Boundary Stones
of the District of Columbia

Recent News

May 31, 2024: Stephen Powers saves SE7.

November 1, 2023: Washington Wizards debut uniforms based on the boundary stones.

May 31, 2020: Michael Wardian completed the only known single outing run of the boundary stones.

Apr. 25, 2020: Cancellation of annual boundary stone ride (see cue sheet).

Sept. 23, 2017: East corner rededication: brochure, remarks by Stephen Powers, photos (1, 2, 3, 4), video, media.

Early History

The Residence Act of July 16, 1790, as amended March 3, 1791, authorized President George Washington to select a 100-square-mile site for the national capital on the Potomac River between Alexandria, Virginia, and Williamsport, Maryland. President Washington selected the southernmost location within these limits so that the capital would include all of present-day Old Town Alexandria, then one of the busiest ports in the country. Acting on instructions from Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Major Andrew Ellicott began his initial observations for a rough survey of the ten-mile square on Friday, February 11, 1791.

Ellicott, a prominent professional surveyor, hired Benjamin Banneker, an astronomer and surveyor from Maryland, to make the astronomical observations and calculations necessary to establish the south corner of the square at Jones Point in Alexandria. According to legend, "Banneker fixed the position of the first stone by lying on his back to find the exact starting point for the survey ... and plotting six stars as they crossed his spot at a particular time of night." From there, Ellicott's team embarked on a forty-mile journey, surveying ten-mile lines first along the southwest line, then along The northwest line, next along the northeast line, and finally along the southeast line. The team completed this rough survey in April 1791.

On April 15, 1791, the Alexandria Masonic Lodge placed a small stone at the south corner at Jones Point in ceremonies attended by Ellicott, federal district commissioners Daniel Carroll and David Stuart, and other dignitaries. George Washington did not attend the ceremony, although he did visit the site the prior month. Newpapers around the country announced the story of the beginning of the new federal city. (In 1794, the ceremonial stone at Jones Point was replaced by a large stone, still in place today, with the inscription "The beginning of the Territory of Columbia" on one side.)

Ellicott's team, minus Banneker, who left after the placement of the south stone, then began the formal survey by clearing twenty feet of land on both sides of each boundary line and placing other stones, made of Aquia Creek sandstone, at one-mile intervals. On each stone, the side facing the District of Columbia displayed the inscription "Jurisdiction of the United States" and a mile number. The opposite side said either "Virginia" or "Maryland," as appropriate. The third and fourth sides displayed the year in which the stone was placed (1791 for the 14 Virginia stones and 1792 for the 26 Maryland stones) and the magnetic compass variance at that place. Stones along the northwest Maryland boundary also displayed the number of miles they fell from NW4, the first stone placed in Maryland. Stones placed at intervals other than a full mile listed their distances partially in miles and partially in poles.

The boundary stones are the oldest federal monuments. Although several stones have been moved or severely damaged, thirty-six stones from the 1790s are in or near their original locations, including all fourteen in the land that was returned to Virginia in the 1846-1847 retrocession. Three other locations have substitute stones (SW2, SE4, and SE8), and one location (NE1) is marked only by a plaque. This site describes the locations of the stones as of 2016, updating the information provided by the Daughters of the American Revolution (1976) and the National Register of Historic Places (1996).

Map of Locations

Click the map markers below for photos and information about each stone. The D.C. Geographic Information System's 2011 survey provided precise GPS data for all but two stones that were respositioned after the survey and therefore have only approximate coordinates. Locations marked with "X" lack stones from the 1790s. Save the map in Google Maps. Stone locations are available in GeoJSON format as well.

Growing Public Interest

After Ellicott's team, the next to survey the stones was Marcus Baker, who visited each stone's location during the summer of 1894. Baker reported his survey to the Columbia Historical Society. Following Baker, Fred E. Woodward photographed thirty-nine of the boundary stones--all but SW2, which had been lost even before Baker's survey--starting in 1905. In his reports to the Columbia Historical Society (published in 1907, 1908, and 1915) and in public presentations, Woodward described the extent to which the stones had deteriorated and proposed that they be protected for the enjoyment of future generations. Ernest A. Shuster, Jr., followed in Woodward's footsteps soon after with his own impressive photo collection and article.

