Lafayette Square Park

Posted on November 2, 2019

If you are living in the United States, chances are you have heard of this park. It is a famous park that you can find almost directly across from the White House. If you have ever visited Washington D.C. you have likely seen this park. Plus, many people know the famous statue that is located within this park. The statue of Andrew Jackson on a horse with the hooves raised. This park is historical; however, it holds a few secrets of its own.

What is Lafayette Square Park?

Lafayette is a very popular park that is located just across from the White House. It is a seven-acre park that is for the public. It is located within the President’s Park. The park was named after a man named Gilbert Du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. This man was a French hero of the American Revolutionary War. The park has several statues including one of Lafayette. The other famous statue in the park is Andrew Jackson on a horseback. This park is part of the National Historic Landmark District. It was put into this district in 1970.

[Source: https://www.gsa.gov/cdnstatic/ephox_images/LafayetteSQ_EAST036Edit_1473880850214.jpg]

The First Plans

This park was planned to be part of the pleasure grounds that would surround the Executive Mansion. Originally, this was part of the President’s Park. This also included the White House, Eisenhower Executive Office, and The Ellipse. However, in 1804, Thomas Jefferson had a road installed called Pennsylvania Avenue. This cut through the park. This avenue separated the White House Grounds from the park grounds. The park was named in 1824 in honor of the French General.

The First Years

Lafayette Park was also known as Lafayette Square. This land was used as a graveyard, zoo, slave market, racetrack, encampment for soldiers during the War of 1812. It was also used for many political celebrations and protests. It wasn’t until 1851 that the park was landscaped by a man named Andrew Downing. However, not long after someone was tragically killed. In 1859 on a cold February night, Daniel Sickles had murdered Philip Barton Key II in the square. Philip is the son of the man who sang The Star-Spangled Banner.  Philip had come to the park for an assignation with the wife of Daniel. However, he was discovered and was then killed. With that being said, Daniel had extramarital affairs as well and they were well-known by the community and his wife.

A Weird Tale of Events

It was said that Daniel had seen the signal that the two used to communicate. It was a handkerchief that was waved by Philip. Philip waved this handkerchief near the home of Daniel. Daniel had seen this signal and ran for his pistol. He went out of the house and gunned down Philip. Philip was unarmed and shot three times. Philip had begged and pleaded for his life before he was shot and while he was being shot. Daniel was charged with murder after the incident; however, it didn’t end there. Daniel was the first person in the United States to claim temporary insanity and have it been successful. Before Daniel, many people claimed temporary insanity, however, no one had believed it.

That isn’t the weirdest thing yet. Daniel had gone on to command a disaster in the Military in Gettysburg. Sickles had gone against his orders. Not only did he get his battalion destroyed, but he had also lost a leg due to a cannonball shot.

He had the leg amputated and sent it to an Army Medical Museum. The note with the leg stated with the compliments of D.E.S.  – Major General. The leg is still in the museum today. However, it is said that Philip is haunting the park on the streets where he was shot. This is between 15th street and 16th street.

Source [https://wtop.com/halloween-news/2018/10/haunted-dc-are-the-dead-alive-in-lafayette-square/]

Decatur House

Many people have heard of pistol duels. You may think this is a really dumb thing to do, however, even though they were dumb, they were very common. In fact, they were so common that it led the military to have a short in officers.

A former United States Navy officer had to learn that the hard way in 1820. James Barron, who was another officer in the Navy, had challenged Stephen Decatur. Decatur was a subordinate of Barron. He challenged him to a duel in the following years after his court-martial.

The court-martial was due to the behavior of Barron in 1807. This was due to the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair in Virginia. This had forced Barron to surrender his ship. He had to surrender it to the British and this was leading up to the War of 1812.

Barron was not prepared for a fight. Three of his crew were killed and eighteen others were injured. This occurred when the Leopard open fired. It was at this time that Barron had been suspended from the Navy for five years. He did not receive pay during this time. During this time, Decatur was bad-mouthing Barron.

Once Barron had been reinstated, he had enough. It was at this time that he thought a duel would solve his problems. They dueled on March 22, 1820. Both men had hit their intended target, however, only one had survived the ordeal. Decatur had died the following day. He had died in his home at Lafayette Square.

About a year later, people believed that they had seen him staring out the window. He was thought to be walking out of the house as well. He would walk out the house holding dueling pistols. The sightings were reportedly so bad that the windows in the home were bricked up.

St. John’s Episcopal Church

Source: [https://wtop.com/halloween-news/2018/10/haunted-dc-are-the-dead-alive-in-lafayette-square/]

This is also known as the church of the presidents. It opened in 1816. This is the oldest building in the park beside the White House. Every president since James Madison has attended a service here at least once in their life. This is how it got the nickname. However, there is more to this little church than you may think. It is haunted.

It is said that when the bell rings, Joseph Revere will toll for a prominent person’s death. Joseph Revere is Paul Revere’s son. He had built the bell which weighs 1000 pounds. When this happens, six figures will appear. They appear in white robes and will sit at pew 58. This is the president’s pew. They appear at midnight and quickly vanish after. It is said that the men are paying their respects.

Octagon House

There are supposedly a lot of different spirits around this house. This house was designed by William Thornton. It was designed so that the exterior walls would be parallel to New York Ave and 18th Street. These streets shift at a weird angle. No one knows why it is called the octagon house because it only has six sides.

Tayloe along with his wife wanted to build a townhouse. They were extremely wealthy. It was George Washington who had persuaded the couple to build their home in Lafayette Square. At the time this was a newly established area. Washington had wanted the wealth to go into the district. This home was built in 1799 and after John Tayloe III had died in 1828, there were a lot of crazy happenings.

A skeptic was invited over for dinner and she witnessed bells being rung by someone. She had gone to investigate and had been lifted from the floor. In another instance, a General named Ramsay was having dinner in the home. All the bells in the house had begun ringing violently. General had gone to investigate; however, nothing was making sense. The butler had rushed into the room and stated that an unseen hand was at work. Ramsay had held the ropes that control the bells and the bells still would not be silenced.

Conclusion

Lafayette Square houses a lot of different buildings. The square is extremely haunted and there are many mysteries that we still do not understand. One thing we do know is that the paranormal activity that occurs here, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

 

Sources

https://wtop.com/halloween-news/2018/10/haunted-dc-are-the-dead-alive-in-lafayette-square/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lafayette_Square,_Washington,_D.C.