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Washington, D.C., Sights and Structures Before 1880

Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress


These images were selected from the collections of the Library of Congress in response to requests regularly received by the Prints and Photographs Division. The Prints & Photographs Division holds many images relating to Washington, D.C. This select list focuses on items that depict the city and locations in the city before 1880, including projected designs and city plans, some of which never came into being.

General Views | U.S. Capitol | Washington Monument | White House | Boarding Houses | Washington, D.C. During the Civil War | Finding Additional Images | Select Bibliography | Rights and Reproductions

General Views (Including Projected Plans)

Washington (1795)
Washington (1795)
View of the suburbs of the city of Washington (ca. 1795)
View of the suburbs of the city of Washington (ca. 1795)
Washington in 1800
Washington in 1800
George Town and Federal City, or City of Washington (1801)George Town and Federal City, or City of Washington (1801)
Washington, D.C. ca. 1803-view from Blodgett's Hotel (ca. 1803)
Washington, D.C. ca. 1803-view from Blodgett's Hotel (ca. 1803)
U.S. Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue before 1814
U.S. Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue before 1814
The taking of the city of Washington in America (circa 1814)
The taking of the city of Washington in America (circa 1814)
Capture and burning of Washington by the British, in 1814
Capture and burning of Washington by the British, in 1814
Capture of the city of Washington (1815)
Capture of the city of Washington (1815)
City of Washington from beyond the Navy Yard (1833?)
City of Washington from beyond the Navy Yard (1833?)
View of the city of Washington ...taken from Arlington House (copyrighted 1838)
View of the city of Washington ...taken from Arlington House (copyrighted 1838)
Canal, Potomac River, Georgetown (1839)
Canal, Potomac River, Georgetown (1839)
Potomac River, Chain Bridge at Little Falls (1839)
Potomac River, Chain Bridge at Little Falls (1839)
Bank of Columbia, Georgetown, D.C. (1839
Bank of Columbia, Georgetown, D.C. (1839)
Capitol and part of Washington City (1839)
Capitol and part of Washington City (1839)
Steamboat Wharf, Washington, D.C. (1839)
Steamboat Wharf, Washington, D.C. (1839)
Tiber Creek north-east of the Capitol. Washington, D.C. (1839)
Tiber Creek north-east of the Capitol. Washington, D.C. (1839)
East branch of Potomac R. Washington (1839)
East branch of Potomac R. Washington (1839)
Near Pennsylv. Ave. and 7th St. At Washington City (1839)
Near Pennsylv. Ave. and 7th St. At Washington City (1839)
Capitol at Washington D.C.-- West view (1839)
Capitol at Washington D.C.-- West view (1839)
Draw at Longbridge, Washington City (1839)
Draw at Longbridge, Washington City (1839)
East & West Branch below Washington (1839)
East & West Branch below Washington (1839)
In Washington City (1839)
In Washington City (1839)
Washington city north of Capitol (1839)
Washington city north of Capitol (1839)
View of Washington, D.C., looking northwest from southeast of the U.S. Capitol (between ca. 1846 and 1855)
View of Washington, D.C., looking northwest from southeast of the U.S. Capitol (between ca. 1846 and 1855)
United States Patent Office (ca. 1846)
United States Patent Office (ca. 1846)
General Post Office from the corner of 7th Street and E Street, NW (ca. 1846)
General Post Office from the corner of 7th Street and E Street, NW (ca. 1846)
Elements of national thrift and empire (1847)
Elements of national thrift and empire (1847)
View from the 2nd story of the residence of Mrs. Comre. John Rodgers, Franklin Row, K Street at 12 & 13 Sts (1850)
View from the 2nd story of the residence of Mrs. Comre. John Rodgers, Franklin Row, K Street at 12 & 13 Sts (1850)
View of Washington (1850)
View of Washington (1850)
Washington, D.C. with projected improvements (1852)
Washington, D.C. with projected improvements (1852)
Early photographic view of Washington, D.C. from the Capitol looking west-southwest (ca. 1863)
Early photographic view of Washington, D.C. from the Capitol looking west-southwest (ca. 1863)
View of Washington City(1869)
View of Washington City(1869)
   

U.S. Capitol (Including Competition Drawings)

