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by E. Caylor Bowen


(Continued from page 5) The Commissioners replied to Stoddert that the area under consideration was sufficient to meet the needs of both a marine hospital and a navy yard, but that the final decision would have to be made by the President.

During the period of establishing a Navy Department in the Federal City, on February 25, 1799, Congress authorized the construction of six ships of the line, and Stoddert was anxious to build one of them at the new capital city. But Joshua Humphreys, principal naval ship builder and designer of the Constitution, who had been summoned to Washington to examine the proposed site, reported that the reservation was not suitable for a navy yard. He did, however, approve “Exchange Square” (the Fourteenth Appropriation), provided it was enlarged on the west side by at least three city squares – Nos. 883, 884, and 853, a part of which was under water. Even though the Fourteenth Appropriation had been reserved by the President for a market, Humphreys’ recommendation was accepted.

From the President’s letter to the City Trustees, the Fourteenth Appropriation was designated:

Fourteenth. The appropriation bounded on the west by the east side of Seventh street east, on the northwest by the south side of Georgia avenue, on the north by the south side of M street south, on the east by the west side of Ninth street east, on the south by the Eastern Branch or Annakostia River.

(The Georgia Avenue mentioned in this appropriation was later renamed Potomac Avenue, and remains so today.)

The decision to purchase squares 883 and 884 but not 853 meant that the new navy yard would comprise a fraction over 37 acres, to be (continued on page 8)

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Last updated November 22, 2008