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Traffic Circles In Washington DC

The casual visitor to the Nation's Capital is frequently intrigued (and sometimes confused) by the number of traffic Circles that dominate the District of Columbia structure. Streets are arranged on a grid of north-south numbered and east-west lettered streets. This grid is overlaid by broad diagonal avenues and further interrupted by traffic circles that make DC a challenging place to navigate by car. The city index features 28 circles, including bustling areas such as Logan, Thomas, Observatory, and Dupont, among others. Many tourists are familiar with the famed lettered and numbered naming convention of the streets but don't always understand the logic that originally drove the creation of the District and its intersecting circles and squares. Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French engineer appointed by George Washington to plan the Federal District, envisioned a grand city built around the Capital's government seat. Brilliant and arrogant, his hallmarks included wide avenues, sweeping vistas and... Traffic circles at the intersections of diagonal avenues to commemorate national heroes. His original plan allotted one square to each of the 15-then states, to give them an incentive to invest in the new capital. His vision is particularly enduring, as in 1781 as he was laying out the new Federal District, the landscape was nothing like the modern city it is today. Two small port cities, Alexandria and Georgetown faced each across the Potomac flanked by dense woods and boggy wetlands. Despite the fact L'Enfant's elegant plan was widely admired, he ran afoul of local politics and ultimately lost the commission. Today, the area North of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and South of Florida Avenue is known as L'Enfant City in his honor. Locals snicker that L'Enfant took his retribution in DC's well known traffic congestion. Conservative Christians further denounce L'Enfant for the "satanic conspiracy" evident in the Mason influence on the design. In truth, George Washington was a Freemason, who also commissioned fellow Mason, Andrew Ellicott, as America's first Surveyor General. The District is a perfect square ten miles on a side, but rotated 45 degrees so that it resembles the Masonic symbol of a square and compass. Many of the DC neighborhoods identify themselves with nearby traffic circles, which are in turn named for American war heroes. Sheridan, Logan, Thomas, Scott, and Dupont all fall into this category. Barney Circle, a small neighborhood located on the western bank of the Anacostia River in SE, is a refreshing break to this pattern. Its circle honors Alice Pike Barney, a painter and wealthy patron of the arts. Likewise, Tenley Circle, located at the intersection of Nebraska Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, and Yuma Street, gets its name from John Tennally, a tavern owner and local resident circa 1790. Unlike many of the circles in Washington, Tenley's traffic pattern has evolved such that the dominant roadway, Wisconsin Ave., can pass straight through the center instead of going around the outside circumference (perhaps in deference to the large student population living at the nearby American University). Truxton Circle, existing only as the name of the neighborhood bounding Florida Avenue, North Capitol Street, Q Street, NW and Q Street, NE, also has the dubious distinction of being one of the few "defunct" circles. Rumors abound that the Circle will be rebuilt in the near future.

Indeed, all of the circles maintain a rich history as witnesses to the growth of the City and fulfillment of L'Enfant's sweeping vision. California real estate