Located between the Botanic Garden and the U.S. Capitol, the Capitol Reflecting Pool was originally envisioned by Pierre L’Enfant (1754-1825), the architect and engineer who designed the plan of the city of Washington DC in 1791.
L'Enfant had planned to redirect the waters of the Tiber Creek into a canal falling into a cascade and pool at the foot of Capitol Hill. This would have been one of the most important water effects with which L'Enfant intended to beatify the city of Washington DC. Although the city plan was simplified in February 1972 by Major Andrew Ellicott, it retained some of the original characteristics.
When the Washington Canal was built in 1815, it did not incorporate any of L’Enfant’s basins or cascades. It ran down 3rd Street and crossed over the Botanic Garden, but it soon became a sewer and was channeled into a sewer line in the early 1870s.
In 1900, the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol Building was a complete mess. A train station and railroad tracks cut across it at 6th Street, shops, buildings and other random structures obstructed the monumental sight that L’Enfant had once envisioned. In 1901, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (1870-1957) was appointed by Congress to the McMillan Commission, which was established to fullfill L'Enfant's vision of a monumental national capital.