A Digital Reconstruction of Washington D.C. in 1814

What did the U.S. capital look like 200 years ago? Finding a satisfactory answer to this question is very difficult since there are very few reliable images, maps and written accounts from Washington’s early days. This is why Dan Bailey, director of the Imaging Research Center (IRC) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, has approached architectural historians, cartographers, engineers, and ecologists to “recreate a ‘best guess’ glimpse of the early city.” The video above is the result of the IRC’s work, showing a city that was, they say, “a rough work in progress.”

Nothing was polished. The scale of the federal city was that of a person, not of immense marble bureaucracy. There were cabins and barns on the Capital Lawn. The first fence around the Capitol was to keep the cows out. Congressmen came to town for the legislative sessions, many times sleeping 3 to a room in a boarding house, and working in unfinished buildings.

An in-depth article about the ongoing project was published in The Washington Post.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.



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  1. Maria Costea says . . . | May 31, 2011 / 5:23 pm

    It’s actually University of Maryland, Baltimore County (not Baltimore – different college). Many people make that mistake.

  2. charlesfrith says . . . | June 1, 2011 / 2:55 am

    Is there anything about the Masonic layout of Washington here?

  3. Rob Widing says . . . | June 1, 2011 / 11:27 am

    That’s really Neat. Thanks to the guys who made this.

  4. Tom Z says . . . | June 1, 2011 / 5:46 pm

    Thanks.  This makes it even easier to see this worthless swamp.  It was chosen knowing that Congress would meet during the tolerable winter/spring seasons and then go home; thereby avoiding the hot and miserable summers….

    Dang’it, the invention of air conditioning made it possible for Congresscritters to stay the whole year in the attempt to justify their positions….. not to mention the layers of bureaucrats that soon developed.

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