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President's Park, located in Washington, D.C.marker, encompasses the White Housemarker, a visitor center, Lafayette Park, and The Ellipse. President's Park was the original name of Lafayette Park and Square. The current President's Park is administered by the National Park Service.

White House

Washington, D.C.marker was designated as the site for the United States capital in the 1790 Residence Act, with authority given to President George Washington to ready the capital for the government by 1800. Contests were held to solicit designs for both the United States Capitolmarker and the President's House. James Hoban's design was selected, and he supervised the construction. Later on, the White House was expanded with the West Wingmarker, which now houses the office of the president and staff. The White House grounds include the South Lawnmarker, Rose Gardenmarker, Jacqueline Kennedy Gardenmarker, and North Lawnmarker.

Lafayette Park

Lafayette Park is a seven-acre (30,000 m²) public park located directly north of the White House on H Street, bounded by Jackson Placemarker on the west, Madison Place on the east, and Pennsylvania Avenuemarker. The park and the surrounding structures were designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1970. Planned as part of the pleasure grounds surrounding the Executive Mansion, this park was originally called "President's Park", which is now the name of the larger National Park Service unit. The park was separated from the White House grounds in 1804, when President Thomas Jefferson had Pennsylvania Avenue cut through. In 1824, the park was officially renamed in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, the Frenchmanmarker who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

Lafayette Park has been used as a racetrack, a graveyard, a zoo, a slave market, an encampment for soldiers during the War of 1812, and many political protests and celebrations. Andrew Jackson Downing landscaped Lafayette Park in 1851 in the picturesque style. Today's plan, with its five large statues, dates from the 1930s. In the center stands Clark Mills' equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson, erected in 1853. In the four corners are statues of foreign Revolutionary War heroes: the Marquis de Lafayette and Comte de Rochambeau of France, Tadeusz Kościuszko of Polandmarker, and the Baron von Steuben of Prussia.

Lafayette Park has the "densest squirrel population known to science."

Concepcion Picciotto has lived in Lafayette Square on the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue since August 1, 1981 in protest of nuclear arms.

The Ellipse

The Ellipse, early 1900s
The Ellipse, early 1900s
President's Park South (commonly called the Ellipse) is a 52-acre (210,000 m²) park located just south of the White House fence. Properly, the Ellipse is the name of the five-furlong (1 km) circumference street within the park. The entire park is open to the public, and features various monuments. The Ellipse is also the location for a number of annual events.


In 1791, the first plan for the park was drawn up by Pierre Charles L'Enfant. The Ellipse was known as "the White Lot" due to the whitewashed wooden fence that enclosed the park.

During the American Civil War, the grounds of the Ellipse and incomplete Washington Monument were used as corrals for horses, mules, and cattle, and as camp sites for Union troops.

The Army Corps of Engineers began work on the Ellipse in 1867. The park was landscaped in 1879, and American Elms were planted around the existing portion of roadway. In 1880, grading was begun and the Ellipse was created from what had been a common dump. In 1894, the Ellipse roadway was lit with electric lamps.

In the 1890s, Congress authorized the use of the Ellipse grounds to special groups, including religious meetings and military encampments. As late as 1990, baseball fields and tennis courts existed in the park. Sporting events and demonstrations are still held on the Ellipse. President's Park South came under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service in 1933.

On Christmas Eve 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started an unbroken tradition by lighting the first "National Christmas Treemarker". The first tree, a cut balsam fir, was placed on the Ellipse by the District of Columbia Public Schools. From 1924 to 1953, live trees in various locations around and on the White House grounds were lit on Christmas Eve. In 1954, the ceremony returned to the Ellipse and with an expanded focus: the "Christmas Pageant of Peace". From 1954 through 1972, cut trees were used, but in 1973 a Colorado blue spruce from York, Pennsylvaniamarker was planted on the Ellipse. A replacement was planted in 1978.

On August 10, 1933, the Ellipse was transferred to the National Park Service, the legal successor of three federal commissioners appointed by the President under an act of July 16, 1790, which directed initial construction. Their authority developed through acts of May 1, 1802; April 19, 1816; March 3, 1849; March 2, 1867; July 1, 1898; February 26, 1925; March 3, 1933; and Executive Order of June 10, 1933. Under act of September 22, 1961, "the White House shall be administered pursuant to the act of August 25, 1916" and supplementary and amendatory acts. This NPS area was originally referred to simply as "The White House".

Egg roll, 1929
In 1942, during World War II, the National Park Service granted permission for the construction of barracks as a special emergency war-time measure. The temporary barracks were erected on the south side of the Old Executive Office Buildingmarker and the entire First Division Monument grounds. The "White House Barracks" were demolished in 1954.

The Ellipse Visitor Pavilion was opened for visitors in May 1994. The facility is used to distribute free tickets for special events at the White House such as the Easter Egg Roll and the fall and spring Garden Tours. There also is an information window, concession area, restrooms, telephones, water fountains, and a first aid area, all accessible.


Annual events on the Ellipse include the Christmas Pageant of Peace, the "Twilight Tattoo" military pageant, and the graduation ceremony for The George Washington Universitymarker. It is also the queueing location for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll and the White House garden tours. Under the auspices of the National Park Service, the Capital Alumni Network and a number of neighborhood and military sports leagues play softball and flag football games on the grounds of the Ellipse. A number of ultimate competitions are also held by various groups throughout the warmer months.

The Ellipse Meridian Stone, located slightly under the surface near the center of the Ellipse, commemorates President Thomas Jefferson's idea of an American prime meridian.

White House Visitor Center

The White House Visitor Center is located in the north end of the Herbert C.marker Hoover Buildingmarker (the Department of Commercemarker headquarters between 14th Street and 15th Street on Pennsylvania Avenue NW). The visitor center serves as a starting point for those going on a reserved tour of the White House. The various exhibits also provide an alternate visitor experience for those who did not schedule a tour. The themes of the six permanent exhibits are First Families, Symbols & Images, White House Architecture, White House Interiors, Working White House, and Ceremonies and Celebrations. Other exhibits change throughout the year.


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