Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia

In 1791 and 1792, Andrew Ellicott and his surveying team placed 40 boundary stones around the perimeter of the District of Columbia, one at each mile of the original diamond shape. They laid the first stone, the south corner stone, at Jones Point on April 15, 1791, under the guidance of Benjamin Banneker. 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 40-mile journey that took nearly two years. They created the boundary lines of the capital by clearing 20 feet of land on each side of the boundary and setting a uniquely marked stone at each mile interval. 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. The stones along the northwest Maryland boundary line also displayed the number of miles they fell from NW4, the first stone placed in Maryland. And stones placed at intervals of more than a mile included that extra distance measured in poles.

The next to survey the stones was Marcus Baker, who visited each stone's location during the summer of 1894. After Baker, Fred E. Woodward photographed 39 of the boundary stones--all but SW2, which had been lost even before Baker's survey--in 1906. In his reports to the Columbia Historical Society (available below), Woodward described the extent to which the stones had deteriorated and proposed that they be protected for the enjoyment of future generations. In 1915, the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, citing Woodward's work, voluntarily assumed the responsibility of protecting the stones by erecting a iron cage around each one. For decades afterward, D.A.R. members visited the stones periodically to perform routine maintenance.

Despite D.A.R.'s care and attention, many of the stones fell on hard times during the mid-1900s. Several were repositioned, removed, lost, or buried during construction projects. Thankfully, a resurveying team led by David Doyle to celebrate the District's bicentennial in 1990-1991 managed to locate two of the then-missing stones, SE4 and SE8 (which had already been lost once before and replaced with a replica).

The boundary stones are the oldest federal monuments. Although several have been moved or replaced, there are 38 boundary stones in or near the original locations selected by Andrew Ellicott, including all 14 in the land that was returned to Virginia in July 1846. A 39th is in storage and the 40th is marked by a plaque. This site lists the locations of the stones as of 2006, updating the information provided by the Daughters of the American Revolution (1976) and the National Register of Historic Places (1996).

Click on any of the map markers below for photos and information about each stone.

(Stone coordinates provided by Mark Zimmermann.)

Jones Point Lighthouse: in an opening in the seawall of the lighthouse at Jones Point Park on the Potomac River in Alexandria, VA. The lighthouse was built in 1855 and a seawall was constructed in 1861. As documented by Woodward and others, the stone was hidden behind this seawall until June 1912. Because the stone remains in an enclosure in the wall, it still is not possible to view it in its entirety. The Northern Virginia Boundary Stones Committee report (1995) states that the original stone was replaced in 1794. Indeed, this stone differs from original stones in at least two significant ways. First, as Woodward noted in a reading before the Columbia Historical Society on March 18, 1913, "The stone is slightly varied in shape from the remaining ones, being about eleven inches by nearly fourteen inches, instead of the usual twelve by twelve." Second, the stone lacks the full inscription. As observed in a Washington Times article from June 23, 1912, "The inscriptions are almost illegible, only portions of the letters being visible, these being on the southwest side, the southeast side bears a part of the date, the figure '7' being discernible. ... The two remaining sides are unmarked and bear no evidence of ever having been inscribed." A close-up photo of the stone in the National Capital Planning Commission report (1976) shows the faint remains of some letters, although it is not possible to determine what they say.
1220 Wilkes Street: SW corner of the intersection of Wilkes and S. Payne Streets in Alexandria, VA. Around 1904, the stone was moved 225 feet from its original position. When it was reset in the ground, it was rotated such that the sides of the stone marked "Virginia" and "Jurisdiction of the United States" no longer face their respective jurisdictions. The letters on the District face of the stone are smaller than those of the other stones and in a different script.
7 Russell Road: east side of Russell Road just north of King Street. This is neither the original stone nor the original location. Baker and Woodward reported the original stone to be missing as of the late 1800s, and DAR records show that the current stone was placed at this location in 1920. The original stone was located about 0.35 northwest of this replacement. According to Woodward, the original "stone was evidently placed on the east side, and very close to, [King Street], on the eastern side of Shuter's Hill, in a subdivision known as Spring Park," which is now called Rosemont.
2932 King Street: north end of parking lot of the First Baptist Church, south of Scroggins Road in Alexandria, VA. This stone has been removed from the ground and reset in concrete. Note that the address is not 2952 King Street, as some sources state.
Adjacent to Fairlington Village at the edge of east side of King Street between S. Wakefield Street and Route 395. According to Woodward, farm plows had destroyed the top of this stone by the early 1900s. After being repositioned when the highway was widened, the remaining portion of the stone has sunken very low into the ground.
North side of Walter Reed Parkway 100+ feet east of intersection with King Street. Only the stump of this stone remains. Its current condition is consistent with Woodward's 1908 report that the "stone is broken, and the top seems to be lost. The entire base, with a few inches of the finished portion, was found lying on the ground in approximately the same spot where it had originally been placed." This stone is now nearly 45 feet from its original position.
Median strip of Jefferson Street 0.1 miles south of Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA. This stone has been repositioned several times. It also has been hit by a car and cemented back together.
5995 5th Road, Arlington, VA: Carlin Springs Elementary School, parking lot C, near the fence. You also can reach this stone by going around the tennis courts to the private park behind the apartment building at 3101 S. Manchester Street, Falls Church, VA.
A short distance from the intersection of John Marshall Drive and Wilson Boulevard: 100 feet southeast of water tower behind the Patrick Henry Apartments. The stone is at the edge of the parking lot across from units 6184 and 6172. As the informational sign near the stone states, this is not the original location.
Benjamin Banneker Park on Van Buren Street south of 18th Street in Falls Church, VA.