In 1915, the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DCDAR), citing Woodward's work, voluntarily assumed the responsibility of protecting the stones by erecting a tall iron fence around each one. For decades afterward, DCDAR members visited the stones periodically to perform routine maintenance. Despite DCDAR's care and attention, many of the stones fell on hard times during the mid-1900s, as documented by Kenneth Lawrence, who updated the work of Baker and Woodward after visiting all of the stones during the summer of 1949. Several stones were repositioned, removed, lost, or buried during construction projects over the years.

Restoration Efforts and NACABOSTCO

In 1978, Kevin Wood of Boy Scout Troop 98 led a service project that visited most of the stones to clean up the sites and repaint the fences. As Mr. Wood explained in 2012,
"It was a fun project which we did over three or four days, All the Virginia ones one day, All Anacostia another. And I am pretty sure we did the top half of the city over two days. The green paint came from the DC parks department; my dad called them and set it up. An older parks employee came by the house one day with the paint and he and I drove around the city, to show me where the stones were. He seemed to be pretty enthusiastic about it, he showed me Southeast 9 and the one in Kenilworth Gardens. I am pretty sure he even took me across the bridge to the one at the southern tip of DC, but not the VA ones. So we sort of had permission to do the ones in DC. In VA we hadn't contacted anybody. If the stone was in a public place or a park, VA fences got a coat of green DC paint too. In some cases the stones, in VA, DC and MD were on lawns and cared for and we didn't do anything. We always rang the doorbells and talked to the people and asked if they wanted us to paint the fences. I think they always or almost always said no. Usually they had them painted black. Sometimes we clipped the weeds ad the hedges on private property, I think we did this for one on Eastern Avenue inside of a chan link fence surrounded by hedges. The only stone we didn't actually get to see was one in a backyard in VA, the first or second on the northern stretch. The woman of the house was very firm about not allowing us to see it."
In 1990 and 1991, a resurveying team led by David Doyle to celebrate the District's bicentennial located two missing stones. In September 1995, the Northern Virginia Boundary Stones Committee (NOVABOSTCO), under the leadership of chairman Ric Terman, issued a 77-page report on the status of the fourteen stones in Virginia. NOVABOSTCO's successor, the Nation's Capital Boundary Stones Committee (NACABOSTCO), chaired first by Terman and later by Stephen Powers, has worked since 2000 to ensure the preservation and appreciation of all of the stones, partnering with DCDAR, the American Society of Civil Engineers - National Capital Section (ASCE-NCS), the District of Columbia Association of Land Surveyers, and other government agencies, historical societies, and professional associations. As part of that effort, Gayle T. Harris inventoried DCDAR's extensive holdings in 2001. BoundaryStones.org followed in April 2006.

Since 2010, ASCE-NCS has led restoration projects that pick up where Troop 98 left off. In 2015 and 2016, the District Department of Transportation and National Park Service worked together to protect the east and north corner stones and place replica stones for SE4 and SE8.

Absolutely Required Reading

A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc.: The Hunt for Southeast 8 (Apr. 29, 1991).
Alexander, Mrs. Sally Kennedy: "A Sketch of the Life of Major Andrew Ellicott," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 2, pp. 170-182 (1899).
Baker, Marcus: "The Boundary Monuments of the District of Columbia," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 1, pp. 215-224 (1897).
Chase, Louise Coflin: Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia (1930) [unpublished manuscript in the Washingtoniana Collection of the District of Columbia Public Library], later reprinted (minus one paragraph) in Records and History of the Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia (no date) [unpublished manuscript in the Kiplinger Research Library of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.].
DCDAR: Records and History of the Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia (no date) [unpublished manuscript in the Kiplinger Research Library of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.].
DCDAR: Biographies of the Boundary Stones (2001) [unpublished manuscript in the Kiplinger Research Library of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.].
Miller, Mrs. Charles S., State Historian, DCDAR: Correspondence with National Park Service regarding the disappearance and replacement of SE8 (1962).
Northern Virginia Boundary Stones Committee: 1994-1995 Findings and Recommendations of the Northern Virginia Boundary Stones Committee (Sep. 1995).
Nye, Edwin Darby: "Revisiting Washington's Forty Boundary Stones, 1972," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 48, pp. 740-751 (1973).
Robinson, June: "The Arlington Boundary Stones," The Arlington Historical Magazine, Vol. 9, pp. 5-19 (Oct. 1989).
Shuster, Ernest A.: "The Original Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia," National Geographic, pp. 356-359 (Apr. 1909).
Stewart, John: "Early Maps and Surveyors of the City of Washington, D. C.," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 2, pp. 48-61 (1895).
Woodward, Fred E.: "A Ramble Along the Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia With a Camera," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 10, pp. 63-87 (1907).
Woodward, Fred E.: "With A Camera Over the Old District Boundary Lines," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 11, pp. 1-15 (1908).
Woodward, Fred E.: "The Recovery of the Southern Corner Stone of the District," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 18, pp. 16-24 (1915).
Woodward, Fred E.: "Boundary Mile Stones" (1916) in Records and History of the Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia (no date) [unpublished manuscript in the Kiplinger Research Library of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.].

