Idealized View of Washington 1849.

View from the Capitol, ca. 1863 - on the today's National Mall and the Smithsonian Castle.

Washington DC in the 19th Century

When President John Adams moved to Washington in 1800 from the government?s temporary headquarters in New York, the new capital had no paved streets or other amenities found in European capitals. In the War of 1812, the British burned many of the capital?s few public buildings.

The city did not develop into a commercial center as George Washington had expected and the population remained small, increased temporarily when Congress was in session. By mid-century the federal government had created several handsome buildings such as the Capitol and the Treasury building, constructed with slave and immigrant labor. Clusters of residences appeared on Capitol Hill and west of the White House. Elsewhere, the broad, alternately dusty or muddy streets of Pierre L'Enfant's original plan, stretched across empty spaces-visitor Charles Dickens called it the "city of magnificent distances."



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