Andrew Ellicott Park: 2824 N. Arizona Street (sometimes listed as 2824 Meridian Street), south of West Street in Falls Church, VA.
3607 Powhatan Street, north of 36th Street in Arlington, VA: west side of back yard, 200 feet from the road.
5298 Old Dominion Drive or 5145 N. 38th Street, Arlington, VA: in the fence separating the back yards of two homes.
4013 N. Tazewell Street, Arlington, VA: back yard of home.
Within the fenced Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant grounds, 100+ feet east of the Capitol Crescent Trail (from the "Entering Montgomery County" sign) and several hundred feet north of the intersection of Norton Street and Potomac Avenue. The easiest way to see this stone is through the fence along the Crescent Trail because the treatment plant is closed to the public. It is also possible to visit the stone directly by calling David MacGregor of the Army Corps of Engineers: (202) 764-2799. The main number of the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant is (202) 764-2753. Older sources list the stone's location as 5906 Dalecarlia Place. The "government dwelling" formerly located at that address has been demolished and Dalecarlia Place has been converted to an access road.
600 feet west of Dalecarlia Parkway and 300 southeast of concrete culvert, within the fenced Dalecarlia Reservoir property. Starting from Westmoreland Circle, travel south on Dalecarlia Parkway until the road crosses over a creek near Warren Place. Follow the creek west into the forest. After some time, the creek and the fence run parallel to each other. When the fence crosses over the creek, the concrete culvert is easily visible within the fenced area. Shortly before the crossover, there is a large hole in the fence. The stone is several hundred feet south of this hole, over the crest of the hill and too deep into the forest to see from outside the fenced area. Unfortunately, entering through the hole constitutes trespassing on federal property. Thankfully, it is possible to visit the stone by calling David MacGregor of the Army Corps of Engineers: (202) 764-2799. The main number of the Dalecaria Water Treatment Plant is (202) 764-2753.
150 northeast of intersection of Park and Western Avenues in small park, across from intersection of Western Avenue and Fessenden Street.
5600 Western Avenue: front yard of home near intersection with Cedar Parkway, McKinley Street, and 41st Street. The owners of the home removed the protective cage in the 1940s. In the mid-1960s, the stone was repositioned and a plaque was affixed directly to it.
6422 Western Avenue, southwest of Pinehurst Circle: front yard of home, within circular driveway. This stone does not have a protective cage.
2701 Daniel Road, Chevy Chase, MD: 165 feet northwest of the center line of Daniel Road and 5 feet southeast from the edge of the driveway. Near the intersection of Western and Oregon Avenues next to Rock Creek Park.

1880 block of East-West Highway (west of 16th Street), immediately south of the highway in the edge of a forest near townhouses.
7847 Eastern Avenue, northwest of intersection with Georgia Avenue: bronze plaque in place of stone in the sidewalk in front of a shop. The stone was accidentally bulldozed and removed during the construction of the storefront in September 1952.
6980 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park, MD: front yard of home near intersection of Maple and Carroll Avenues.
144 feet northwest of intersection of Eastern Avenue and Chillum Road at the edge of a commercial parking on the Maryland side of Eastern Avenue, just south of New Hampshire Avenue.
5400 Sargent Road: side yard of home on Maryland side of Eastern Avenue just north of Sargent Road.
4609 Eastern Avenue, northwest of Varnum Street: front yard of home.
3601 Eastern Avenue, near intersection with 34th Street: front yard of home. This stone has been reset in concrete.
Fort Lincoln Cemetery: along the fence in Block 18, 75 feet southwest of Garden Mausoleum near Garden of the Crucifixion. To view the other side of the stone, go through the hole in the fence about 100 feet southwest of the stone.
Along fence in forest 500 feet northwest of the intersection of Eastern and Kenilworth Avenues, southwest of Andalusia Lane. There are two trails that lead directly to the stone.

