Boundary Markers of the Original District of Columbia

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Northeast No. 2 Boundary Marker, along D.C./Maryland line, at 6980 Maple Street NW, Washington, D.C., with fence erected by the DAR

The Boundary Markers of the Original District of Columbia are the 40 milestones that marked the four lines forming the boundaries between the states of Maryland and Virginia and the square of 100 square miles (259 km²) of federal territory that became the District of Columbia in 1801 (see: Founding of Washington, D.C.). Working under the supervision of three commissioners that President George Washington had appointed in 1790 in accordance with the federal Residence Act of 1790, a survey team that Major Andrew Ellicott led placed these markers in 1791 and 1792. Among Ellicott's assistants were his brothers Joseph and Benjamin Ellicott, Isaac Roberdeau, George Fenwick, Isaac Briggs and an African American astronomer, Benjamin Banneker. [1] [2] [3] [4] Today, 36 of the original marker stones survive as the oldest federally placed monuments in the United States. Due to the return of the portion of the District south and west of the Potomac River to Virginia in 1846, twelve of these markers are now within Virginia.

Geography

The District of Columbia (initially, the Territory of Columbia) was originally specified to be a square 100 square miles (260 km2) in area, with the axes between the corners of the square running north-south and east-west, and having its southern corner at the southern tip of Jones Point in Alexandria, Virginia, at the confluence of the Potomac River and Hunting Creek (later the site of the Jones Point Lighthouse). [5] The sides of the square are each 10 miles (16 km) long. The specified orientation results in a diamond shape for the District's original boundaries on most maps.

The north-south axis of the District's current boundaries extends southward from the District's north corner near East-West Highway (Maryland Route 410), travels between 17th and 18th Streets, N.W., and continues south across the National Mall to the far shore of the Potomac River; the east-west axis is between the present Constitution Avenue and C Street, N.E. and N.W. [6] (These axes are not the lines used to define the four geographical quadrants of the District ( N.E., N.W., S.E., and S.W.), commonly appended to Washington street addresses, which are delimited generally by North Capitol Street, East Capitol Street, South Capitol Street, and the National Mall.) The center of the square is west of the Ellipse and north of the Mall, within the grounds of the headquarters of the Organization of American States. [7]

In 2011, the District of Columbia geographic information system (GIS) program completed a project to map the District's boundary using Global Positioning System (GPS) and contemporary survey technology at an accuracy of +/- 5 centimetres (1.97 in) horizontally and +/- 9 centimetres (3.54 in) vertically. The GIS program's survey found that (listed in the order in which Andrew Ellicott's team performed the initial boundary survey):

  • Along the northwest boundary, the stones are outside the existing boundary ranging from 4.43 feet (1.35 m) to 9.6 feet (2.93 m)
  • Along the northeast boundary, the stones are inside the existing boundary ranging from 6.6 feet (2.01 m) to 8.4 feet (2.56 m)
  • Along the southeast boundary, the stones are outside the existing boundary ranging from 12.75 feet (3.89 m) to 18.48 feet (5.63 m)

The overall accuracy of the historic survey and the survey using 2011 technology produced remarkably similar results. For example, the distance between Southeast stones numbers 6 and 7 is 5,280.824 feet (1,609.5952 m), almost exactly one mile (5,280 feet (1,609.3440 m)). [8]

Placement of the boundary stones

South corner stone within seawall south of the Jones Point Lighthouse in Alexandria, Virginia (2010)

On March 30, 1791, President George Washington issued a proclamation that established ″Jones's point, the upper cape of Hunting Creek in Virginia″ as the starting point for the federal territory's boundary survey. [9] Acting in accordance with instructions in the proclamation, the survey team then began its work at the square's south corner on the shoreline of the point, which was at the southeast corner of Alexandria, Virginia. [1] [5] [10] On April 15, 1791, officials dedicated the south corner stone in an elaborate Masonic ceremony at a point that Andrew Ellicott had determined. [5] [11] [12]

The survey team then cleared a corridor along the boundary route to facilitate surveying, traveling clockwise from the point and placing sandstone boundary markers at the four corners and at intervals of approximately one mile. [1] [5] The markers were quarried near Aquia Creek in Virginia. [5] Most weighed about a half-ton at their emplacement; the four cornestones were slightly larger. The Virginia stones were set in 1791, and the Maryland ones in 1792. [5] The map on the web page "Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia" identifies the location of each of the four corner stones and the existing intermediate stones. [13]

