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meridional line, by astronomical observation, through the area intended for the Capitol, and upon this basis laid off two sets of streets, intersecting each other at right angles, and distinguished by letters and numbers. The streets running north and south are numbered, and those running east and west are lettered, taking the Capitol as a starting point. Avenues were then projected, cutting the streets at various angles, and connecting the most prominent and favorable points of the city,—the avenues intersecting each other and forming open spaces at certain points previously determined upon. These avenues are named after and located to correspond with the position of the different States in the Union, and are from 130 to 160 feet wide; the streets vary from 90 to 110 feet. In the original plan, submitted to Congress in January, 1790, the following improvements were suggested :
1. An equestrian statue of Washington to occupy the present site of the Washington Monument.
2. An historic and itinerary column to be erected at the intersection of Massachusetts, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee avenues.
3. A naval column.
4. Squares were to be given to the States for each to improve, and designed for statues, obelisks, etc.
5. A church, for national purposes, to be located where the Patent Office now stands.
6. Five grand fountains, on reservation 17, intersection of F street and Maryland avenue, H street and New York avenue, H street north and Pennsylvania avenue, and
7. A grand avenue, four hundred feet in breadth, running from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, and
connecting with the President's park, forming a beautiful drive, bordered with gardens and shade trees. In designing this, Major L'Enfant is presumed to have had in mind the garden between the Chamber of Deputies and the Tuileries, at Paris. It was expected that public buildings or residences for the heads of departments and foreign ministers would be erected on this avenue.
8. The water of Tiber Creek was to be conducted to the Capitol, and from thence through the grounds to the canal. In lieu of this supply, a spring of water was conducted to the Capitol from the eastern part of the city.
The city is four miles and a half in length, from northwest to southeast, and two miles and a half in breadth. When the plan was completed, copies were sent to all parts of the country, and to Europe,—an act having been passed allowing aliens to hold lots,—and extensive investments were made. The first speculations in lots proved ruinous, having been engaged in under the supposition that the squares east and south of the Capitol would be taken up immediately ; whereas, the location of the public buildings near the President's mansion turned improvement in that direction.
The act of Congress authorizing the removal of the seat of government, required the completion of the public buildings before the first Monday in December, 1800. Washington found the greatest difficulty in procuring sufficient means.
The fund donated by Maryland and Virginia was exhausted, and Congress, by act of May 6, 1796, authorized the taking of loans for this purpose. Washington made a personal application to Maryland for a loan of $150,000. The Legislature of Maryland, by resolution of December 22, 1796, granted a loan of $100,000, on condition of the individual responsibility of the Commissioners. The buildings were reported ready for occupation on the 15th of June, 1800, and during that month the public offices were removed from Philadelphia, and Congress commenced its next session in the City of Washington on the 3d Monday of November following.
It was customary at that time for the President to open the sessions of Congress by an address, delivered in person, instead of sending a message. On this occasion the House of Representatives repaired to the Senate Chamber, after the manner of the British Parliament, and President Adams addressed the two Houses as follows :
I congratulate the people of the United States on the assembling of Congress at the permanent seat of their government; and I congratulate you; gentlemen, on the prospect of a residence not to be exchanged. It would be unbecoming the Representatives of this nation to assemble for the first time in this solemn temple without looking up to the Supreme Ruler of the universe and imploring His blessing. It is with you, gentlemen, to consider whether the local powers over the District of Columbia, vested by the Constitution in the Congress of the United States, shall be immediately exercised. opinion, this important trust ought now to be executed, you cannot fail, while performing it, to take into view the future probable situation of the territory, for the happiness of which you are about to ide. You will consider it as the Capital of a great nation, advancing with unexampled rapidity in arts, in commerce, in wealth, and in population, and possessing within itself those resources which, if not thrown away, or lamentably misdirected, will secure to it a long course of prosperity and selfgovernment.
The Senate, in their reply, said: “We meet you, sir, and the other branch of the National Legislature, in the city which is honored by the name of our late hero and
If, in your
sage, the illustrious Washington, with sensations and emotions which exceed our power of description.”
The House of Representatives, in reply, said: “The final establishment of the seat of our national government, which has now taken place in the District of Columbia, is an event of no small importance in the political transactions of our country. Nor can we on this occasion omit to express a hope that the spirit which animated the great founder of this city may descend to future generations; and that the wisdom, magnanimity, and steadiness which marked the events of his public life may be imitated in all succeeding ages. A consideration of those powers which have been vested in Congress over the District of Columbia will not escape our attention ; nor shall we forget that, in exercising those powers, a regard must be had to those events which will necessarily attend the Capital of America.”
The appearance of the city at this time is thus described by the Hon. John Cotton Smith, of Connecticut :
Our approach to the city was accompanied with sensations not easily described. One wing of the Capitol only had been erected, which, with the President's house, a mile distant from it, both constructed with white sandstone, were shining objects in dismal contrast with the scene around them. Instead of recognizing the avenues and streets portrayed on the plan of the city, not one was visible, unless we except a road, with two buildings on each side of it, called the New Jersey avenue.
The Pennsylvania, leading, as laid down on paper, from the Capitol to the Presidential mansion, was then nearly the whole distance a deep morass, covered with alder bushes, which were cut through the width of the intended avenue during the then ensuing Winter. Between the President's house and Georgetown a block of houses had been erected, which then bore, and may still bear, the name of the six buildings. There were also two other blocks, consisting of two or three dwelling-houses, in different directions, and now and then an insulated wooden habitation,—the intervening spaces, and indeed the surface of the city generally, being covered with shrub oak bushes on the higher grounds, and on the marshy soil either trees or some sort of shrubbery. Nor was the desolate aspect of the place a little augmented by a number of unfinished edifices at Greenleaf's Point, and on an eminence a short distance from it, commenced by an individual whose name they bore, but the state of whose funds compelled him to abandon them, not only unfinished, but in a ruinous condition. There appeared to be but two really comfortable habitations in all respects within the bounds
of the city, one of which belonged to Dudley Carroll, Esq., and the other to Notley Young, who were the former proprietors of a large proportion of the land appropriated to the city, but who reserved for their own accommodation ground sufficient for gardens and other useful appurtenances. The roads in every direction were muddy and unimproved. A sidewalk was attempted in one instance by a covering formed of the chips of the stones which had been hewn for the Capitol. It extended but a little way, and was of little value; for in dry weather the sharp fragments cut our shoes, and in wet weather covered them with white mortar. In short, it was a “new settlement.” The houses, with two or three exceptions, had been very recently erected, and the operation greatly hurried in view of the approaching transfer of the national government.
A laudable desire was manifested, by what few citizens and residents there were, to render our condition as pleasant as circumstances would permit. One of the blocks of buildings already mentioned was situated on the east side of what was intended for the Capitol square, and, being chiefly occupied by an extensive and well-kept hotel, accommodated a goodly number of the Members. Our little party took lodgings with a Mr. Peacock, in one of the houses on New Jersey avenue, with the addition of Senators Tracy, of Connecticut, and Chipman and Paine, of Vermont; and Representatives Thomas, of Maryland, and Dana, Edmond, and Griswold, of Connecticut. Speaker Sedgwick was allowed a room to himself,—the rest of us