Washington Was Originally Called Rome?

Well, one of the estates which made up the original city of Washington was called Rome. Have you heard about Rome, Washington? Probably not, so read on.

Rome Coliseum around 1900
Rome Coliseum around 1900

D.C. has an interested historical connection to the city of Rome. This might be one of the more fascinating pieces of local trivia we have ever come across.

A long time ago, way before the city was in the thoughts of our founding fathers, back in the 17th century, there was a large estate in the area of about 400 acres. This farm occupied the land southeast of Georgetown (then, a part of Maryland). The man who owned the land was fond of Italy and decided to name the estate Rome, in honor of the city. The small body of water bordering it to the south was originally called Goose Creek, but then took the new name, Tiber Creek (i.e., after the The Tiber in Rome). Of course, the story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that the landowner’s name happened to be Francis Pope.

According to an article I came across in The Washington Post from October 7th, 1883, the land was laid out and acquired by Pope on June 5th, 1663. Also, legend has it, that Francis was very proud of his ingenious naming scheme, often telling anyone who’d listen that America had its own Rome on the Tiber, and a Pope lived there.

The final coincidence, of course, is a modern addition to the story, as the current Pope residing the The Vatican holds the name Pope Francis, and he is the first pope ever to come from the Americas. So, while the title of this post is slightly misleading, a large plot of land which would eventually become part of Washington was named Rome.

So, there was a Rome here before there was a Washington.


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