Warren G. Harding photo

Special Message to Congress on the Work of the Fine Arts Commission

November 22, 1921

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I transmit herewith for the information of the Congress the ninth report of the National Commission of Fine Arts for the period from July 1, 1919, to June 30, 1921.

The report deals with the progress made during the past twenty years in realizing the comprehensive plan for the entire District of Columbia reported to the Senate, as a result of extensive studies of the plans of capital cities in Europe. This plan was prepared as a public service by men of the highest standing in the professions of architecture, sculpture, and landscape architecture. Professedly it was based upon the L'Enfant plan of 1792 for the Federal city in the District of Columbia, designed under the personal supervision of President Washington; and, indeed, was largely an extension of that plan to cover the entire District. The L'Enfant plan was the first and most comprehensive design for a national capital ever adopted. The plan of 1901 reasserted the authority of the original plan; extended it to meet the needs of the Nation after a century of growth in power, wealth and dignity; and marked the path of future development. During the past two decades the essential features of the plan have been established, so that the work of the future will be largely a filling in of outlines. It is a source of satisfaction that so much has been done to make the city of Washington conspicuous among national capitals in respect of dignity, orderliness, convenience and beauty. All that has been done increases the importance of adhering to a plan that during nearly a century and a quarter has abundantly justified the foresight and the vision of the founders of the Republic.

The report of the Commission of Fine Arts deals also with the plans made under the direction of the Secretary of War for the cemeteries in Europe where rest the bodies of American men and women who gave their lives in the World War. By reason of their location on the field of battle the French cemeteries have a double claim to our reverent consideration—they mark both the places of burial of our heroic dead, and also the very field on which their sacrifice was made. These cemeteries are indeed fields of honor. They represent in the highest and most sacred way the participation of this nation in the Great War. They should be treated in a manner befitting their representative character.

Further, the report discloses the work of the commission in its many details. During the eleven years since Congress created that body its helpfulness has constantly increased. In many fields it has established and maintained standards of taste; and in furthering and safeguarding the plan of Washington it is especially useful.


THE WHITE HOUSE, November 22, 1921.

Warren G. Harding, Special Message to Congress on the Work of the Fine Arts Commission Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/329334

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