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.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.