George Washington’s dishy letter about Pierre Charles L’Enfant is coming home

George Washington’s dishy letter about Pierre Charles L’Enfant is coming home. George Washington University revealed Monday that Albert H. Small, who is a native Washingtonian and a big local real estate developer, bought the 220-year-old letter at a Christie’s auction in New York on Friday. The unnamed seller is from New York, so now the letter — which deals with selection of an architect for the new federal city — will find its way back to a more geographically logical spot.


George Washington's autographed letter to David Stuart (1753-1814), 30 November 1792. (Photo courtesy CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2012)

In the letter, Washington laments that L’Enfant might have been a good candidate “if he could have been restrained within proper bounds and his temper was less untoward.” But he also praises L’Enfant’s abilities.

Small’s fascination with Washington goes deep — into his pocket. Christie’s says the sales price topped $290,000.

But this is the just the latest in a lifelong pursuit of historical documents. Small announced last year that he is donating his extensive collection of hundreds of documents to George Washington University and the first president’s letter about L’Enfant will be donated, too.

READ MORE: Christie’s to auction letter detailing George Washington’s impressions of L’Enfant

Manuel Roig-Franzia is a writer in The Washington Post’s Style section. His long-form articles span a broad range of subjects, including politics, power and the culture of Washington, as well as profiling major political figures and authors.
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