Government and Legislative Materials

American Society of Civil Engineers: Letter to Senator Charles M. Mathias supporting legislation to protect boundary stones (Sep. 15, 1979).
Caemmerer, H. Paul: "Washington The National Capital," Senate Document No. 332 (1932).
Ellicott, Andrew: Territory of Columbia (1793).
Falls Church Historical Commission: "Federal Territory Boundary Stone No. Southwest 9" (July 1999).
Federal Writers' Project: Washington City and Capital, p.770 (1937).
National Capital Planning Commission: "Boundary Markers of the Nation's Capital," National Capital Planning Commission Quarterly, pp. 1-4 (Fall 1976).
National Park Service: Letter to Nation's Capital Boundary Stones Committee declining to protect stones (June 13, 2003).
U.S. Department of the Interior: Letter to Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs opposing legislation (H.R. 2638 / S. 569) to protect boundary stones (Mar. 29, 1984).

Additional Sources

Abrams, Alan: "Preserving NE #2, Takoma's Oldest Monument," Historic Takoma Newsletter (Feb. 2003).
Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22: "Ceremonies Of Re-Enacting The Laying Of The Corner-Stone Of The District Of Columbia" (Apr. 15, 1941).
Bartlett, G. Hunter: "Andrew and Joseph Ellicott: The Plans of Washington City and the Village of Buffalo and Some of the Persons Connected," Buffalo Historical Society, Vol. 26. pp. 3-48 (1922).
Bedini, Silvio, A.: "Benjamin Banneker And The Survey Of The District Of Columbia, 1791," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Vol. 47, pp. 7-30 (1969).
Bedini, Silvio A.: "The Survey of the Federal Territory," Washington History, Vol. 3, No. 1: pp. 76-95 (Spring/Summer 1991).
Bedini, Silvio A.: "Conserving the Boundary Stones," Washington Post, p. A18 (June 20, 1998).
Bernate, Roberto: "Discovering Our Nation's First Monuments: Part V - The Northeast Line," Ravensworth Farmer, pp. 14-22 (June 2022).
Birth, Wm. W.: "Disappearing District Boundaries," Evening Star, p. 14, column 2 (Apr. 4, 1900).
Boy Scourts of America: "Troop 98's Tom C. Clark Award Application" regarding refurbishing project (December 29, 1978)
Claudy, Carl H.: Your Masonic Capital City, p. 25 (1950).
Columbian Centinel: "New Federal City," Columbian Centinel (May 7, 1791).
County of Arlington: Origins of Arlington (2003).
Cowan, John P.: "Boundary 'Error'," Washington Post, p. 12 (Jan. 3, 1951).
Cressey, Pamela: "DC Boundaries Preserved by DAR," City of Alexandria Virginia (Oct. 17, 1996).
Crowe, Cherilyn: "Stone Age," American Spirit, pp. 10-11 (May/June 2011).
Deane, James G.: "Some Forgotten Stones Mark D. C.'s First Outline," Evening Star (Jan. 2, 1950).
E.M.A.: "Return Arlington County?," Washington Post, p. 6 (Feb. 10, 1936).
Evening Star: "Exploring Rock Creek," Evening Star, p. 15, column 6 (Oct. 25, 1890).
Evening Star: "The Rock Creek Park," Evening Star, p. 3, column 6 (Dec. 30, 1890).
Evening Star: "District Bounds. The Results of the Original Research of Marcus Baker," Evening Star, p. 12 (Oct. 2, 1894).
Evening Star: "Old Marker Found," Evening Star, pt. I, p. 5 (June 22, 1912).
Evening Star: "Protecting the Boundary and Corner Stones of the District of Columbia," Evening Star, pt. 4, p. 5 (June 4, 1916).
Fernandez, Manny: "Humble Monuments to Washington's Past," Washington Post, pp. B01, B04 (July 10, 2001).
