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Grand Avenues: The Story of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, D.C. Paperback – February 12, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A lively and literate view of Washington's early history, with liberal dashes of intrigue for good measure.” –Kirkus

“L’Enfant’s idiosyncratic personality interfered with his complete success yet only serves to make this biography a fascinating read.” –Booklist

“A welcome narrative… Berg performs sterling service in excavating this little-known story from the archives.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The reader never will be able to walk the streets of Washington again without envisioning the haughty genius of Major L'Enfant on horseback, oblivious to the rain and cold, looking down from Jenkins Hill, and with a vision of pre-revolutionary Paris in his mind's eye, seeing one of the world's great capital cities spread out before him.” –Buffalo News (New York)

“Scott Berg has created a readable portrait of Pierre Charles L’Enfant that shows the artist in full, with both his great gifts and his Icarus-like ambition. It is fascinating to speculate how America’s federal government might have emerged differently over the centuries if it had been seated in Thomas Jefferson’s simple ‘federal town’ rather than in L’Enfant’s grandiose city. The character of the capital city today is inseparable from its designer’s personality and vision.” –David A. Price, author of Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation



From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Scott W. Berg holds a BA in Architecture from the University of Minnesota, an MA from Miami University and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University where he is now teaching non-fiction writing and literature. Since 1998, Berg has published over 60 pieces in the Washington Post on various subjects, many of them historical, including a lengthy feature story about L'Enfant out of which GRAND AVENUES grew.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400076226
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400076222
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By M. Allen on July 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
i loved this book--i had the good fortune to find it in the national gallery bookstore while in washington DC and read most of it before i left the city. it is a fascinating story that has been explicated in extreme detail by berg. l'enfant was incredible--a big dreamer with the connections to get much (but not all) done. my only complaint, and it is a petty one, is that the book is overwritten. berg has much to say and a vast vocabulary in which to say it, but too often he uses 40 words when 10 will do. it made the journey a bit taxing; a bit of editing and trimming would easily make this a 5 star book. very interesting tale--if you have the time and inclination to learn about the origins of washington DC and about late 18th century history, definitely read this book.
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Grand Avenue reads like a novel. It not only gives the reader a background into the evolution of Washington DC, but reminds us of the foibles of the founding fathers and their internecine squabbles. Pierre Charles L'Enfant's genius was at the mercy of the times, only to be resurrected in later years by another man with a vision F.L. Olmsted.
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I love Washington DC as it is, but I see through this book how it could have been. However impossible his personality, he was used hardly and unappreciated until a later day. The book was well written; it was just difficult to read the complete disappointment (to him) of his vision. He was right about the means of funding of the building of Washington DC. What a difference that would have made.
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