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1872 Street Paving Map of Washington

map around the National Mall
What were the roads of Washington like in 1872? This great map shows the different paving surfaces throughout the city, including wood, stone and concrete.
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You think the roads are bad today, with all the potholes? I assure you, they were worse in the 1870s. Here’s a really cool old map that we dug up at the Library of Congress, marking the street pavements for 1872 and 1873. The key lists wood, stone, or concrete as the pavement types.

1872-1873 map of street pavement
1872-1873 map of street pavement

Source: Library of Congress

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And, since we haven’t done a “Pictures Tell a Story” post in a long time, let’s study this map a little closer to see what we find. First, let’s make sure we know the legend and what each color means.

map legend
map legend

Wait a minute … Georgia Ave. is down near the Navy Yard? Read this post and find out what happened. There also appears to be an inlet or swampy area jutting in past M St., which is where the Nationals stadium sits today.

map around the Navy Yard
map around the Navy Yard
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This part of the map, showing “Res. 17” has turned into the power plant and Garfield Park near I-695.

map of Res. 17
map of Res. 17

Here, the map shows the area that now is our waterfront and where West Potomac Park down to Hains Point sits today (why is it named Hains Point?). Where Maryland Avenue hits the water and becomes the Potomac Bridge is where the 14th St. bridge is today.

map of southwest waterfront
map of southwest waterfront
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You’ll also notice that the street names in Georgetown haven’t yet changed, and it’s referred to as George Town.

Georgetown's old street names
Georgetown’s old street names

Look how far up the water is back then? It’s still hard to believe that you could be standing at the Washington Monument (or the unfinished version of it) and be that close to the Potomac and Tiber.

map around the National Mall
map around the National Mall
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Take a look at the map in greater detail for yourself. What else do you see?

Also, if you want a Google Map to play around with and compare to, use the one below.

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