Gaynor, Michael: " This D.C. Monument is 'Virtually Impossible' to Reach," Washington Post (Oct. 11, 2018).
Gifford, Bill: "On The Borderline," Washington City Paper (Mar. 28, 1993).
Glassie, Ada Boyd: "Belt Line Highway Around Washington Should Follow Boundaries of 'Ten Miles Square.'," Washington Post, p. 6 (Oct. 9, 1929).
Hallett, Vicky: "D.C.'s Historic Boundary Stones are Being Preserved," Washington Post Express (Aug. 29, 2014).
Hampshire Gazette: "Georgetown, March 12," Hampshire Gazette, p.3, column 2 (March 30, 1791).
Hansard, Sara E.: "Old Stones Mark D.C. Boundaries," Washington Post, p. B1 (June 27, 1976).
Harris, Hamil: "200-year-old Boundary Markers in D.C. Rededicated," Washington Post (May 8, 2015).
Harris, Hamil: "Stones Laid by Benjamin Banneker in the 1790s are Still Standing," Washington Post (May 30, 2015).
Howder's Site: Washington, DC Boundary Stones (Sep. 2000).
Hume, Frank: "Centennial and Mount Vernon Avenue," Evening Star, p. 2, column 4 (Nov. 21, 1890).
Johnson, T.: "City of Washington, July 11, 1795," Impartial Observer and Washington Advertiser (Aug. 14, 1795).
Kaye, Ruth Lincoln: "The District's Boundary Stones," Washington Post, p. A18 (July 28, 2001).
Kelly, John: "Arlington Man Watches Over Unsung Monuments to D.C.'s Origins," Washington Post, p. B3 (May 14, 2009).
Kelly, John: "The Homeless and the Hungry Will Get a Boost from This Year's Helping Hand," Washington Post (Sept. 25, 2017).
Kennedy, Barbara Noe: "Washington D.C.'s Coolest Treasure Hunt is Not What You'd Expect," Fodor's (Nov. 17, 2016).
Lawrence, Kenneth: "Record of the Present Condition and Location of the Mile-Stones" (1949) in Records and History of the Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia (no date) [unpublished manuscript in the Kiplinger Research Library of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.].
Manaugh, Geoff: "Boundary Stones and Capital Magic," BldgBlog (May 20, 2017).
McCormick, Gene: "D.C.'s Southern Boundary Stone," Washington Post, p. A16 (July 15, 1998).
Muller, John: "Boundary Stones: The Oldest Monuments in the District," Greater Greater Washington (October 25, 2011).
Muller, John: "Without Preservation, DC's Boundary Stones Are in Danger," Greater Greater Washington (May 23, 2012).
Muller, John: "Life And Times Of Boundary Stone, SE #6," East Of The River Magazine (July 2012).
Nye, Edwin Darby: "Boundary Stones," Washington Star Sunday Magazine, pp. 6-9 (June 23, 1963).
Pegoraro, Rob: "At Boundary Stones, Today's Virginia Meets Yesterday's D.C.," Washington Post Sunday Source, p. M8 (July 1, 2007).
Powers, Stephen C.: "The Boundary Stones of the Federal City," ASCE Newsletter National Capital Section, Vol. 53, No. 7 (Mar. 2007).
Powers, Stephen C.: "Washington DC Boundary Stones: History, Current Status, Preservation, and Fence Restoration Effort," ASCE Newsletter National Capital Section, Vol. 58, No. 8: pp. 1, 10 (May 2012).
Powers, Stephen C.: "The Boundary Stones of the Federal City - Speaker: Stephen C. Powers, P.E.," ASCE Newsletter National Capital Section, Vol. 54, No. 3 (Nov. 2007).
Proctor, John Clagett: "Boundary Stones," Sunday Star, pt. 4, p. F-2 (May 2, 1937).
Redwood: "An Old-Time Relic," Daily Critic (Aug. 1, 1887).
Rothstein, Ethan: "D.C. Boundary Stones a Silent Part of Arlington History," ARLNow (Sep. 19, 2013).
Sadler, Christine: "D.C. Boundary Stones Historian's Nightmare," Washington Post, p. F2 (Dec. 10, 1939).
