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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Comments (8)
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  • It’s actu­al­ly Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more Coun­ty (not Bal­ti­more — dif­fer­ent col­lege). Many peo­ple make that mis­take.

  • charlesfrith says:

    Is there any­thing about the Mason­ic lay­out of Wash­ing­ton here?

  • Rob Widing says:

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

  • Tom Z says:

    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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