The side of a boundary marker that faced the federal territory was inscribed "Jurisdiction of the United States" and with the distance in miles and poles from the previous corner stone. The opposite side was marked with the name of the border state: Virginia or Maryland. The remaining sides were marked with the year that the team placed the stones and with the variation ("Var.") of the compass needle at that place. [4] [5] [14]

On January 1, 1793, Andrew Ellicott submitted to the commissioners a report that stated that the boundary survey had been completed and that all of the boundary marker stones had been set in place. Ellicott's report described the marker stones and contained a map that showed the boundaries and topographical features of the Territory of Columbia, The map identified the locations within the Territory of the planned City of Washington and its major streets, as well as the location of each boundary marker stone. [5] [15]

Sides of Southeast No. 6 boundary marker

The following images show the sides of the Southeast No. 6 boundary marker stone on August 17, 2011:

Protection and historical designations

Enlargeable 1908 composite photo by Ernest A. Shuster of the D.C. boundary stones and their sites prior to fencing in 1915 [13]

Protection

In 1906, Fred E. Woodward read a paper to the Columbia Historical Society that described the history, location and conditions of each of the remaining boundary stones, together with photographs of each. His paper concluded by recommending that the stones be protected by placing small fences around each one. [16] In 1909, Ernest A. Shuster of the United States Geological Survey wrote an article for the National Geographic Magazine that described his visits to the 36 remaining boundary stones and that urged their protection and preservation. [17]

In 1915, various local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) began to place fences around each of the markers. [5] [11] [13] The DAR also placed at the exact center of the original federal territory a marker stone that was located about a half of a mile from the White House and was near the DAR's Memorial Continental Hall. [11]

Historical designations

One Virginia boundary marker was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and another in 1980. In 1991, the remaining Virginia boundary markers were added to the National Register in response to a Multiple Property Submission that the Virginia DAR had submitted. [18] [19] In 1996, 23 marker stones along the boundary between the District of Columbia and Maryland were added to the National Register in response to registration forms that the District of Columbia government had submitted for each of the stones. Each of the District's registration forms referenced the documentation in the Multiple Property Submission for the Virginia markers. [20] [21]

Virginia

Southwest 9. [22] This boundary marker in Virginia was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and further was named a U.S. National Historic Landmark, in 1976 at the instigation of the Afro-American Bicentennial Corporation, which gave the stone its name: Benjamin Banneker: SW-9 Intermediate Boundary Stone. [23] It was the first of the boundary markers to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

South Corner. [24] This boundary marker in Virginia was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, together with Alexandria's Jones Point Lighthouse. [25]

Southwest 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8; West Corner; Northwest 1, 2, and 3. These boundary markers in Virginia were added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 1, 1991. [18]

District of Columbia and Maryland

Northwest 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9; North Corner; Northeast 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9; East Corner; Southeast 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9. These boundary markers, located along the border between the District of Columbia and Maryland, were added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 1, 1996. [20] [21]

Preservation efforts

In 1976, the National Capital Planning Commission published a report that described the history and condition of each boundary stone. [5] The report recommended that measures be taken to assure the stones' preservation. [5] In 1990 and 1991, a resurveying team to celebrate the boundary markers' bicentennial located two of the then-missing stones. [13]

In 1995, the Northern Virginia Boundary Stones Committee, whose establishment the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) had requested, issued a list of recommendations intended to document and preserve the 14 boundary stones that were located in Virginia. The Committee included representatives of the State of Maryland and of Arlington and Fairfax counties and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church in Virginia. [26]

In 2008, the NVRC announced that four Virginia local governments, including Arlington and Fairfax counties and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church, had agreed to help fund a project to protect and preserve the boundary stones by providing matching funds to a Transportation Enhancement Grant that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) had received from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). The announcement stated that the NVRC was working on an agreement with the DDOT, the National Park Service and the FHA to administer the project. [27]

However, the preservation project had not yet begun by 2012. It appeared that the DDOT no longer had the funds that had been allocated for the project. [28] In the meantime, teams of volunteers had begun to landscape and repaint the fences surrounding the stones. [29] In addition, the District of Columbia DAR restored the Northeast No. 7 boundary marker and its fence in 2012.

