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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
City and suburb boundaries in the District of Columbia

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City and suburb boundaries in the District of Columbia

'Map of the District of Columbia and Vicinity'

City and suburb boundaries in the District of Columbia
Currently on display
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection

Two cities and four early suburbs are highlighted on this map. The District of Columbia was originally created as a square 10 miles long on each side, and the city of Washington was established in a generally flat plain in the middle of the District. Georgetown, founded in 1751, enjoyed separate government until finally merged with Washington in 1895.

Transportation infrastructure and suburban development went hand in hand in D.C., as they did in all American cities. Uniontown (Anacostia) was the first planned subdivision in the District, laid out in 1854 near the foot of the Navy Yard Bridge, across which the developers hoped to attract residents from among the Navy Yard's workers. Le Droit Park, platted in 1873 at the end of a streetcar line, was designed to be an exclusive suburban retreat for wealthy whites. It became a prominent African-American neighborhood after the turn of the century. Developers established Takoma Park (straddling the Maryland-D.C. line) in 1883, and advertised the suburb's convenient access to Washington along the B&O Railroad's Metropolitan Branch. Finally, the business syndicate that developed Chevy Chase, needing to connect its new community to the Washington, built an extension of the city's Connecticut Avenue as well as a trolley line through the District's rural countryside in the 1890s.

Physical Description
Custom illustation created for the exhibition America on the Move. Base map is the 1892 Map of the District of Columbia and Vicinity. The boundaries of the cities of Washington and Georgetown are marked on it, as are the locations of a small selection of early suburbs and the transportation corridors that connected them to the city.
Date Made:
Dist of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia
As commercial and government expansion after the Civil War spurred population growth in the nation's capital, more and more of Peter Charles L’Enfant's grand plan for the City of Washington was improved and developed. Long before building opportunities had disappeared within the city, however, entrepreneurs and speculators began to invest in estate and agricultural lands beyond the city boundary, usually spurred by lower land prices. As streetcar connections and urban crowding boosted the value of lands in the County of Washington through the 1870s and 1880s, these investors, plus a smaller number of ambitious property inheritors, profited by subdividing their land into lots better sized for residential and commercial development. Actual building was left, more often than not, in the hands of individual buyers or speculative builders.

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