A Washington DC Map Chronology

Includes URL's for Library of Congress images and descriptions available on line.


The following is a chronology of Washington DC maps beginning in 1791. If you have others with documentation that belong here, I welcome you to send them to me. I also have posted a series of pages that is a review of the map images with commentary about the physical development of the city.

You will note that the timeline that I develop does not support the idea that Ellicott significantly altered L'Enfant's map. L'Enfant submitted two plans to the President, each accompanied by a drawing. The August print is described in L'Enfant's letter as a revision of the June map, and is dscribed as the 'map of dotted lines'. Comparing the map which the Library of Congress entitles the 'dotted line map' of August 1791 to the 1792 Ellicott maps, we see that the changes were made by L'Enfant in August and not by Ellicott.

An alternate timeline was developed by Richard M. Stephenson a former employee of the LOC in an 85 page book called A Plan Whol[l]y New: Pierre Charles L'Enfant's Plan of the City of Washington. The Stephenson timeline is used by the Corps of Engineers in writing about the L'Enfant plan, as well as by Nicholas Mann, author of The Sacred Geometry of Washington DC.

The Stephenson timeline recommends that the June map has disappeared, that what I am calling the June map was delivered in August, and the dotted line map was done by Benjamin Ellicott working for L'Enfant in December of 1792. The Library of Congress does not back this story up.


The first DC map was this L'Enfant draft that was hand-delivered to George Washington in June of 1791.

The title (inside the oval in the upper left corner) reads: "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of t[he] United States : projected agreeable to the direction of the President of the United States, in pursuance of an act of Congress passed the sixteenth day of July, MDCCXC, "establishing the permanent seat on the bank of the Potowmac" : [Washington D.C.] / by Peter Charles L'Enfant."

The Library of Congress has four on-line versions of this map.

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct000512
    Photocopy of a facsim. of the 1791 L'Enfant plan.
    CREATED/PUBLISHED [Washington : U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1887]
    Original facsim. extensively annotated in ink by Lawrence Martin, chief, Division of Maps, Library of Congress.

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct000514
    CREATED/PUBLISHED [Washington] : United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, [1887]
    Includes texts containing letters dated "Washington ... 1887," text printed below "N.I.," notes, descriptive index of "References," and U.S.C. & G.S. insigne.

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct000091
    Computer-assisted reproduction of Pierre Charles L'Enfant's 1791 manuscript plan for the city of Washington.
    CREATED/PUBLISHED Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 1991.

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct001333
    Full color facsim. of the earliest extant plan of Washington D.C. (The L'Enfant Plan).
    CREATED/PUBLISHED Washington, D.C. : Library of Congress, 1991.
    Full-color facsimile of Pierre Charles L'Enfant's 1791 manuscript plan for the city of Washington.

    The second DC map was L'Enfant's revision of his earlier draft, and was delivered along with a letter to President Washington in August of '91. Note that the above map shows the Tiber Creek filled in.

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3851b.ct000301
    Dotted line map of Washington, D.C., 1791, before Aug. 19th Ms. survey map drawn by P.C. L'Enfant.
    Accompanied by positive and negative photocopies of L'Enfant's letter to George Washington, Aug. 19, 1791, the original in the L'Enfant papers, no. 0215-977, L.C. Ms. Div


    In Feb of '92 Ellicott took over the job of producing a printed copy of the map; one version of that was printed by Samuel Hill in Boston and has come to be known as 'the Boston Plan'.

    The title reads: "Plan of the city of Washington in the territory of Columbia : ceded by the states of Virginia and Maryland to the United States of America, and by them established as the seat of their government, after the year MDCCC / engrav'd by Sam'l Hill, Boston"

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct000299
    CREATED/PUBLISHED [Boston : s.n., 1792]

    Another map was printed by Thackara & Vallance in Philadelphia. The first (smaller) edition of that appearing in March of 1792.

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct000509
    Plan of the city of Washington / Thackara & Vallance sc.
    CREATED/PUBLISHED [Philadelphia : s.n., 1792]
    Printed from the same plate as the map appearing in The universal asylum, and Columbian magazine, Philadelphia, Mar. 1792.

    Another version of the T&V map was published in November '92 and has come to be known as 'the Philadelphia Plan'.

  • http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/epo/mapexhib/image91.html


    In 1793 Andrew Ellicott produced this topographic map entitled "Territory of Columbia".

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct001435
    [Territory of Columbia]. 1793
    City boundary labelled: Out lines of the city of Washington with the grand avenues and principal streets leading through the public appropriations.

    The Good map was based on the smaller March '92 T&V map.

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct000511
    "Published as the Act directs Feb. 1, 1793 for the Proprietors by J. Good, Bond Street." From Literary magazine and British review, Jan. 1793, opp. p. 49 (AP3.L62).

    The Baker map was fashioned after the Nov 92 T&V map.

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct000510
    Plan of the city of Washington : now building for the metropolis of America, and established as the permanent residence of Congress after the year 1800 / B. Baker sculp. Islington. CREATED/PUBLISHED[London?] : Published by W. Bent, 1793.

    This map from Amsterdam copied the Baker map.

  • http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct000524
    Plan der stad Washington : bestemd tot de hoofdstad van America, en ter bestendige verblijfplaats van het Congres, naa het jaar 1800.
    CREATED/PUBLISHED [Amsterdam : s.n., 1793] Kroe, A. van der.

    Stockdale based his map on the Nov 92 T&V.

    This map from Berlin is based on Stockdale's map.

  • ct001211 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3850.ct001211
    Plan of the city of Washington / nach dem englischen Original gestochen von Carl Jättnig in Berlin.
    CREATED/PUBLISHED [Berlin? : s.n., 1800?] Jaettnig, Karl, 1796-1835.

    Reid's map was based on the Nov 72 T&V map.

    Russel based his map on Reid's.