Saul, Ana: "The Most Interesting Thing in Bradbury Heights," Washington Post, p. JP2 (Sep. 8, 1929).
Sherwood, Tom: "History Unearthed: Boundary Stones of D.C.," NBC Washington (Jan. 28, 2015).
Silverthorne, Alexandra: Ten Miles Square artwork and installation (2010).
Socotra, Vic: The Northeast Stones (2003).
Straumsheim, Carl: "On D.C. Border, History Hides Along Wayside," Northwest Current, Vol. XLIV, No. 43, p. 7 (Oct. 26, 2011).
Sunday Star: "Boundary Stones of 'The Ten Miles Square'," Sunday Star, pt. 4, p. 7 (Feb. 11, 1912).
Sunday Star: "Fence is Dedicated at Milestone No. 8," Sunday Star, pt. 1, p. 2 (Oct. 15, 1916).
Todaro, Richard M.: "The Four Cornerstones of the Original D.C.," Washington Post (June 7, 1998).
Twomey, Steve: "Lesser Known Monuments Map Out the Original D.C.; Team Marking Stones That Set Boundaries," Washington Post, p. B01 (Oct. 9, 1990).
Van Mathews, Catherine Cortlandt: Andrew Ellicott: His Life and Letters (1908).
Vitka, Will: "The Quest to Save DC's 1st Federal Monuments," WTOP (Apr. 10, 2018).
Washington Herald: "The Boundary Stones. Marking the Lines of the Old District of Columbia and Virginia," Washington Herald, pt. 3, p. 7 (Mar. 3, 1907).
Washington Herald: "Boundary Stone Unveiling," Washington Herald, p. 14, column 2 (Nov. 28, 1920).
Washington Post: "Surveys of District," Washington Post, p. 32 (July 13, 1902).
Washington Post: "District Not Plumb," Washington Post, p. E2 (May 27, 1906).
Washington Post: "Old North Corner-stone Stands in Big Corn Field," Washington Post (Sep. 9, 1906).
Washington Post: "Talk on Boundary Stones," Washington Post, p. 13 (Jan. 9, 1916).
Washington Post: "To Dedicate Boundary Stone," Washington Post, p. 5 (May 29, 1916).
Washington Post: "Dedicate Boundary Stone," Washington Post, p. R2 (June 4, 1916).
Washington Post: "News of the Club World," Washington Post, p. ES14 (June 4, 1916).
Washington Post: "D.A.R. Activities," Washington Post, p. 45 (Apr. 10, 1921).
Washington Post: "Society Will Observe 'District' Day April 15," Washington Post, p. 2 (Feb. 19, 1922).
Washington Post: "D.A.R. Records Deed for Historic Tract," Washington Post, p. 2 (July 1, 1926).
Washington Post: "Gov. Welles, C.A.R.," Washington Post, p. S10 (Dec. 22, 1929).
Washington Post: "Boundary Stones Washington Laid Here Still Stand," Washington Post, p. M15 (June 28, 1931).
Washington Post: "Ancient District Boundary Marker Set by Washington," Washington Post, p. S7 (Dec. 27, 1931).
Washington Post: "Boundary Stone Plaque Unveiled," Washington Post, p. C1 (Jan. 14, 1961).
Washington Post: "Boundary Stone of DC Rededicated," Washington Post, p. A5 (June 6, 1965).
Washington Smart Growth Alliance: "Regional Conservation Priorities," pp. 12-13 (2008).
Washington Star Sunday Magazine: "The 37th STone," Washington Star Sunday Magazine, pp. 10-11(June 27, 1965).
Washington Times: "Location of Original Cornerstone of the District," Washington Times (June 23, 1912).
Washington Times: "'First Landmark,' Lost Half Century, is Found in Virginia," Washington Times, p. 7 (June 17, 1911).
Washingtonian: "The Great Washington Bucket List," Washingtonian (Mar. 1, 2015).
Wheeler, Richard S.: The Boundary Stones (Apr. 1963) [unpublished manuscript in the D.A.R. D.C. History collection].
Whitaker, Joseph D.: "Funds Sought to Preserve Original D.C. Boundary Markers," Washington Post, pp. B9-B10 (Mar. 6, 1983).