Washington DC Boundary Stones

What do you do when your summer nanny quits the week before school’s out?

Good thing I only have listings right now and almost no buyer clients because I have to parent my own children now. So we’re making lemonade from these lemons. DC Real Estate Mama’s Summer Camp Starts Today!

I’ve planned out a couple dozen activities I’m going to do with the kids this summer and to kick things off, today’s camp activity is part history, and part scavenger hunt.

Have you heard of DC’s boundary stones? We’re going to locate and discuss a bunch of them. Are you new to DC and wondering, “What’s a boundary stone?”

When the Residence Act of 1790 was passed, George Washington was given 10 years to establish the capital – 100 miles square – somewhere along the Potomac, from Williamsport MD to Alexandria.

What’s Williamsport known for? Camp Jellystone! We were there a couple weeks ago!

Thomas Jefferson, hopefully you know his name, hired Andrew Ellicott (a surveyor) who hired Benjamin Banneker. Banneker was an astronomer & surveyor tasked with finding the location for the southernmost stone. According to BoundaryStones.org, Banneker had to lay down on his back and plot the stars as they crossed his spot at a particular time.

This is the location of the South Boundary Stone.

The first boundary stone is the stone that started it all – the creation of boundaries of Washington DC – the Capital of the United States. We found that stone and then moved our way around the original city.

Then Ellicott’s people then plotted out 10 stone markers along the Southwest side of the city. As you can imagine, several have been moved, relocated, damaged by vehicles. Several are on private property.

We found SW 3, which was in a church parking lot. Then we found SW 9 – at Benjamin Banneker Park.

Finally we arrived at the West Corner Stone, which sits in a little neighborhood park in Arlington. It’s much shorter than other corner stones, and as reported by BoundaryStones.org, the thought is that this stone was meant to be placed on the other side of DC and a taller stone on the east side was to be placed here.

Most stones on the Northwest side are in people’s yards or in the Water Treatment Grounds in DC or in other areas that are closed to the public. I really want to see them all!

Despite being in a private yard, we did find and video NW 8, one of the only stones without a fence around it! It did have a little hat though.

The North Stone is off East West Highway. Many mistakenly believe the marker is in the circle on 16th Street. But we found it, and we have video proof!

Most of them on the Northeast side are in yards, one is in a cemetery, one in a forest.

Finally we found the East Corner Stone – it was in a path in the woods. When we pulled up, Real Estate Dad didn’t want to get out of the car to walk down the path in the woods, but the girls and I were having none of that. We went down the path and found it. Other people unfortunately found it as well as evidenced by the beer cans and condom wrappers. Poor East Stone, you’ve seen a lot in your 230 years.

The SE stones have suffered. These stones are along Southern Ave and this side of the city is heavily trafficked.

SE 4 was used as a target during the Civil War so it was in pretty bad shape. In the 1980’s it was smashed by a truck. A replica was placed, and that too was destroyed in 2020.

Several on this side were moved from the original spot as well so we ended our trip here, fulfilled with our fun history excursion and Real Estate Dad said, “Too bad we have kids. We could just go out on a date/scavenger hunt, this would be awesome.”

One little peanut in the backseat whispered to the other, “They are so weird.”