Two win tour of underground

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Two win tour of underground

October 24, 1996 
by Pamela Cressey

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The 10 square mile District of Columbia was measured from the South Corner Stone at Jones Point at a southwest angle through Alexandria to the West Corner in Falls Church. Four southwest mile markers and the south corner stone are in the City limits today. Credit--National Capital Planning Commission.

The results are in for the Archaeology Month Alexandria Historical Pursuit question: How many federal district boundary markers are located in Alexandria, and where are they? The grand prize winner is Wilson Gaines who correctly identified all five boundary marker locations. Charles Tylander also deserves to be a winner, because he identified four of the stones (including the most difficult one to find). As their historical prizes, I hope both gentlemen will join me in a personalized archaeotour of what we have discovered underground. Given their knowledge of history, I know that I will learn from them as well.

Alexandria can claim five D.C. markers. Where are they? For those of you attending the Alexandria Archaeology bike tour on Sunday October 21 with Chan Mahoney and Ruth Reeder, the "Tour de Digs" took you to the South Corner Stone at Jones Point and Southwest Mile Markers #1 and #2; SW #3 and #4 await another event. But you can arrange your own tour to see all the markers when you are driving or biking around town. Searching for all the markers with your children will provide a few hours of good historical fun and a chance to use a compass.

You can top off your historical pursuit game with a picnic at Jones Point or a yummy treat from one of the nearby bakeries . Since sugar refining helped make Alexandria an international port after we became a part of the federal city, it seems only fitting to include some participatory research into our contemporary baked goods! Shuman’s Bakery is almost equidistant between the Jones Point corner stone and Mile Marker #1. The Pastry Shop in Bradlee Shopping Center is situated across the street from Mile Marker #4. You can visit Charles’ European Pastry at 1201 North Royal, and also see the Seaport Foundation’s boat building activities in the old Smoot Lumber Yard complex. The continuation of this boat building tradition on our waterfront gives kids a sense of Alexandria’s maritime craftsmen spanning back 250 years. The Old Town Bakery is close by at 315 Madison.

The Firehook Bakery, 100 block of North Lee Street, is in the heart of the historic port--tell your kids that you are walking on water along Lee Street, originally named Water Street. The river actually came up here during high tides before this land was made. For an overview to Alexandria’s past, be sure and visit The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum at 201 South Washington Street. An excellent book with pictures of the past is "A Seaport Saga" by Bill Smith and Mike Miller, The Donning Company, 1989.

The first boundary marker established the southern corner of the District of Columbia and is situated within the seawall of Jones Point near the Lighthouse. Time your visit for low tide, so you can jump off the wall and see the marker. This stone is thought to date to 1794, when it replaced a temporary marker set in place in 1791. The next stone marks the location of the district line one mile southwest of the Jones Point south corner stone. Go to the southeast corner of South Payne and Wilkes Street, and you will see it encircled by the DAR iron fence. An extra historical bargain here is the Wilkes Street cemetery complex with fascinating gravestones and an abandoned monument shop one block away. Proceed to the intersection of King Street and Russell Road, and nearby you will see another iron fence. The stone marks approximately the second mile of the boundary line from the south corner. The original 1791 stone was moved from its King Street location; the Russell Road marker is a replacement. Go up King Street almost another mile until you reach the north parking lot of the First Baptist Church at 2915 King. The stone has survived within its iron gate. This was the first marker that the 1791 surveyors placed irregularly; it is just short of one mile due to a ravine. The last marker is located on the boundary today between the City of Alexandria and Arlington. Enter Fairlington Village from King at Wakefield Street. The stone is broken and partly covered. Remember, the shape of the district was diamond, and the southwest line extends through Alexandria on a diagonal into Arlington.