"One Such Marker"
By Lorraine Drolet
Chair, Fairlington Historical Designation Committee
(Committee Disolved June 20, 2000)
Fairlington proper is the location of one of the 40 markers setting the boundaries of
the first layout for the Nation's Capital. In 1790, President Washington chose this
10-mile square that included Fairlington, then in Alexandria, and named it Federal City.
He appointed three commissioners to survey the area and fix its boundaries. The President
also named Pierre L' Enfant as the capital's architect. This appointment was later
withdrawn when L'Enfant refused to publish his design. He was replaced by his assistant,
surveyor Samuel Ellicott.
Fairlington's Boundary Marker # 4 is located near the entrance of South Wakefield
Street and is recognizable by the green wrought-iron encasing the marker. The Daughters of
American Revolution had an iron fence build around the marker with a plaque reading
Original Federal Boundary Stone-District of Columbia-Placed 1791- 1792.
A June 7, 1998 Washington Post article entitled, The Four Cornerstones of the Original
DC describes the poor surroundings and neglected condition of most of the stone markers.
In particular, the article addresses the deteriorating conditions of the "four
cornerstones" that mark the corners of the original District of Columbia, including
parts of Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. Because of Fairlington's unique
connection to these markers and interest in their preservation, we wanted to make you
aware of the concerns expressed in the article. The following are excerpts from that
- "These stones are sited at the corners of the original District of Columbia, which
included parts of Arlington County and the City of Alexandria."
- "The surveying was done by a team under Benjamin Banneker and Samuel Ellicot in
1791 and 1792 at the behest of Thomas Jefferson."
- "The surveyors dropped a stone once every mile along the city's border, beginning
at the south corner at Jones Point near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The District is 10
miles on a side so the surveyors placed 40 stones altogether."
- "Most of the stones still survive though in varying degrees of disrepair and
neglect. Some, including all four cornerstones, are encased in wrought-iron cages that the
Daughters of the American Revolution placed around them about 90 years ago."
- "The south cornerstone was the first marker to be laid. According to records on a
stormy April 15, 1791, Banneker, a black freeman, and a local troupe of Masons placed this
stone that would serve as the reference point for the other 39 stones and the outline of
the new federal district."
- "The south cornerstone also is threatened by the plans for a replacement span for
the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Construction of a proposed bridge of 12 lanes, which would be
located south of the current bridge could damage or destroy the cornerstone's site."
- "Local governments could, with a modest effort, protect these unique historical
markers. If they can't or won't do so, then perhaps the U.S. Park Service could step
- "How sad it would be if these boundary markers and the history behind them were
covered with sediment, washed away or bulldozed over in the march of progress."