The Society of American Archivists
SAA Logo

Log in / Log out

Join SAA

Contact us


Society of
American Archivists

17 North State Street
Suite 1425
Chicago, IL 60602-3315
tel 312/606-0722
fax 312/606-0728
toll-free 866/722-7858

 


Preconference Events

DC 2006: Joint Annual Meeting of NAGARA, COSA, and SAA

Washington, D.C.
July 30-August 5, 2006
Hilton Washington

 

EXPLORING AMERICA’S CAPITAL CITY: PAST AND PRESENT

Packed with famous sights, free attractions, and an endless calendar of special events, Washington, DC, offers a variety of experiences for history-minded conference-goers.

The DC 2006 conference hotel, the Hilton Washington, enjoys a garden setting that overlooks the city’s impressive skyline. Conveniently located on upper Connecticut Avenue and only a quarter of a mile from the Dupont Circle Metro station, the hotel sits just minutes from Georgetown, Adams-Morgan, Embassy Row, the Washington business district, and all local points of interest.

Dupont Circle is an in-town, urban neighborhood, first settled 125 years ago, that contains major residential areas and the businesses that serve them, foreign embassies, renowned museums and institutions, and architecturally significant historic buildings. Dupont Circle is at the geographic and social center of Washington, D.C. Originally called Pacific Circle and located at what was then the western boundary of the city, it was renamed in 1884 for Admiral Samuel F. DuPont of Civil War fame. The Circle’s fountain, designed by Daniel Chester French and erected in 1921, is a memorial to the U.S. Navy. Visitors will find coffee shops, hotels, and cafés within walking distance, as well as the city’s best weekly farmers’ market. The area features many museums, including the Phillips Collection, America’s first modern art museum, which showcases treasures by Renoir, van Gogh, Picasso, Mondrian, and O’Keefe. Visitors can also check out local artists at nearby independent galleries.

At the National Archives, the Public Vaults exhibition brings visitors beyond the Rotunda and creates the feeling of entering the stacks and vaults of the National Archives. Containing more than 1,100 records and 22 state-of-theart interactive stations, the exhibition shows the raw materials from which history is made, while also relaying compelling personal stories of both our nation’s leaders and ordinary Americans. Also on permanent display are the Charters of Freedom—the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

Across the street at the U.S. Navy Memorial, visitors can learn more about the nation’s naval heritage and honor those who served at sea. Venture down the National Mall to visit the World War II Memorial, flanked by the Washington Monument to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west. Hop on the Metro to Arlington, just six blocks from the Rosslyn Metro station, to visit the United States Marine Memorial, or walk one block from the Gallery Place/China Town Metro station to the International Spy Museum, the first and only public museum in the United States dedicated to espionage. The Metro provides visitors with a convenient mode of travel around the city and its environs: More than a third of federal government employees ride the Metro to work, and millions of visitors use its 86 stations, 904 rail cars, and just over 106 miles of track to navigate the capital.

Washington, DC has something for everyone— art galleries and museums, a thriving restaurant scene, diverse styles of architecture, a rich and compelling history, and verdant spaces and blooming trees tucked amid city streets. The idea to import Japanese cherry trees in 1912 didn’t originate with first lady Helen Herron Taft, but rather with Eliza Scidmore, who once lived in Japan, served as the sole woman on the National Geographic Society board, and worked as a correspondent for the New York Times. But it was the First Lady who envisioned necklaces of blooming cherry trees around roads and paths in “a muddy patch of land beside the Potomac River”—the Tidal Basin. In Washington, politicians, architects, entrepreneurs, and a growing populace joined together to create “a town built on, by, and for politics.”1

The Story Behind the City

The federal government under President John Adams officially “removed” from Philadelphia to Washington City in June 1800. Despite its title as the new capital of the United States of America, the city was criticized by both visiting legislators and full-time residents for its rural isolation and its lack of built environment. For a time, there was even disagreement about what to call it—Pierre L’Enfant, designer of the city, thought of it as the Capital City. George Washington called it the Federal City. For Jefferson, it was Federal Town, an embodiment of the new government that should give “physical form to his vision of what the Republic should be.”

Whatever its name, the sparsely settled, raw city gained a reputation for high rents, bad food, and an abundance of dust. The gritty, blowing dust, however annoying to travelers, signaled a building boom. The planned avenues consisted of stone markers, the roads were only footpaths, and the Capitol was surrounded by mud, wood shavings, and piles of bricks.

Washington was one of the fastest-growing urban settings in the United States during the first three decades of the nineteenth century. New buildings were constructed throughout the era, and the population grew rapidly. The number of federal employees grew as well, from 291 in 1802 to 625 in 1829.The cultural atmosphere of the city lagged behind its physical growth, however, as Ebenezer Mattoon, representative from New Hampshire, wrote home in 1801. “If I wished to punish a culprit,” he opined, “I would send him to do penance in this place, oblige him to walk about this city, city do I call it? This swamp—this lonesome dreary swamp, secluded from every delightful or pleasing thing—except the name of the place, which to be sure I reverence.”