In 2014, the National Park Service, the historic preservation staff of the District of Columbia Office of Planning, the DDOT and the DAR initiated an effort to rehabilitate the boundary markers that were located along the District's contemporary boundaries. [30] As part of the project, in January 2015 a DDOT crew unearthed a stone buried in 1962 that had replaced Southeast No. 8, with the intention of cleaning and restoring the marker. [31] However, in 2016, the stone was replaced by a new stone that presumably replicated the appearance of the original stone when the original was new. [32]

List of boundary stones

The 36 extant and four missing boundary stones are tabulated in sequence below, beginning at the southern corner and proceeding clockwise, in the same order as the stones were placed. [13] The year of designation on the National Register of Historic Places is also included for each stone.

Southern corner

Name Also known as Address City/County Coordinates Status Designation
District of Columbia South Cornerstone South Cornerstone of the Original District of Columbia Seawall south of lighthouse, Jones Point Park, 1 Jones Point Drive, Alexandria City of Alexandria, Virginia; Prince George's County, Maryland 38°47′25″N 77°02′26″W / 38.7903387°N 77.0405825°W / 38.7903387; -77.0405825 (South Cornerstone of the Original District of Columbia) Extant 1980

Southwestern side

Name Also known as Address City/County Coordinates Status Designation
Southwest No. 1 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 1220 Wilkes Street City of Alexandria, Virginia 38°48′04″N 77°03′16″W / 38.80124°N 77.054357°W / 38.80124; -77.054357 (Southwest No. 1 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia) Extant 1991
Southwest No. 2 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia East side of Russell Road, north of junction with King Street City of Alexandria, Virginia 38°48′27″N 77°03′45″W / 38.807466°N 77.062510°W / 38.807466; -77.062510 (Southwest No. 2 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia) Missing 1991
Southwest No. 3 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 2952 King Street, in the parking lot of First Baptist Church City of Alexandria, Virginia 38°50′31″N 77°04′46″W / 38.8420475°N 77.079384°W / 38.8420475; -77.079384 (Southwest No. 3 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia) Extant 1991
Southwest No. 4 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia King Street north of junction with Wakefield Street City of Alexandria and Arlington County, Virginia Extant 1991
Southwest No. 5 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Northeast of junction of King Street and Walter Reed Drive Arlington County, Virginia 38°49′14″N 77°06′24″W / 38.820658°N 77.1067272°W / 38.820658; -77.1067272 (Southwest No. 5 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia) Extant 1991
Southwest No. 6 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia South Jefferson Street south of junction with Columbia Pike, in median strip Arlington and Fairfax counties, Virginia Extant 1991
Southwest No. 7 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Behind 3101 South Manchester Street, in fence southwest of Carlin Springs Elementary School (5995 5th Road South) parking lot Arlington and Fairfax counties, Virginia Extant 1991
Southwest No. 8 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia South of junction of Wilson Boulevard and John Marshall Drive, behind apartment building Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, Virginia Extant 1991
Southwest No. 9 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Benjamin Banneker: SW-9 Intermediate Boundary Stone West side of Benjamin Banneker Park, 1701 North Van Buren Street, between 18th Street North and Four Mile Run Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, Virginia Extant 1976

Western corner

Name Also known as Address City/County Coordinates Status Designation
West Cornerstone West Jurisdiction Stone In Andrew Ellicott Park at the West Cornerstone, 2824 N. Arizona St, Arlington, VA [33] Arlington County, City of Falls Church, and Fairfax County, Virginia 38°53′36″N 77°10′20″W / 38.8932193°N 77.1723036°W / 38.8932193; -77.1723036 (West Cornerstone of the Original District of Columbia) Extant 1991

