Map of the Week Vol. 7 – View of the City of Washington in 1792

Click to enlarge. Source: Library of Congress

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

This week’s map, published in the 1860s, depicts the area’s pre-district plantations as they might have existed in 1792. A few parcels of land bore names that carry on today: Mount Pleasant, Isherwood (Road in NE DC), but most of the place names shown here were lost to time. Most curious are the little towns of Hamburgh and Carrollsburg along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, respectively. Carrollsburg occupied the land around present-day Nationals Park. Hamburgh looks like it was located in present-day Foggy Bottom (the water’s edge was much further north at that time). Since the origins of this map are unknown, and it was hand-drawn many years after the time it depicts, we might not accept it as an authority on the geography of the future capital in 1792.

My favorite parcel of land is “Mexico” just west of Hamburgh where the Kennedy Center stands today. Widow’s Mite, which appears to include today’s Dupont Circle, is a close second. “

18 Comment

  • Otherwise known as the Committee of 100’s 2030 Master Plan

  • Look @ all the trees

  • Where is the Potowmack River? Ha ha ha.

  • Coming soon to 7th St: the Widow’s Mite Bistro.

  • andy

    Widow’s Mite: That’s a reference to that story of the widow who donates all she has, a couple nearly worthless coins, at the temple, while rich men only give a small part of their wealth.

    Maybe the name is a sly reference to a piece of land being nearly worthless?

  • These names sound like they’re straight out of Jane Austen!

  • em

    Why is Carrollsburg curious? The name lives on in a number of streets and developments in SW DC.

  • I like the fact that line which would later be Boundary Rd/Florida Ave is already such a defining boundary on this map, and I don’t think there was even a road there! There were lots of farms and private tracts north of this map that I guess didn’t make the cut.

    • I think this is because this is a map of the City of Washington (though G’town is over there to the wet) not the District of Columbia. I am pretty sure this area is currently what is referred to as Old City with on assessment information.

      • It shows the boundaries of what would become the city of Washington, but there is in fact no city of washington on this map. Georgetown was not planned to be part of the city of washington, but only neighboring it..within Washington County….

      • I was just struck by how well-defined that border was for a distinction that didn’t actually exist yet. I wonder how it came to be at that exact location; there’s no natural border, so it must have been surveyed. Maybe that was the purpose of this map. The terrain does general slope higher north of Boundary Rd, but not in such a clearly defined line.

        • I wonder if some of that abrupt change of terrain has been smoothed over in the process of building a city?

  • did goose creek become tiber creek?
    and what happened to james creek?

  • Would love it if photos existed from back then. It would be a treat to see Mt. Pleasant forest.

  • Carrollsburg and Hamburgh were undeveloped paper towns, speculative subdivisions in which one could invest a little money.

    Goose Creek did become Tiber Creek, the lower part of which became the City Canal, leading from the Potomac to the Center Market, where the National Archives sits today. The James Creek Canal remained uncovered into the 20th Century. Many newspaper stories of cows and drunks falling into the canal. Good times!

    • Beat me to it, but yes – absolutely correct. They are “paper” towns. They were never developed. It is quite the interesting map and would be curious who made this one. Could have been someone random hoping to play SimCity back then…

Comments are closed.