1) One trail begins at a separation in the fence along the north side of Kenilworth at the intersection with Eastern. It immediately winds to the right where it follows another fence northwest along the edge of a gravel distribution lot. The trail forks when the gravel lot fence begins to turns to the right; turn left here. The left fork roughly parallels another fence, this one with barbed wire along the top. The trail leads to a dwelling surrounded by bicycles. The stone is along the fence to the right, about 50 feet before you reach the dwelling. View route.

2) From the intersection of Eastern and Kenilworth, head southwest on Kenilworth and turn right on Quarles Road. Turn right again, before reaching 45th Street, onto a road leading to a smokestack across the street from an apartment complex. As Kanon explains, "Just E of parking lot, look for a hole in the black fence. Follow a trail for about 300 ft. to another fence. Near a pool of water."
919 Eastern Avenue, 0.1 miles south of Sheriff Road: front yard of home.

100 feet southeast of intersection of Eastern and Southern Avenues.
30 feet south of intersection of D Street and Southern Avenue, near corner of wall around National Capitol Hebrew Cemetery.
4345 Southern Avenue, near intersection with Rail Street: front yard of home. Note that this is not 4245 Southern Avenue, as some sources state.
Across the street from 3908 Southern Avenue, near Suitland Terrace. SE3 is unusually tall for an intermediate stone. Woodward, observing that the West corner stone is much shorter than the other corner stones, hypothesized that there was a mixup between the tall stone that became SE3 and the short stone that became the West stone.
Formerly located along Southern Avenue a few feet southeast of the intersection with Naylor Road (and not at the intersection of Naylor Road and Suitland Parkway, as some sources state). Nothing remains to mark this stone--not even a plaque. The stone is not lost, however. David R. Doyle of Silver Spring, MD, has had it in his garage since 1991. Mr. Doyle explains, "SE 4 is in my possession. The stone was recovered some years ago by volunteers from the Maryland Society of Surveyors (MSS) working on a resurvey of the DC line. As an employee of the National Geodetic Survey (NGS), a member of MSS and the District of Columbia Association of Land Surveyors (DCALS) and the geodetic survey liaison for the City of Washington it was felt that I was in the best position to ultimately coordinate having this mark reset on-line as close to its original location as possible."
280 feet northeast of the northernmost intersection of Southern Avenue and Valley Terrace (the roads intersect twice within a quarter mile). This stone is next to the sidewalk along Southern Avenue in front of the Southern Avenue metro station.
901 Southern Avenue: The Master's Touch Praise Ministries. This stone is near the front doors of the building and in great shape.
25 feet south of intersection of Southern Avenue and Indian Head Road on the east side of Indian Head Road. This stone has been repositioned. Note that the National Register of Historic Places incorrectly states that the stone is northeast of the intersection.
Blue Plains Impoundment Lot: southeast corner of the lot on the Maryland side of the fence. This stone, a replacement, is located nearly eight feet below ground level at the bottom of a narrow concrete pipe and surrounded by dirt and forest debris, such that only the very top is visible. The pipe is embedded in a mound of gravel a short distance from the lightposts at the rear of the parking lot. In mid-2006, the pipe was helpfully spraypainted with "MON 8" and marked with two small wooden stakes that read "MD. / D.C. BOUNDARY MON. #8."

The original stone was removed in 1958 during construction and then either lost or stolen from a storage facility before it could be reset in the ground. On March 23, 1962, DAR placed a new inscription-less stone in the same location along with the original stone's iron cage. By 1972, it too was in trouble, as described by Edwin Darby Nye in a paper read that year before the Columbia Histrocial Society: "SE8, at the far end of the D.C. Village Area, has become a victim of a large land-fill operation, involving the D.C. auto impounding area, the new sewage treatment plant, and an eighteen-hole golf course being constructed by the National Park Service. SE8 is covered with some eight feet of landfill. A sixty-inch concrete pipe has been placed over the stone, iron fencing and all, and a cover placed over it to protect it. The stone has been uncovered and after excavation has been completed it will be reset in a proper location." Unfortunately, nothing of the sort occurred, and the stone was completely covered by landfill until 1991 when the bicentennial resurveying team dug it back out of the ground, using old photos to approximate its location. The team then decided that the best way to preserve the stone was to put it back into the earth, this time protected by a taller pipe that was visible above ground. To reach this stone, start on the paved path that leads from D.C. Village Lane toward Oxon Run, and then follow the fence along the Maryland border southwest until you arrive on the access road behind the impoundment lot. Bring a flashlight.
0.225 miles southwest of the southern end of Oxon Cove Bridge and about 120 feet east of the Potomac River. Oxon Cove Bridge is the bridge that I-295 crosses just north of the intersection with I-495. You can reach this stone on foot by following the partially paved path that leads to Oxon Hill Farm from either D.C. Village Lane in Washington or the intersection of Oxon Run Drive and Audrey Lane in Maryland. Leave the path when it turns away from Oxon Cove; then follow the shoreline trail to Oxon Cove Bridge, where you must cross underneath I-295 to get to the Potomac River. It may be simpler to park a car on the shoulder of I-295 southbound and walk down to the Potomac. From the endpoint of the large rocks that surround Oxon Cove Bridge, follow the shoreline about 1,000 feet southwest until you are just past due west of the Masonic Memorial (across the river) and the Oxon Cove Bridge is no longer visible behind you. If you are on a sandy beach with many car tires, you are in the right place. The stone is 120 feet to the east in the forest at the foot of a hill--from the shoreline, it is just possible to make out the cage protecting the stone, although less so in spring and summer.

