President Al Gore presented, and artists such as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood performed.


The National Mall is accessible via Washington Metromarker, with the Smithsonian stationmarker located on the south side of the Mall, near the Smithsonian Institution Building and between the Washington Monument and Capitol. The Federal Trianglemarker, Archives–Navy Memorial–Penn Quartermarker, and Union Stationmarker Metro stations are also located near the Mall, to the north. L'Enfant Plazamarker, Federal Center Southwestmarker and Capitol Southmarker Metro stations are located several blocks south of the Mall.

Metrobus and the DC Circulator make scheduled stops around the National Mall. Parking is also available south of the Mall, accessible directly south of the Lincoln Memorial.

See also

Notes and References

  1. National Mall & Memorial Parks - National Mall & Memorial Parks (U.S. National Park Service)
  2. U.S. National Park Service
  3. L'Enfant identified himself as "Peter Charles L'Enfant" during most of his life, while residing in the United States. He wrote this name on his "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of t(he) United States ...." (Washington, D.C.) and on other legal documents. However, during the early 1900's, a French ambassador to the U.S., Jean Jules Jusserand, popularized the use of L'Enfant's birth name, "Pierre Charles L'Enfant". (See: Bowling, Kenneth R (2002). Peter Charles L'Enfant: vision, honor, and male friendship in the early American Republic. George Washington University, Washington, D.C.) The National Park Service identifies L'Enfant as Major Peter Charles L'Enfant and as Major Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant on its website. The United States Code states in 40 U.S.C. 3309: "(a) In General.—The purposes of this chapter shall be carried out in the District of Columbia as nearly as may be practicable in harmony with the plan of Peter Charles L'Enfant."
  4. Chronological tour of the Mall in The Mall: The Grand Avenue, The Government, and The People. University of Virginia website created by Mary Halnon. Accessed 2009-11-05.
  5. " The L'Enfant and McMillan Plans", Washington, D.C.: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. (National Park Service) Accessed 2009-10-27
  6. A HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL MALL AND PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK in official website of the National Park Service. Accessed 2009-11-05.
  7. April 26, 2002, USGS satellite image of National Mall.
  8. Park Service Seeks Ideas for a Mall Makeover, The Washington Post
  9. Note: Numbers preceding name of landmarks correspond to numbers in April 26, 2002 USGS satellite image of the National Mall.
  10. Smithsonian Folklife Festival in official website of the Smithsonian Institution. Accessed 2009-11-05.
  11. A Capitol Fourth in website of Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Accessed 2009-11-05.
  12. Fourth of July Fireworks 2009 in Washington DC. Accessed 2009-11-05.
  13. Screen on the Green 2009 in Washington DC. Accessed 2009-11-05.
  14. 2009 National Book Festival in official website of the Library of Congress. Accessed 2009-11-05.
  15. "NFL Kickoff Live from the National Mall Presented by Pepsi Vanilla" Featuring Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, Aretha Franklin, Britney Spears and Others Thursday, September 4. Accessed 2009-11-05.
  16. "Live Earth Special Broadcast Event in Washington, DC Announced -- Al Gore To Attend; Garth Brooks & Trisha Eastwood To Perform" (Washington, July 6, 2007) in website of Live Earth. Accessed 2009-11-09.

Scholarly Bibliography

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