Despite its shortcomings as a city, Washington was a thriving, vibrant, growing community, set in a location on the Potomac River so lovely that a visitor from England compared it to Constantinople.2

A building boom followed after the burning of the city in August 1814. Most of Washington’s approximately 8,000 residents, already plagued by the summer’s heat, humidity, and mosquitoes, fled the city as 4,000 British troops approached. After American defenders were routed in a battle at nearby Bladensburg, the vanguard of the British army reached Capitol Hill and began its systematic destruction of all public buildings in the city. After the war, the capital’s population swelled to 12,000. Citizens and government officials built more houses in the first twenty months of postwar prosperity than in the preceding five years, and by the end of 1817 real estate sales had increased 500 percent over 1813. New gravel paths connected congressional hotels and boardinghouses; new shops and churches opened for business. With rebuilt bridges, new steamboats, and increased stagecoach services, travel between Washington, its neighbors, and points north and south grew markedly easier.

Civic improvements stemmed from a boom in the city’s business—government. With the capital permanently located in Washington, the federal government had emerged as the center of power for the United States, a player in international politics, and a focus for American nationalism. A wide variety of visitors were drawn to the district by the political power it housed—foreign dignitaries, government officials, ministers, journalists, entertainers of all kinds, salesmen, and (of course) politicians and would-be politicians.

The city became known for entertainment as well as business. Washingtonians flocked to plays, concerts (some by Washington native John Philip Sousa), and the city’s ballparks—including Swampoodle Grounds, Capitol Grounds, and Boundary Field—when professional baseball teams were formed in the city in the early 1870s. In 1892, the Washington Senators joined the expanding National League and began playing their home games at a site that would host professional baseball games into the early 1960s.

Beneath the City

The landscape of Washington today bears little resemblance to the lay of the land when L’Enfant first eveloped his plan for the capital city. Since its founding, Washington has seen extensive changes to its landscape: hills were cut down, streams were diverted and buried, canals were dug and then later filled in, and
the continual march of construction moved beyond the original bounds of L’Enfant’s design to the edges of the diamond-shaped District of Columbia.

Archaeologists help to tell the story of the city and those who lived there by unearthing wells, cisterns, sewer pipes, house foundations, and old streetcar lines. From beer bottles and soup bowls to straight pins and buttons, artifacts illuminate people’s lives. Excavations in the Federal Triangle, for example, have revealed the struggles of families—black and white, native and foreign-born—to make a living in the late nineteenth century. Households, brothels, commercial businesses, and industries coexisted here in “Hooker’s District” alongside the canal (under Constitution Avenue), which was little more than an open sewer. The city supported 450 registered “bawdy houses” in 1862, which operated legally until prostitution was outlawed in 1914.

A walking tour of archaeological sites in the city is available online through the Center for Heritage Resource Studies, University of Maryland, College Park (www.heritage.umd.edu). Washington Underground: Archaeology in Downtown Washington, DC, a Walking and Metro Guide to the Past, was produced cooperatively by the National Park Service, National Center for Cultural Resources, Archeology and Ethnography Program; the District of Columbia Office of Planning, Historic Preservation Office; the Center for Heritage Resource Studies, University of Maryland, College Park; and the Society for American Archaeology.

Finding your way through the streets of Washington— whether to its famous monuments or lesser-known attractions—is just the beginning of your adventure here. Make sure to check out the links on the DC 2006 website (www.archivists.org) to plan your stay in the city and to take advantage of all it has to offer—the past
and the present, and government and its people, converging on the banks of the Potomac.

– The 2006 Host Committee

John LeGloahec, Co-chair
Jennifer Davis McDaid, Co-chair
Greg Adams
Beth Alvarez
Sharmila Bhatia
Deirdre Bryden
Rita Cacas
Kitty Carter
J. Thomas Converse
Heather Crocetto
Clarence Davis
Jeffrey Flannery
Janice Goldblum
Jennie Guilbaud
Faye Haskins
Christina Hostetter
Tim Lewis
Nancy Melley
Lisha Penn
Arian Ravanbakhsh
Deborra Richardson
Megan Smith
Jennifer Snyder
Kate Theimer
Gayle Yiotis

The National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, the Council of State Archivists, and the Society of American Archivists thank the 2006 Host Committee members for their hard work and great enthusiasm!

 

 


Print this page


Contents:


SAA thanks the following DC 2006 sponsors for their generous support:


2006 International Archives & Information Technology Exposition Exhibitor List