Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Cornerstone of America

The US Capital city was built along the Potomac River on land donated by Virginia and Maryland. In 1791 and 1792, Andrew Ellicott, with Benjamin Banneker and colleagues, slashed through the wilderness to survey the boundary of the United State’s new Federal City. Ellicott and his party placed marker stones every mile along the perimeter of the ten square mile parcel of land. These boundary stones constituted the first national monuments ever erected in this country. On the afternoon of April 15, 1791, under the direction of Benjamin Banneker, the mayor of Alexandria, several other dignitaries and the Freemasons of Alexandria marched south from Gadsby’s Tavern (then called Wise’s Ordinary) south to Jones Point on the Potomac River. There they erected the first of the forty boundary stones in full Masonic ceremony. This boundary stone then became the first National Monument ever erected in this country.

On Thursday of this week, Beth (and her brother David) and I drove south to Jones Point Park at the bottom of Lee St. We walked through the park, passed through a hole in a chain link fence, walked beneath the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, passed through another hole in the fence, and then to Jones Point Lighthouse. There, on the river side of the lighthouse and somewhat buried in the seawall, was the US Capital’s first boundary stone (only one of 36 of the original boundary stones remaining), first consecrated by the Masons of Alexandria. The stone is in an alcove in the seawall, which is covered by a grille. There is a hole in the top of the seawall to view the stone from above. Work accomplished to protect this first boundary stone was done by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

It is interesting to note that this portion of what was once part of the District of Columbia, laying south the Potomac River, was deemed too marshy for development and given back to the State of Virginia in the 1840s. It is now home to Arlington and Alexandria, VA, the Pentagon, and Arlington National Cemetery.

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