When I first started dating my now husband, he mocked me for living across the river in Alexandria. “Actually,” I told him. “Alexandria was part of the capital city’s original parameters.”
In fact, the original boundary markers, 40 of them, still stand where the original surveyors, as outlined by George Washington, placed them in 1792 and 1793. They were laid out a mile apart in D.C.’s famous diamond shape, designating the new capital city’s 100-square-mile location. They’re the oldest federal monuments in the country—and, given that they’re tucked away in people’s backyards, amid Potomac River brambles, behind cemetery tombstones, under a lighthouse, even hidden in plain sight along some of the region’s busiest roadways, they make for a perfect treasure hunt.
That’s what David and I did. Over the course of two summers, we biked to every single one of them. And he proposed to me on the last one (which was a nightmare to get to, after failing the first time).
Each marker stands two feet tall and a foot square and is protected by a Victorian–birdcage–like enclosure. Etchings reveal the date on one side, the geographical location on the other.
And the cool thing is, D.C. has changed a lot since the surveyors first planted those markers. What once was fields and virgin woods in that 100-square-mile space is now a patchwork of different neighborhoods, from gritty Anacostia to affluent Chevy Chase, from Northeast’s working neighborhoods to Northwest’s political and social elite. If you visit the markers, you’ll experience an authentic tour of D.C., all of its fascinating nooks and crannies.
So get out there and visit a bit of history—and D.C.’s diverse neighborhoods. The best resource to plan your adventure is boundarystones.org.