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Guest Post: 2 PoP Readers Visit DC Boundary Stones by Vaughn and Amelia

by Prince Of Petworth August 31, 2009 at 11:00 am 18 Comments


“In 1791 and 1792, Andrew Ellicott and his surveying team placed 40 boundary stones around the perimeter of the District of Columbia, one at each mile of the original diamond shape…Ellicott’s team embarked on a 40-mile journey that took nearly two years.”

On August 16th, we set out to recreate Ellicott’s journey, one 10-mile side at a time, over the course of four (nonconsecutive) days. Why? Because we can. We started out with the NE boundary, which runs a conveniently straight path along Eastern Avenue (with a few notable exceptions). Not knowing what to expect, we decked ourselves out with excessive urban adventure provisions (CamelBack, beef jerky, camera, etc.).

www.boundarystones.org provides locations for all the stones. Those directions, combined with fences the DC chapter of DAR put around all the stones in 1915 to protect them, makes them relatively easy to find, though our iPhones proved invaluable for the trip.

Some high/lowlights:

* NE 1 was accidentally bulldozed in 1952 and is now marked by a plaque in the sidewalk in front of an Ethiopian restaurant called Tiramisu – good smoothies!
* In between NE 4 and 5, Eastern Ave dead-ends, with an “Emergency Exit” sign leading into a field…
* NE 5: white stone within white fence in front of white, vacant house – the most aesthetically pleasing stone on the NE side
* NE 6 and NE 9 are fully enclosed in private front yards; we tried to remain inconspicuous to the family sitting on the floor with the front door wide open trying to stay cool in the heat as we leaned over their fence to snap the photo (NE 6)
* NE 7 sits in the very back of the Fort Lincoln Cemetery; coincidence that the temperature reached near that of the fiery pits of Hell as we roamed the cemetery paths?
* Finding a faucet to douse your head in cool water. Invaluable.
* Emerging from the woods, leaping a fence onto the side of Route 50 to the confused stares of passing motorists (the mile between NE 7 and 8 includes the cemetery, an arboretum, a golf course, a state park, the Anacostia and two highways – just begging for trespassing and Frogger). Sense of adventure (stupidity?) necessary.
* Side of the road BBQ in the parking lot of Sammy’s Liquors. Who knew mac & cheese, pork and beans, and potato salad were vegetables?
* Approximately 20 Not In Service buses!
* Celebratory beer at Wonderland

Time elapsed from boarding S2 bus in search of first stone to disembarking at Columbia Heights metro after visiting last stone of the day: ~8.5 hours

Time between NE 7 and NE 8: ~3 hours

Total miles covered: ~15

Number steps taken: ~33,000

High temperature for the day: 93 degrees

Liters of water consumed: 4

Number boundary stones photographed (damn you, elusive NE 8!): 9

One quarter down, three to go!

  • D. Chambers

    This is incredibly cool. I would love to do the boundary stone tour one day.

  • Rachel D

    What fine ladies! Can’t wait for the next installment.

  • What’s a name anyway

    Is one of the ladies named Vaughn (if so – neat name for a girl) or did Vaughn help write the story? Was just curious because Rachel D is looking forward to seeing the “ladies” again.

  • Joe

    Awesome adventure, guys

  • Emmaleigh504

    More more more! Great post!

  • Rachel D

    I always look forward to seeing these ladies. And yes, Vaughn is not only one of the ladies (and you’re right, Vaughn is an awesome name for a lady) but also one of the authors/adventurers in the picture. As is Amelia.

  • ET

    I’ve seen a few with a friend.

    We saw the one at the Jones Point Light House is which is practically in the water, the one in the median at Bailey’s Cross Roads (SW6 I think), and one way out near East Falls Church (Benjamin Banneker Park SW9 I think) which was really, really hard to find.

  • Anonymous

    This was so informative! I’ve noticed one on Eastern Ave. and even brought it up to other people but never knew what it was.

  • Interested

    Hey, Vaughn, are you single?

  • Kalia

    did you eat any of the roadside bb

  • Kalia

    did you eat any of the roadside bbq at sammy’s? I drive past this every day on my way to and from work and have always wondered.

  • Anonymous

    What a great idea. I can tell you ladies are tons of fun. We want to hear about your next adventure!

  • Vaughn

    Yes! The ribs were pretty fatty and/but delicious. Very tasty sauce. The mac & cheese and potato salad were also quite good. Would they have been as good had we not walked so many miles and been stranded without an obvious way to get to the next stone/home? Unclear, but it was just what we needed at the time.

  • Kalia

    Awesome, well it sounds like you ladies had a great time! Congrats on the achievement!!

  • victoria

    Wait – what do you mean “fatty BUT delicious??? Really enjoyed this piece – supurb economy of words! (I’m often surprised at how much blog writing is more verbose than 19th century overwrought prose.) Looking forward to the next adventure.

  • As a DC Registered and Licensed Land Surveyor, Petworth resident, fan of DC history……………………and most importantly an avid beer drinker.

    I say, bravo ladies!

    And please dont forget Benjamin Banneker (Famous early black astronomer, mathamatician, surveyor) did all of the astronomic calculations to get the corners dead on. Side note, the DC Stones were re-surveyed using GPS and are amazingly accurate.
    Ben should have gotten our quarter!

  • Kathryn

    FYI, there is a book about the ‘sacred geometry’ of DC that will give you some additional information about the boundary stones and how they fit into early masonic history.

  • LadyBikerLover

    You ladies look mighty fine in all that bike gear


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