The District of Columbia Boundary Stones
One significant project of DCDAR is the preservation and recognition of the District of Columbia Boundary Stones.
The Nation’s First National Monuments—our unique Boundary Stones: The Residence Act of July 16, 1790, as amended March 3, 1791, authorized President George Washington to select a 100-square-mile site for the national capital on the Potomac River between Alexandria, Virginia, and Williamsport, Maryland. Major Andrew Ellicott, along with Benjamin Banneker, an astronomer and mathematician from Maryland, began surveying the ten-mile square on February 12, 1791. Over the period of two years, a total of 40 stones were placed forming the District of Columbia.
In 1915, in response to a lecture by Fred E. Woodward calling attention to the deterioration of the District of Columbia Boundary Stones, the District Daughters voluntarily assumed the responsibility of protecting the stones by erecting a tall iron fence around each one. For decades afterward, DAR members visited the stones periodically to perform routine maintenance and monitor the condition for signs further deterioration.
In 1791, after years of controversy and debate over the location of the permanent seat of government, President Washington issued a proclamation giving the exact boundaries of the “district for the permanent seat of government.” By late June of that year, all of the landowners had signed the necessary deeds.
The mile markers of the original boundary of the District of Columbia were put in place from 1791-1792 by Andrew Ellicott. Larger stones are laid at the north, south, east, and west corners of the original ten-mile square. The south corner stone was ceremoniously laid at Jones’ Point on April 15, 1791.
In 1846, the Federal Government returned to the state of Virginia the thirty-three square miles of land that Virginia had ceded to the Federal Government in 1789. Fourteen markers, or boundary stones, are still located in Northern Virginia, and twenty-six are located along the District of Columbia–Maryland boundary.
There has been a gradual deterioration of these historic boundary markers due to neglect and a lack of concern. Many of these stones have been buried or destroyed.
On April 7, 1915, the DAR Committee on Preservation of Historic Spots and Records (for the District of Columbia) selected the reclaiming of the boundary stones as its project for the year. The committee passed a resolution which later was endorsed by the State Regent and adopted by the State Society:
“That the DCDAR take up for part of their patriotic work for the year, the preservation and protection of the old boundary stones on which are recorded the oldest records of the District, by placing an iron fence around each stone, to be done by Chapter or individually.”
Today, the DCDAR continues to preserve these historical monuments and create public awareness of their importance.