Northwestern side

Name Also known as Address City/County Status Designation
Northwest No. 1 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 3607 Powhatan Street Arlington and Fairfax counties, Virginia Extant 1991
Northwest No. 2 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 5145 North 38th Street Arlington and Fairfax counties, Virginia Extant 1991
Northwest No. 3 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 4013 North Tazewell Street Arlington and Fairfax counties, Virginia Extant 1991
Northwest No. 4 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant grounds, 100+ feet east of the Capitol Crescent Trail and several hundred feet north of the intersection of Norton Street and Potomac Avenue Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northwest No. 5 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Dalecarlia Reservoir, 600 feet (180 m) west of Dalecarlia Parkway and 300 feet (91 m) southeast of concrete culvert Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northwest No. 6 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 150 feet (46 m) northeast of junction of Park and Western Avenues, Northwest Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northwest No. 7 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 5600 Western Avenue Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northwest No. 8 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 6422 Western Avenue Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northwest No. 9 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Rock Creek Park, approximately 165 feet (50 m) Northwest of the centerline of Daniel Road and 5 feet (1.5 m) southeast from edge of 2701 Daniel Road Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Maryland Extant 1996

Northern corner

Name Also known as Address City/County Coordinates Status Designation
North Corner Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 1880 block of East-West Highway (south side) Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Maryland 38°59′45″N 77°02′27″W / 38.9959461°N 77.040947°W / 38.9959461; -77.040947 (North Corner Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia) Extant 1996

Northeastern side

Name Also known as Address City/County Status Designation
Northeast No. 1 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Maryland Missing
Northeast No. 2 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 6980 Maple Street, Northwest Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northeast No. 3 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 144 feet (44 m) northwest of junction of Eastern Avenue and Chillum Road Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northeast No. 4 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 5400 Sargent Road Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northeast No. 5 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 4609 Eastern Avenue Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northeast No. 6 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 3601 Eastern Avenue Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northeast No. 7 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Fort Lincoln Cemetery Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northeast No. 8 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, northwest of junction of Eastern and Kenilworth Avenues Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Northeast No. 9 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 919 Eastern Avenue Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996

Eastern corner

Name Also known as Address City/County Coordinates Status Designation
East Corner Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 100 feet (30 m) east of junction of Eastern and Southern Avenues Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland 38°53′34″N 76°54′33″W / 38.892829°N 76.9092291°W / 38.892829; -76.9092291 (East Corner Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia) Extant 1996

Southeastern side

Name Address City/County Coordinates Status Designation
Southeast No. 1 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 30 feet (9.1 m) south of junction of Southern Avenue and D Street Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Southeast No. 2 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 4345 Southern Avenue Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Southeast No. 3 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 3908 Southern Avenue Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Southeast No. 4 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Missing
Southeast No. 5 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 280 feet (85 m) northeast of junction of Southern Avenue and Valley Terrace Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Southeast No. 6 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 901 Southern Avenue Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland Extant 1996
Southeast No. 7 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 25 feet (7.6 m) south of junction of Southern Avenue and Indian Head Road on the east side of Indian Head Highway Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland 38°49′16″N 77°00′04″W / 38.8211951°N 77.0010991°W / 38.8211951; -77.0010991 (Southeast No. 7 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia) Extant 1996
Southeast No. 8 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland 38°48′39″N 77°00′51″W / 38.810947°N 77.01420600000002°W / 38.810947; -77.01420600000002 (Southeast No. 8 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia) Missing
Southeast No. 9 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia 1,000 feet (300 m) southwest of the southern end of Oxon Cove Bridge and about 200 feet (61 m) east of the Potomac River [34] Washington, D.C., and Prince George's County, Maryland 38°48′13″N 77°01′26″W / 38.803528935698665°N 77.02383890748024°W / 38.803528935698665; -77.02383890748024 (Southeast No. 9 Boundary Marker of the Original District of Columbia) Extant 1996

Gallery of boundary markers of the original District of Columbia

Missing boundary markers

Four of the forty original boundary markers were not in or near their original locations in late 2016. Three of these had been replaced with substitute markers. [13]

Southwest No. 2 Boundary Marker

Replacement marker for lost Southwest No. 2 Boundary Marker, placed by the DAR in 1920 (2013)
Northern Boundary Stone (2017)
Northern Boundary Stone (2017)

The original marker disappeared before 1900. A marker stone now within a DAR fence near the street curb at 7 Russell Road north of King Street in Alexandria is a replacement about .35 miles southeast of the original location. DAR records show that the replacement marker was placed at its current location in 1920. The replacement marker lacks an inscription and does not resemble an original boundary marker. [35]

