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Downtown in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Freedom Plaza
Civil War to Civil Rights

— Downtown Heritage Trail —
 
Freedom Plaza Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, April 12, 2009
1. Freedom Plaza Marker
 
Inscription.
“I have a dream.”
                            Martin Luther King, Jr. August 1963

The block-long plaza at 13th and Pennsylvania Avenue just ahead to your left honors civil rights leader Martin Luther King with the name Freedom Plaza. King completed his historic “I Have a Dream” speech in the Willard Hotel adjacent to the plaza, before delivering it to a crowd of 200,000 at the Lincoln Memorial.

Freedom Plaza also recalls Washington’s first city planner, Major Pierre L’Enfant, with a partial image of his 1791 plan for the city inscribed on its surface. L’Enfant envisioned Pennsylvania Avenue as a great ceremonial street, the symbolic link between the Capitol (which he called the Congress’s House) and the White House (which he called the President’s House). Freedom Plaza’s Open space reinforces this symbolic connection, despite the fact that the Treasury Building blocks the view of the White House, the site a result of a questionable decision in 1836 by President Andrew Jackson.

Directly across Freedom Plaza is the John A. Wilson Building, home of the government of the District of Columbia. The building was constructed in 1904 when the city was governed by three presidentially appointed commissioners. In 1974, the city regained the elected
 
National Theater during the Civil War Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, April 12, 2009
2. National Theater during the Civil War
Photo on reverse of the Freedom Plaza Marker.
 
mayor and city council it had had before the Civil War, the result of a vigorous local campaign for “home rule.” The building is named for the late council chair, John A. Wilson, a champion of equal rights for D.C. citizens.

The National Theater whose marquee is visible straight ahead, has presented live theater on this spot since 1835. Rebuilt to meet the tastes of each generation, the historic “Theater of the Presidents” has entertained every First Family since its doors first opened. President Lincoln and his family attended this theater many times, and on the evening of the President’s assassination at Ford’s Theater, his son, Tad, was attending a performance here.
 
Erected by Cultural Tourism D.C. (Marker Number W.7.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civil War to Civil Rights, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. marker series.
 
Location. 38° 53.773′ N, 77° 1.762′ W. Marker is in Downtown, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of E Street, NW and 13th Street, NW, on the right when traveling west on E Street, NW. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20004, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski (within shouting distance of this marker); Western Plaza, Pennsylvania Avenue (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Daniel Patrick Moynihan Place (about 400 feet away); The John A. Wilson Building (about 600 feet away); Children's Hospital (about 700 feet away); Washington, DC: Capital and City (about 700 feet away); Preserving the Past (about 700 feet away); Alexander Robey Shepherd (about 700 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Downtown.
 
Freedom Plaza - as seen from marker, across the intersecton of E & 13th Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, April 12, 2009
3. Freedom Plaza - as seen from marker, across the intersecton of E & 13th
(Robert Venturi, architect. George Patton, landscape architect.)
 

 
More about this marker. [Photo Captions]
above and left: Martin Luther King, Jr. completed his famous speech near here at the Willard Hotel, before delivering it to the crowds at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963.
left and above: The District of Columbia Government is housed in the Beaux-Arts building across the avenue. Seen here in an aearly 20th-century photo, the structure was for years known as the District Building until it was renamed the John A. Wilson Building in honor of the city's late council chairman, above.
right: Pierre L'Enfant's grand plan for the new federal city. A partial replica is embedded in the paving of Freedom Plaza.
below: The Washington Post , seen here about 1917, once stood in the 1300 block of E Street.
 
Also see . . .
1. Freedom Plaza. (Submitted on April 14, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Anne Brown - the original 'Bess' in Porgy and Bess - at the National Theater:. ... Following the show's run on Broadway, a United States tour started on January 27, 1936 in Philadelphia and traveled to Pittsburgh and Chicago before ending in Washington, D.C. on March 21, 1936. During the Washington run, the cast—as led by Todd Duncan—protested segregation at the theater. Brown said of her role in the protest, "I told them: 'I will not sing at the National. If my mother, my father, my friends, if Black people cannot come hear me sing, then count me out.' I remember Gershwin saying to me, 'You're not going to sing?' And I said to him, 'I can't sing!'." Eventually management gave in to the demands, resulting in the first integrated audience for a performance of any show at the National Theatre. When the curtain came down on the final performance of Porgy and Bess, segregation was reinstated. ... (Submitted on March 11, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.) 
 
Freedom Plaza Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, April 12, 2009
4. Freedom Plaza
Skateboarders practice their skills on the embedded rendering of L'Enfant's plan for the capital city, with the renowned National Theater in the background.
 

 
Additional keywords. Todd Duncan; Anne Brown; Porgy and Bess.
 
Freedom Plaza Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, April 12, 2009
5. Freedom Plaza
View from the north toward the John A. Wilson Building, across inscriptions on the plaza terrace that include tributes to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the spot where a commemorative time capsule was placed by the MLK National Holiday Commission on January 13, 1988.
 
 
Freedom Plaza Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, April 12, 2009
6. Freedom Plaza
View from northwest corner, east down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the U.S. Capitol.
 
 
Freedom Plaza - inscription at east end Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, April 4, 2010
7. Freedom Plaza - inscription at east end
"Plan of the City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia ceded by the States of Virginia and Maryland to the United States of America and by them established as the Seat of their Government after the Year MDCCC..."
 
 
Tango Enthusiasts at Freedom Plaza Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, April 4, 2010
8. Tango Enthusiasts at Freedom Plaza
 
 
"Occupy D.C." political demonstrators' encampment at Freedom Plaza, October, 2011 Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, October 23, 2011
9. "Occupy D.C." political demonstrators' encampment at Freedom Plaza, October, 2011
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on April 13, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 3,263 times since then. Last updated on March 11, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos:   1. submitted on April 13, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 14, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   6. submitted on April 15, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   7, 8. submitted on April 8, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   9. submitted on November 19, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
 
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