Mount Vernon is a priceless national treasure and symbol of America's foremost founding father. But were it not for a tiny staff guarding it through the 1860s, it might not have survived the Civil War. At the head of this skeleton crew was a soft-spoken, unassuming New York secretary who politely put her foot down and said: This is George Washington's ground, and your war will stop here.
From July 4, 1798 to his death in 1799, George Washington served as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army. Tensions with France were on the rise during the Quasi-War, so President John Adams appointed Washington to lead the nation’s armed forces.
Within local legend, David Burns, one of the area's early landowners, is better known as “the obstinate Mr. Burns.” The moniker was given to him by someone he really managed to irritate: George Washington.
It takes a lot of talent to design a city, especially one with such sweeping vistas and wide, radial streets as our Nation’s Capital. It’s hard not to admire the vision of Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the engineer behind Washington, D.C. But everybody makes mistakes—even visionaries— and L’Enfant was certainly no exception.
His biggest blunder was probably tearing down the house of his boss’s nephew.
If you’ve ever hiked Great Falls Park, you might have stumbled across the ruins of a long lost town. Matildaville was to be a bustling hub on an expansive trans-national trade route. But today, a spattering of stone ruins and a handful of crumbling locks are all that remain of a town conceived by none other than George Washington.
Across the country, members of high society celebrated George Washington's 200th birthday by attending costumed balls. But only Alexandria could boast that their ball occurred at the location of Washington's last birthday party.
In the historic society of Washington, there has always been a woman at the top. Sometimes she rules with an iron fist, sometimes it’s with charm, but she does rule. And the very first of these ladies was Marcia Van Ness. This future “heiress of Washington” got her start as Marcia Burnes, the daughter of David Burnes, a stubborn Scottish farmer. In 1790, the new location for the capital was chosen, George Washington got to know Mr. Burnes very well. Possibly too well, in the president’s opinion.
Benjamin Banneker was already a practiced mathematician and astronomer when he was approached in February 1791 by his friend Andrew Ellicott to survey the land staked out for the new United States capital. A free black who grew up in Maryland as a farmer, Banneker was more than a laborer. Though his formal education ended at an early age, he continued to study science and physics and would later write a series of best-selling almanacs. He designed and built a striking clock at age 22 that kept perfect time for forty years until it was destroyed in a fire. But, perhaps him most long lasting mark was the unique role he played in the development of the nation's capital — a job that went far beyond what Ellicott orginally had in mind.
Just within sight of the Washington Monument is a little stone house not open to the public. Used for National Park Service storage today, this house is the last remnant of one of the biggest mistakes in municipal planning in the District’s history: the Washington City Canal.
The canal was first conceived of by architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant. He envisioned something grand like, well, the Grand Canal at Versailles. George Washington thought the canal was a good idea because it would increase commerce by bringing goods directly into the city center.
But, right from the beginning, the proposed canal was plagued with problems.