Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bizarre Bites, Part I

A few strange tidbits from the annals of Washington, DC history:

On June 5, 1663, a man named Francis Pope laid out a plantation on the land that is now the heart of the capital, stretching 17 blocks west from where the Capitol building stands today. The western boundary of this property was a creek (now gone) called the Tiber. As though having a man named Pope living on the Tiber was not enough, he also named his estate "Room." Thus, it can be said that where Washington now stands, there was once a Pope in Room on the Tiber. Ironically acting the prophet, it seems Pope was also the first to predict that a great city would one day stand on that very ground.

If you thought moving the nation's capital to southern Maryland was the last word in Congressional relocation, you are sadly mistaken. After the Confederacy's attempt to establish a wholly new capital 100 miles to the south in Richmond, a new relocation effort was led by a veteran of the Civil War, General John Logan. Logan and the good people of Missouri believed that moving the capital to St. Louis would acknowledge and include the people of the burgeoning West. The people of St. Louis adopted several resolutions but, alas, could not convince enough people in the East to disassemble the capital, ship the pieces to St. Louis, and reassemble them there.

Washington, DC was named not by Congress, or Charles L'Enfant, the city planner, or popular opinion, but by the unilateral decision of three men. These men, the first commissioners of the city, charged by congress to oversee the construction of the new capital, wrote a letter to L'Enfant on September 9, 1791 declaring that "We have agreed that the Federal District shall be called the 'Territory of Columbia,' and the Federal City the 'City of Washington.'" Apparently, everyone else simply followed suit and the city became "Washington."

Source: George Rothwell Brown, Washington: A Not Too Serious History (Baltimore: Norman Publishing Company, 1930), 3-4, 42-43, 106.

1 comment:

  1. Despite advocating the relocation of the Capital to St. Louis, the good people of Washington, DC went ahead and didicated a circle to General John Logan. And the neighborhood known as Logan's Circle was born.