Mr. Smith’s American Acropolis

Washington would be a capital of Egyptian pillars and Roman splendor if this hardware merchant’s grandiose plan had been adopted

In 1900 the United States had an inferiority complex. It had come of age in practical affairs. It had developed, as Mr. Franklin W. Smith of Boston pointed out in his Petition to Congress, the world’s best form of government. For a century its energies and skills and intelligence had been devoted to material development, to the creation of mines, factories, transcontinental railroads, and tunnels under the Hudson. But the nation that had built palaces of business and mansions for luxurious living had erected no temple of culture.

 
 
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The Day They Burned The Capitol

Only a lucky rainfall put an end to our humiliation

Washington in 1814 was a capital city with no past to speak of, nothing much in the way of a present, and a future greater than any man then alive could imagine. It was a straggling country town, its dirt roads alternately ankle-deep in powdery dust and hub-deep in mud, with a general air of unfinished emptiness about it, and it was to become a great center of world power, imposing to look at, a place of destiny, majestic and secure.Read more »