It was the Board of Public Works under the leadership of Alexander “Boss” Shepherd that spearheaded the way for the development of Dupont Circle (then Pacific Circle). Nevada Senator William Morris Stewart led the “California Syndicate,” which bought up tracts of undeveloped land around the area. The style of the neighborhood was set when Senator Stewart erected his Victorian mansion (now demolished) in the 1870s. By the late 1880s the Dupont area was an affluent and vibrant neighborhood.
In 1871 the Corps of Engineers began construction of Pacific Circle. In 1882, Congress authorized a memorial statue of Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Dupont in recognition of his Civil War service; a bronze statue was erected in the middle of the Circle in 1884. In 1921, the statue of Dupont was replaced by a double-tiered white marble fountain, paid for by the DuPont family. It was designed by noted sculptor Daniel Chester French and architect Henry Bacon. Three classical figures, symbolizing the Sea, the Stars, and the Wind, are carved on the fountain’s central shaft.
The Dupont Circle Historic District, established in 1978, is a primarily residential historic district extending generally in all directions from Dupont Circle. Two types of housing stock dominate the historic district: freestanding mansions built in the styles popular between 1895 and 1910 and three and four-story row houses, many of which are variations on the Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque styles. The mansions line the broad, tree-lined diagonal avenues that intersect Dupont Circle and the row houses line the grid streets. This juxtaposition of house types and street pattern gives the area a unique character.
Commercial corridors along Connecticut Avenue and P Street west of the circle developed on the first floor of residential buildings, later giving way to commercial buildings. The early commercial buildings were small in scale – no more than four stories. In more recent years, large-scale commercial office buildings have been constructed on Connecticut Avenue, around the Circle itself, and along P Street to make this neighborhood the transition from downtown to residential areas to the north. – Credit: National Park Service