The Capitol Building and Penn Ave
As it is today, Penn Ave consists of three segments with three different bearings. Below we can see that the section (marked 1) between Georgetown (in the NW) and the White House, when extended, points to where the avenue eventually ends on the East Branch. The Red Line contains these three points, but the Capitol Building is located north of this straight line.
The blue rectangle marks the ideal location of the CB on a straight PA.
Because there was not enough time to do the landscaping that it would require to locate it there, the CB was moved slightly to the north, taking Penn Ave with it. To repeat, I am suggesting that the city planners would have liked for Penn Ave to have run straight from Georgetown to the East Branch of the Potomac, but that the designed location for the CB fell on the side of a steep hill and the decision was made to move it north about 600 feet, causing a bend in the avenue.
If you have read David Ovason's book "Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capitol", you may remember that he asserts that the middle section of PA was purposefully aligned to the sun set (over the WH as seen from the CB) on August 10th. The book appears to recommend that the location of the CB was chosen first (on the edge of Jenkins Heights) and then the WH was positioned in order to produce the alignment.
To Ovason, the city was purposefully designed around a crooked line. The question that one would want to ask him is why they didn't make the avenue straight at the angle of the middle section all across the city? To me, the city was designed around a straight line from Georgetown to the EB; a design that was altered for topographic reasons.
The Ideal Location
One side of the Pentagon (completed in 1943 like the
This line (to the Pentagon) is the ideal location of Maryland Ave and the Jefferson Mml (where it crosses 16th Street). This means that had Penn Ave been straight, Maryland Ave and the Jeff Mml would have been in different positions (shown above). Moving the CB south would straighten Penn Ave and re-align Maryland Ave (which reflects at the CB at the same angle as PA), thereby re-positioning the Jeff. Mml. [This line parallels the line from Arlington to the Lincon Mml.]
[Note that since the middle section of Penn Ave (2 above) parallels the southeast segment of Virginia and the southeast section of PA (3 above) parallels the southeast half of Mass Ave, straightening PA would generate changes in these too.]
The Straight Line Hypothesis
There are two axiis of symmetry in the DC map. One is 16th Street that runs N-S through the WH and the Jeff Mml, the other is E Capitol St, running east from the CB through Lincoln Square. As you can see below, if the CB had been further south, E Cap St and Lincoln Sq (where Mass Ave crosses ECapSt) would also be further south. As a matter of fact, everything in purple below would be altered were the CB moved south to correct the map.
Moving the CB south would alter everything in purple
The areas in brown (around the pentagram) are the only ones not affected by the change; we will designate this the 'correct' part of the map. Below we project the lines within the pentagram to show the beginnings of a rhombus grid of parallel diagonal lines. New York and Penn Aves cross at the WH, while Mass and Rhode Island cross at Scott Cr.
The re-drawn ideal map consisting of straightened streets (in red)
[Note that this image features a straightened NY, Penn and Mass Aves. Since the map is symmetrical around 16th Street, and since the CB is located north of the 'straight line', both Penn and NY Aves 'turn up' at the WH. The bend in Mass Ave is apparent when you project the northwest section straight, as was done above with Penn Ave. Several changes are necessary to make the southeast section of the map 'fit' the correct part of the grid in the map. Moving the Wash Mmt south, for instance, would relocate Va Ave.]
Below we see Mass and RIs Ave's forming a Star of David as they cross 16th St at Scott Cr (north of the WH). The crossing diagonals form 23+ degree angles like the tropics (in the correct part of the map). The 'correct' angle for the diagonal streets is 23+ degrees. The points of the pentagram produce a 23+ degree rhombus grid as well as a 52 degree triangle. Note how the triangle intersects the rhombus grid where those diagonals cross.
Had the CB been located where the (blue) triangle crosses the straightened PA (above), Maryland Avenue would have crossed there at the same angle as NY and Potomac Aves, bringing it 'in line' with the grid around the pentagram.
The Straight Line Hypothesis proposes that the ideal plan for the city would feature straight lines and that Penn Ave was the prime diagonal for the plan. Moving the CB south straightens PA and Maryland Ave and relocates the Wash Mmt, the Lincoln Mml, the Jeff Mml and Lincoln Sq and Va Ave, but what about Mass Ave?
Lincoln Sq and Mass Ave
Mass Ave currently has a bend in it like PA. It runs from NW to south east through the pentagram, then changes course north of the CB, taking aim at Lincoln Sq. If Mass Ave is determined by LS and if LS moved south with E Cap St, then the bend in Mass Ave will be even worse... unless LS is moved east, as is done above.
This new location of LS is the same distance east of the CB as the WH is west of it. Moving the CB south and LS east straightens both PA and Mass Ave, and regularizes the map.