Northeast No. 1 Boundary Marker

Plaque showing the former location of the original Northeast No. 1 Boundary Marker (2011)

A photograph taken on June 13, 1916, shows a ceremony that members of the DAR conducted when they placed a fence around this marker stone, which was then in a field. [5] The stone was accidentally bulldozed and removed in September 1952 during the construction of a storefront at 7847 Eastern Avenue, northwest of the avenue's intersection with Georgia Avenue. A bronze plaque in the sidewalk in front of a shop at the site marks the stone's former location. [36]

Southeast No. 4 Boundary Marker

This marker, described as an "indistinguishable nub", was located in 1976 along Southern Avenue a few feet southeast of the avenue's intersection with Naylor Road. [5] When a truck knocked the stone out of place in 1985, the manager of a nearby apartment building moved it into the building's boiler room for safekeeping. [37] In 1991, the building manager gave the stone to the bicentennial resurveying team. [37] A team member then stored the stone in his garage. [38]

In 2012, the stone was transferred to the D.C. Office of the Surveyor, which intended to reset the stone near its original location. [37] However, in 2016, a replica of the stone resembling the presumed appearance of the original stone when new was placed near the original stone's site. [39] The original stone was placed on display in the Office of the Surveyor. [40].

Southeast No. 8 Boundary Marker

The original stone was removed in 1958 during construction and then either lost or stolen from a storage facility before it could be reset in the ground. In 1962, the DAR placed a new inscription-less stone in the same location along with the original stone's iron fence. However, further construction subsequently buried the replacement stone. [32]

The replacement stone was later discovered nearly eight feet below ground level in the southeast corner of the Blue Plains Impoundment Lot, on the Maryland side of the impoundment lot's fence. [32] A concrete pipe embedded in a mound of gravel was put in place to mark the replacement stone's site.

In 1972, the stone had been uncovered, and an excavation and relocation was planned, but never happened and the stone was again covered by landfill until 1991. A bicentennial resurveying team then dug it out of the ground, using old photographs to locate it. The stone was replaced underground for protection and covered by a taller pipe that was visible above the surface. [41]

In 2015, DDOT workers excavated and removed the stone after debris in the pipe had covered the stone. [31] [32] The stone was replaced in early 2016 with a replica that presumably had the same appearance as the original had when new. This replica was installed at ground level at the stone's original site. [32]

District of Columbia entrance markers

Entrance marker near Silver Spring in traffic circle (Blair Circle) (2011)
One of the Garden Club of America Entrance Markers in Friendship Heights (2005)

A group of entrance markers, erected later along major roads that travel into the District of Columbia, are located on or near the boundary of D.C. and Maryland.

An entrance marker stands in a traffic circle (Blair Circle) near Silver Spring at the junction of Eastern Avenue NW, 16th Street NW, N. Portal Drive NW and Colesville Road. [42] This marker is between the North Corner boundary marker and the former site of the Northeast No. 1 boundary marker of the original District of Columbia.

Three pairs of marker stones and another single stone are known collectively as the Garden Club of America Entrance Markers. [43] They are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • One pair of markers is located within Westmoreland Circle at the junction of Western Avenue NW and Massachusetts Avenue NW. [44] These markers are between the Northwest No. 5 and Northwest No. 6 boundary markers of the original District of Columbia.
  • Two similar markers flank Wisconsin Avenue at Western Avenue NW in Friendship Heights, adjacent to the Friendship Heights Station of the Washington Metro system. [45] These markers are between the Northwest No. 6 and Northwest No. 7 boundary markers of the original District of Columbia.
  • Another set of markers is located in Chevy Chase Circle. The primary intersection is Western Avenue and Connecticut Avenues, NW. [46] These markers are between the Northwest No. 7 and Northwest No. 8 boundary markers of the original District of Columbia.
  • An unpaired marker is located within a traffic island at the intersection of Georgia Avenue NW, Alaska Avenue NW and Kalmia Road NW. [47] This marker is between the former site of the Northeast No. 1 and Northeast No. 2 boundary markers of the original District of Columbia.

BOUNDARY STONES (DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA) INFORMATION

Boundary ... Stones ... District ... Columbia ...

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