1902 McMillan Report

“the city which Washington and Jefferson planned with so much care and with such prophetic vision will continue to expand, keeping pace with national advancement, until it becomes the visible expression of the power and taste of the people of the United States.”   — The Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia, p. 19

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Title Page of the Report

The McMillan Commission’s 1902 report to Congress, “The Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia,” is a crucial and invaluable resource for the study of the planning of the Nation’s Capital as well as the National Mall. The Commission’s ideas are the basis for the Mall we know today.

In their report, Commission members described their design ideas for the entire park system of the nation’s capital, not simply the National Mall. The report offered an eloquent and intelligent discussion of conditions and needs at the turn of the 20th century and innovative ideas for physical, environmental, and aesthetic improvements to the capital. Read an historical overview here.

As a public service, the National Mall Coalition has created a digitized version of this valuable but out-of-print and rare report and provides it chapter by chapter below. This book is in the public domain.

NOTE: The book was scanned to be read two pages at a time so this PDF is best viewed by rotating the format or zooming out to view both pages at once. Large photos and maps (folded in the actual book) are shown in multiple views.

 

The Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia, ed. Charles Moore, 1902

The report illustrates water elements at Versailles and in Paris and Rome that inspired commissioners during their travels in Europe
While we often hear that the Mall embodies the McMillan Commission Plan, reading this report reveals that the vision of the designers — renowned architects Daniel Burnham and Charles McKim, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., and artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens — was never fully realized. Two examples of note: Water elements such as pools and fountains were central to the McMillan vision, for both their refreshing and aesthetic value, but few of them were built; the unfinished design is most evident at the Washington Monument where unlike the desert-like space we experience today the designers envisioned an oasis of shade trees and water features, what they proposed to be “the gem of the Mall system.” The report illustrates water elements at Versailles and in Paris and Rome that inspired commissioners during their travels in Europe
I. Report of the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia
II. Report of the Park Commission
The Mall System
Memorial Bridge, Arlington Cemetery, Executive Departments, Pennsylvania Avenue
Parks — Potomac, Rock Creek, Zoological
Parks — Rock Creek Vicinity, Anacostia, Fort Drive, Potomac, Mount Vernon & Conclusion
Map 1: Public Reservations and Possessions and Areas Recommended to be Taken as Necessary for New Parks and Park Connections
Map 2: Map of 1901 For the Preparation of a Plan for the Improvement of the Park System
Map 3: Public Reservations and Possessions of the Permanent System of Highways
Appendix A — D (one PDF)
Appendix A — Public Bathing Places
Appendix B — Relation of the Anacostia Dam to Tidal Scour
Appendix C — A Letter Relative to the Proposed Treatment of Anacostia Park
Appendix D — A Comparison of Alternative Plans for the Treatment of Rock Creek Valley
Appendix D (cont.) — F (one PDF)
Appendix D — (cont.) Treatment of Rock Creek Valley
Appendix E — Botanical Collection
Appendix F — List of the Drawings, Designs, and Models Illustrating the Report of the Commission on the Improvement of the Park System of the District of Columbia
Index