Originally, this stone was next to the Potomac River at Fox Ferry Point. In 1969, it was placed some distance away to save it from water damage by the river. The National Register of Historic Places incorrectly states that the stone is east of Shepherd Parkway, when, in fact, it is west (and nearly a mile south) of the end of Shepherd Parkway.

Required Reading

A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc.: The Hunt for Southeast 8 (Apr. 29, 1991).
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.].
D.C. D.A.R.: 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.].
Harris, Gayle T.: Biographies of the Boundary Stones (2001) [unpublished manuscript in the Kiplinger Research Library of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.]: cover and bibliography, south, west, north, east.
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).
Shuster, Ernest A.: "The Original Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia," National Geographic, pp. 356-359 (Apr. 1909).
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.].

Additional Sources

American Society of Civil Engineers: Letter to Senator Charles M. Mathias supporting legislation to protect boundary stones (1979).
Arnett, G. Ray, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Interior: Letter to Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs opposing legislation (H.R. 2638 / S. 569) to protect boundary stones (1984).
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).
Caemmerer, H. Paul: "Washington The National Capital," Senate Document No. 332 (1932).
Claudy, Carl H.: Your Masonic Capital City, p. 25 (1950).
County of Arlington: Origins of Arlington.
Cowan, Gene: SW5.
Cowan, John P.: "Boundary 'Error'," Washington Post, p. 12 (Jan. 3, 1951).
D.A.R.: History and Map.
De Cola, Lee: October Field Trip.
E.M.A.: "Return Arlington County?," Washington Post, p. 6 (Feb. 10, 1936).
Fairlington Historic District: SE4.
Fernandez, Manny: "Humble Monuments to Washington's Past," Washington Post, pp. B01, B04 (July 10, 2001).
Gifford, Bill: "On The Borderline," Washingotn 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).
Hansard, Sara E.: "Old Stones Mark D.C. Boundaries," Washington Post, p. B1 (June 27, 1976).
Howder's Site: Washington, DC Boundary Stones (Sep. 2000).
Kaye, Ruth Lincoln: "The District's Boundary Stones," Washington Post, p. A18 (July 28, 2001).
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.].
McCormick, Gene: "D.C.'s Southern Boundary Stone," Washington Post, p. A16 (July 15, 1998).
Miller, Mrs. Charles S., State Historian, D.C. D.A.R.: Correspondence with National Park Service regarding the disappearance and replacement of SE8 (1962).
National Capital Planning Commission: "Boundary Markers of the Nation's Capital," National Capital Planning Commission Quarterly, pp. 1-4 (Fall 1976).
Nye, Edwin Darby: "Boundary Stones," The Washington Star Sunday Magazine, pp. 6-9 (June 23, 1963).
Pegoraro, Rob: "At Boundary Stones, Today's Virginia Meets Yesterday's D.C.," The 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.: "The Boundary Stones of the Federal City - Speaker: Stephen C. Powers, P.E.," ASCE Newsletter National Capital Section, Vol. 54, No. 3 (Nov. 2007).
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).
Stoler, Ben Schuman: "Revisiting the D.C. Boundary Stones," DCist (Nov. 1, 2007).
Sunday Star: "Fence is Dedicated at Milestone No. 8," Sunday Star (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).
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: "Washington Unique in that it is the Only World Capital Founded by the Government Itself," Washington Post, p. 45 (Jan. 9, 1921).
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 Times: "Location of Original Cornerstone of the District," Washington Times (June 23, 1912).
Wheeler, Richard S.: The Boundary Stones (April 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).
Zimmermann, Mark: Guide Maps and Photos and GPS Coordinates (2006).