Incredible Northwest View from Washington Monument (1894)

Forgive us if we posted this before, but we can’t remember, and second … it’s amazing, so you should check it out (and share this on Facebook with your friends).

- click image for more -
view northwest from the Washington Monument in 1894
view northwest from the Washington Monument in 1894

Source: Cornell University Library

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  • Publius Washingtoniensis

    Don’t you love the race track by the old Van Ness mansion in the right foreground? The mansion was demolished about the time the Pan American Union (now the OAS) was built, but the carriage house — like the mansion, designed by Latrobe! — is still in existence.

    • This was about the time David Burns’ cottage was torn down also.

  • Amazing picture!!! This may be the only picture ever to show my Great 8th Grandfather David Burns’ Cottage and his daughter Marcia Van Ness’ Mansion all in one photo. There looks to be some type of bleachers next to the Van Ness Mansion and an oval track of some sort in front of the bleachers. Knowing of the times, this may have been a small horse race track of some sort?

  • David Burns’ cottage, in front of and across the street from the Van Ness mansion and near the intersection with Constitution Ave and the street that comes down from the White House, was the house that Gen. George Washington, in 1792, visited with David Burns’ grandson, David Burns II, to try to gain access to David Burns’ property for the building of the new Federal City. Many notables visited David Burns II at that cottage, including Pierre L’Enfant, who surveyed and laid out the street plan for the city. Mr. L’Enfant stayed many nights with the Burns’ as there were very few places in that area to get a room then, and Mr. Burns’ cottage was warm and hospitable. It was probably at that cottage that Mr. L’Enfant may have conceived of those plans. It was during those times that the younger David Burns’ children, Marcia and James, showed Mr. L’Enfant the mysterious tunnels running underground where the ground started to rise toward the hills to the north of their cottage. No one knows who made those tunnels, what they were for and by whom.

  • J Veloz

    I assume that the big tanks in the back is where Foggy Bottom is now; I’ve always heard that it used to be an industrial area before. Did Georgetown University exist already? There seems to be a big building on top of a hill to the left; the cathedral would be to the right and much further.

    • Publius Washingtoniensis

      I’ve always assumed those were Washington Gas Light Co. storage tanks. Georgetown University’s signature Healy Building is barely visible above and to the left of the tanks. The white buildings and telescope dome of the old Naval Observatory are clearly visible on the left side of the photo. Also, to the left of the observatory is the Christian Heurich brewery’s tall brew house. As is so often the case in old Washington photos, it’s surprising to see how much grading has been done to change the original lay of the land.

  • ET

    I assume that is on the diagonal is what we now Virginia Avenue?

    Also, that the one tiny building in the center towards the bottom looks to be the Lockeeper’s House at the corner of Constitution and 17th.

    • Publius Washingtoniensis

      Yes, Virginia Ave, N.W. is the diagonal. It doesnt’ look as though it was paved at that point. Also interesting to note the extension of New York Ave., N.W. west of 20th (?) Street, which presumably was obliterated to build the State Department complex and the approaches to the Roosevelt Bridge. Observatory Hill has more buildings, but is largely unchanged otherwise, including the retaining wall running along 23rd Street, N.W.. Also, the building you reference must certainly be the lockeepers house.

  • Are there more of these from that day looking in the other directions? Surely they took more than one picture in one direction? It would be amazing to put together a panorama.