Lafayette Hall

From GW Encyclopedia

Building

Title: Lafayette Hall

Address: 2100 I St., N.W.

Square and lot, bordering streets: Square 77 (H, I, 21st, 22nd Streets)

Architect: Unknown

Date of construction: 1920s-1930s

Original owner: Unknown

Description: This eight-story former apartment building was converted to dormitory use in 1963-64. It has an elaborate overhanging cornice with dentils and a belt course with a full frieze and dentil course over the second floor. The third story windows are marked by cast stone semicircular panels with a fan motif. The second story windows are surmounted by shell shapes in cast stone.

The building was initially named for John C. Calhoun. It was changed to John Quincy Adams Hall in 1988-89, after students insisted that the name of a slaveholder and defender of slave institutions be removed. The name changed to Adams Hall, which recognized the steadfastness of John Quincy Adams in giving much-needed financial support to the University when it was known simply as Columbian College. At one time in the early 19th century, the sixth U.S. President was the college's principal creditor. Although residents in 1997 opposed the name-change to Lafayette, the Adams name is still a part of the University via the John Quincy Adams House at 2129-33 I Street.

The name of the Marquis de Lafayette is connected to GW in two ways. First, it recognizes the close relationship between George Washington, the general, and the young French aristocrat with whom he shared wartime experiences and with whom he corresponded affectionately until his death, a relationship so close that Washington regarded Lafayette as his "adopted son." Just as we borrowed Washington's name for our university in 1904, so we borrowed the name of his "adopted son" in 1998 to rename this hall.

Lafayette's personal connection with us dates from our first commencement, which he attended on December 15, 1824. Lafayette was in his 77th year when, after nearly a half-century's absence, he returned to America to revisit the places of his wartime service. His welcome was of such epic proportions that it would remain unequaled in Franco-American relations until Woodrow Wilson was mobbed by joyous Parisians at the end of World War I. On a visit that was to last 14 months, the Marquis arrived in late August 1824, to a New York welcome - greeted with fireworks, cannonades, banquets, and parades. A recent biographer, writing of Lafayette's last visit to the United States, called it "the grandest tribute ever paid by this country to any individual."

In 1824, at the first commencement, the venerable Marquis shook the hand of each graduate (three in all), and wished them - and the institution - the greatest prosperity.

Historic designation: None


Plaque:

Marquis de Lafayette Hall

Dedicated in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), a hero of the American Revolution, defender of liberty, statesman, and good friend of George Washington.

In 1777 the 20-year old Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, purchased a ship and sailed with a party of soldier-adventurers from France to America to join Washington's army. So impressive was the young marquis that he was made major general (without pay) by the Continental Congress and joined George Washington's staff. He was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine, served at Valley Forge, and played a vital role in the Yorktown Campaign. He returned home as a hero and at the age of 24 was raised by King Louis XVI to the rank of marechal-de-camp (brigadier general) in the French Army. A hero in both countries, he was influential in France and America, continuing to work diligently and diplomatically on behalf of American interests.

In 1784 Lafayette revisited America and stayed with Washington at Mount Vernon. On his farewell visit in 1824 he was magnificently entertained as a guest of the City of Washington. During this festive triumphal tour of the United States (1824-25), Lafayette and his Suite attended the first Commencement exercises of Columbian College, which later became The George Washington University. Held precisely at half past 10 o'clock a.m. on 15 December 1824 at Dr. Laurie's Meeting House on F Street between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Streets, the graduation was also attended by President James Monroe, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, Speaker of the House Henry Clay, and many other members of the two Houses of Congress. After the ceremony General Lafayette was welcomed by the First President of Columbian College, The Reverend Dr. William Staughton, at a reception at the College with the trustees, faculty, students, and other distinguished guests, followed by dinner at the home of the President.

All in all the First Commencement Day of our very young Columbian College was truly splendid-┬Čexceeding all expectations. Indeed it was one that would have done honor to any of the older universities in the nation. The press was enthusiastic in its reports of the Commencement. The weather was unusually fine. "Every part of the performance evinced talents and mental cultivation of a high order." The house was crowded with an "intelligent and fashionable auditory." Music was furnished by the United States Marine Band. Lafayette expressed his thanks for the honor done him, the pleasure with which he had witnessed the Commencement, and his wishes for the prosperity of the College. Each student was then introduced. The General shook hands with each one and spoke to all the students in terms of paternal affection. Such was the First Commencement Day.


Stephen Joel Trachtenberg
President

John D. Zeglis
Chairman, Board of Trustees

Charles T. Manatt
Vice Chairman, Board of Trustees

Sheldon S. Cohen
Vice Chairman, Board of Trustees

Lilien F. Robinson
Chair, Faculty Senate Executive Committee

Kuyomars "Q" Golparvar
President, Student Association

18 October 1997

Document Information

Images: 0
Photographic Credit: n/a
Author or Source: Reconnaissance-Level Architectural Survey of Properties in Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C., 1999 (RG0063, Series 10, Box 1, Folder 3); University Archives collections; Dr. Peter Hill
Document Location: University Archives
Date Added to Encyclopedia: December 21, 2006
Prepared by: Lyle Slovick

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Research Center

Gelman Library
The George Washington University
2130 H Street, NW Suite 704
Washington, DC 20052
202-994-7549

Please send us your questions and comments about the encyclopedia:
archives@gwu.edu