How many markers are in Alexandria?
October 10, 1996
by Pamela Cressey
South Corner Stone of the District of Columbia at Jones Point, which has been encased in a seawall since 1861, can be seen at low tide. Its exterior is marked by water erosion. Photo Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology.
Have you been out to see the District of Columbia boundary marker at Jones Point recently? Or, have you ever seen it? Although this stone has great significance as it relates to the founding of the nation’s capital, it is not well known nor easily viewed. Walk to the lighthouse, then continue toward the Potomac until you reach the seawall. The south corner stone of the federal district is encased within the seawall. If you go at low tide, you can view the boundary stone from the river side. If you go at high tide, you will need to use underwater archaeology methods.
You may be disappointed by what you see, but historic beauty goes beyond exterior appearance. In 1976, the National Capital Planning Commission published a booklet about all the boundary markers placed by the 1791-92 federal district survey. All the mile marker stones and the four corner stones of the district are described and preservation measures suggested. Even 20 years ago, our cornerstone was described as being in "poor condition, covered with moss and littered with trash." The south corner stone is severely eroded and pitted, so that virtually none of the original lettering can be observed.
Yet the marker is a precious historic resource, and its pocked exterior makes it perhaps more endearing. Unlike many historic objects and structures which have been spruced up, our boundary marker looks its age and reflects its marine setting with constant lapping waves.. It is a miracle that any of the boundary stones have survived 205 years in the Metro area! But their preservation has not been by chance; for 81 years the Jones Point marker and all the others have been protected through the actions and vigilance of local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. More about this amazing preservation saga and the markers next week.
To celebrate Virginia Archaeology Month, I have a special Alexandria Historical Pursuit game offer. Answer this question: How many federal district boundary markers are located in Alexandria, and where are they? I will give a special Alexandria Archaeotour (pedestrian style) to those with the correct answer. No one answered last week’s question: Is the Jones Point marker original? Try again: you have a 50 percent chance of being correct.. Contact me at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, 3rd floor Torpedo Factory Art Center, 703-838-4399.
We have a variety of ways for you to enjoy Archaeology Month. Reservations or tickets are required for all events. Armchair archaeologists (and those that dig) will enjoy Tim Denee’s rousing talk on Alexandria’s illustrious history of beer brewing and the spectacular archaeological find of a huge brick beer vault under Duke Street, this Saturday, October 12 at Gadsby’s Tavern, 8 P.M. (FREE, call 703-838-04399).
Want your own Archaeology Adventure? Children and families have the chance to work with real artifacts in the laboratory to uncover their meaning on two Saturdays, October 19 and 26 ($7 per child, call 703-838-4399). For those wanting more exercise, how about a 20 mile Bike Tour of Alexandria’s Archaeological Sites led by Chan Mahoney? October 20, Jones Point, 9 A.M .(Helmets required, call 703-370-4358).
And for all the people who want a little history in their Halloween, come join us for Historic Alexandria Hauntings, October 27, 5-9 P.M. The City archaeologists will be exploring the haunted Lyceum, and four other historic sites are open for you to discover their peculiar tales and legends (adults $5; under 12, $3.Tickets are limited, call 703-838-4200 ). Come in costume. We provide trick or treat bags, candy, and shuttle bus. Call Mount Vernon at 703-799-8626 for daily archaeological tours of the plantation and exhibit (adults $8;children $4).