Designated by Pierre L’Enfant as the site for the President’s House, the 82-acre President’s Park is prominently located north of the National Mall, on the north-south axis approximate to the Washington Monument. The components of President’s Park include Lafayette Square, the White House and its grounds, the Treasury and Old Executive Office buildings, the Ellipse, and many memorials and monuments.
The open lawns, large shade trees, manicured plantings and curvilinear walks of President’s Park distinguish it from the surrounding urban grid of Washington. While L’Enfant’s original boundaries are basically extant, it was not until the late eighteenth century that the park and its components began to take on their present-day configuration. A.J. Downing was largely responsible for the design of the Ellipse and for Lafayette Park, with modest alterations following his death and in later decades. The White House grounds still have the basic form conceived by L’Enfant and protected by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.’s 1935 management plan, but individual spaces have been repeatedly altered by successive presidents. Pennsylvania Avenue, which separates the White House North Lawn from Lafayette Park, was closed to vehicular traffic in 1995 due to security concerns, but remains a bicycle and pedestrian route. President’s Park is administered and maintained by the National Park Service, and several of its contributing landscapes are in the National Register of Historic Places or listed as National Historic Landmarks.