New Feature: Map of the Week Vol. 1 Johnson’s Georgetown and the city of Washington (1862)

Click to enlarge. Source: Library of Congress

Map of the Week is a new feature by David A., a systems librarian and map geek living in Mt. Pleasant.

Title: Johnson’s Georgetown and the city of Washington : the capital of the United States of America

This 1862 map of Washington, DC and Georgetown was published in the midst of the Civil War. At this point in DC’s history, the Washington Canal ran down present-day Constitution Avenue, Washington Avenue and 2nd Street SE. Interesting features include various creeks running through the city and Georgetown’s original street names. Georgetown was bounded on its north edge by Road Street (present-day R Street). It remained a city independent from Washington until 1871, when the streets were renamed to conform with Washington’s lettered streets.

31 Comment

  • Love this new segment!

  • Now this is an excellent new feature.

  • Why was the canal paved over!?

    • Partly? Malaria. And it was basically an open sewer at low volume.

      • Tyhpus and diptheria, not malaria. The District is in a non-Malarial zone.

        • Well, for what it’s worth, Wikipedia says: “Malaria was once common in most of Europe and North America, where it is no longer endemic, though imported cases do occur.”

          I think you might also be confusing typhus (spread by body lice) and typhoid fever (spread by contaminated food/water).

  • I love love love this. Map geeks unite!

  • Haha look at the old Georgia ave before they asked for it to be renamed to Potomac ave. Also my row house was but stable land for horses.

  • Road street? Come on.

  • East/West Potomac Park and the west 1/3 of the mall….all under water?!

  • austindc

    This is so cool! Now I know why my GPS always puts me on Road Street when I am trying to get to Street Road. I also had no idea the Washington Monument used to have that structure around its base. Also, we had a Poor House?

  • Couple more relevant factoids: The wards are shaded and numbered, and one can see why the Southwest quadrant was referred to as “The Island.”

  • Thanks for all the positive feedback, folks. New post next Tuesday!

  • Cool – also if you like this I highly rec visiting the CVC and seeing the cool dioramas that show how the area around the Capitol developed. Also – you can get some of these maps printed off for a small fee at NARA.

  • J St. east of Mt. Vernon Square, but K St. west of it? Is that right?

  • Why are the blocks in Wards 5 and 7 (and the southern parts of all the other Wards) shaded in? Is that elevation?

    • My guess: shaded areas show the parts of town that were laid out and/or developed. The non-shaded areas were probably still empty land.

      • I do believe the shading on the squares is intended to represent human settlement., although “laid out” and “developed” are overstated. Very few parts of town had any infrastructure until the A.R. Shepherd regime a decade after this map, and north of about O St was almost all open – fields, orchards, brickyards, swampy areas… This map probably had some sort of promotional use and might have exaggerated a bit.

  • Also: Gay street in Georgetown? What happened to that? I just Googled it, and apparently there’s one in NE now. [Cue discussion about which is the real “gay street” today.]

    • The unification of the District into a single political entity in 1871 began a somewhat shambolic 30+ year effort to get the street grids of Georgetown (a town that existed prior to DC’s founding) and formerly suburban areas that developed outside of the L’Enfant grid (mostly north of Florida Ave., in what before 1871 was known as Washington County, DC) to harmonize with the city grid. This involved decades of planning, negotiating, citizen protests, and was never fully realized (there are still many exceptions and old names / street trajectories that persist). Gay St. was renamed N as part of that process.

  • Also worth noting on this map:

    1. It shows “Eldorado” or “Goose Egg Island”, the island at the mouth of Tiber Creek (the whole area is now fiilled and part of the Washington Monument grounds.)

    2. It shows the Gibson Spring in the “notch” along the boundary on Florida Avenue. Per William Tindall [Standard History of the City of Washington, 1914, p. 99-100] this sat on the land of Benjamin Stoddert, an associate of George Washington, and his desire to keep the spring on private land explains the angle in the boundary.

    3. DC’s second jail, then known as “The Blue Jug”, is visible at the NE corner of Judiciary Square.

  • This is so cool! Excited for more!

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