Creating Capitol Hill

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Charles Carroll Carter, William C. DiGiacomantonio, Pamela Scott, Maps by Don Alexander Hawkins, and Foreward by Cokie Roberts. Place, Proprietors, and People.

ISBN:  978-1-5136-3344-2.  Softcover 304 pages. Copyright 2018.

Creating Capitol Hill, Place, Proprietors, and People recounts Capitol Hill’s convoluted and fascinating history.  In four essays the story is revealed, recounted, and unraveled. 

The book details the creativity and dedication of the men who led in the early years, particularly Daniel Carroll of Duddington and Thomas Law.  Their willingness to provide the leadership and take risks in this amazing story is clear in the details.  What got built in the early years is due to these men, and not to attention from the national government.  The streets, the bridges, the canals, the markets, the hotels, the houses, the rental spaces both business and residential – even the wooden cabins for free African Americans who could not afford more – were organized and built by these two men in particular.

This book explains how settling the federal government in Washington, DC was a public-private partnership:  the original proprietors surrendered half of their land with the reasonable expectation that the remainder would significantly increase in value.  Much like the idea advocated in James Madison’s famous essay Federalist #10, it was believed that expanding the number of stakeholders in the venture would bolster its chances of ultimate success.  With both the proprietors and commissioners, George Washington trusted “enlightened self-interest” would yield optimal results.

The concluding essay entitled “Capitol Neighbors” is a multifaceted account of how, beginning in the late 1790s, Daniel Carroll of Duddington, joined by Anglo-Indian émigré investor Thomas Law, created a fledgling community to serve several Congresses beginning in 1800.  This overview reveals many ways and means by which one great American city was born.