United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. Principal east elevation [Hallet] (1792-1793)
United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. Principal east elevation [Hallet] (1792-1793)
United States Capitol. Tortola scheme. Competition rendering of façade. Elevation with central dome and lantern [Thornton] (1793)
United States Capitol. Tortola scheme. Competition rendering of fašade. Elevation with central dome and lantern [Thornton] (1793)
United States Capitol ("Federal Capitol"), Washington, D.C. Section and elevation of center [Hallet] (between 1793 and 1795)
United States Capitol ("Federal Capitol"), Washington, D.C. Section and elevation of center [Hallet] (between 1793 and 1795)
A view of the Capitol of Washington before it was burnt down by the British (ca. 1800)
A view of the Capitol of Washington before it was burnt down by the British (ca. 1800)
United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. Perspective from the northeast [Latrobe] (1806)
United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. Perspective from the northeast [Latrobe] (1806)
U.S. Capitol after burning by the British (1814)
U.S. Capitol after burning by the British (1814)
West front of the Capitol of the United States (1824)
West front of the Capitol of the United States (1824)
East front of the United States Capitol (ca. 1828)
East front of the United States Capitol (ca. 1828)
West front of the United States Capitol with cows in the foreground (ca. 1831)
West front of the United States Capitol with cows in the foreground (ca. 1831)
The Capitol--Washington, D. C.--West front from the City Hall (1832)
The Capitol--Washington, D. C.--West front from the City Hall (1832)
South gateway of the Capitol at Washington, D.C. (1839)
South gateway of the Capitol at Washington, D.C. (1839)
United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east front elevation (ca. 1846)
United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east front elevation (ca. 1846)
The Capitol from the railway station, Washington, U.S., July 29, 1846 (1846)
The Capitol from the railway station, Washington, U.S., July 29, 1846 (1846)
Inauguration of President Lincoln at U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1861 (1861)
Inauguration of President Lincoln at U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1861 (1861)
Inauguration of Mr. Lincoln (1861)
Inauguration of Mr. Lincoln (1861)
Capitol dome construction (1861)
Capitol dome construction (1861)
Construction of Capitol dome (between 1860 and 1863)
Construction of Capitol dome (between 1860 and 1863)
The main lobby leading from the old hall of the house of representatives to the new one [Waud] (between 1860 and 1865)
The main lobby leading from the old hall of the house of representatives to the new one [Waud] (between 1860 and 1865)
Plaster model of Statue of Freedom (between 1859 and 1878)
Plaster model of Statue of Freedom (between 1859 and 1878)
   

The Washington Monument (Including Projected Designs)

Architectural drawing for the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. [Peter Force] (1837)
Architectural drawing for the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. [Peter Force] (1837)
Monuments and memorials. Design for grand national monument sphinx [Bruff] (between 1845 and 1881)
Monuments and memorials. Design for grand national monument sphinx [Bruff] (between 1845 and 1881)
Monument ("Washington Monument"), Washington, D.C. Rendered perspective [Latrobe] (between 1799 and 1800)
Monument ("Washington Monument"), Washington, D.C. Rendered perspective [Latrobe] (between 1799 and 1800)
Blank certificate for donors to the Washington National Monument Society, Washington, D.C. (between 1835 and 1845)
Blank certificate for donors to the Washington National Monument Society, Washington, D.C. (between 1835 and 1845)
Design of the Washington national monument to be erected in the city of Washington (copyrighted 1846)
Design of the Washington national monument to be erected in the city of Washington (copyrighted 1846)
The Monument as it Stood for 25 Years (ca. 1860)
The Monument as it Stood for 25 Years (ca. 1860)
Beef Depot Monument (1862)
Beef Depot Monument (1862)
Washington, D.C. - present condition of the Washington Monument, on the baseball ground, near the White House (1874)
Washington, D.C. - present condition of the Washington Monument, on the baseball ground, near the White House (1874)
Proposed design for the completion of the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. [Bartle] (ca. 1877)
Proposed design for the completion of the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. [Bartle] (ca. 1877)
     

The White House

A view of the Presidents house in the city of Washington after the conflagration of the 24th August 1814
A view of the Presidents house in the city of Washington after the conflagration of the 24th August 1814
President's house after its destruction by the British (1847 or 1848 depiction of an 1814 event)
President's house after its destruction by the British (1847 or 1848 depiction of an 1814 event)
The White House ("President's House") Washington, D.C. South front elevation / Jan. 1817, B H Latrobe. (1817)
The White House ("President's House") Washington, D.C. South front elevation / Jan. 1817, B H Latrobe. (1817)
President's house (i.e. White House), Washington, D.C., showing south side, probably taken in winter (1846)
President's house (i.e. White House), Washington, D.C., showing south side, probably taken in winter (1846)

Boarding Houses

Blodget's Hotel, built 1793 (ca. 1820)
Blodget's Hotel, built 1793 (ca. 1820)
Blodgett's Hotel, Washington, D.C. (between 1860 and 1880)
Blodgett's Hotel, Washington, D.C. (between 1860 and 1880)
View looking east down Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. ... Carroll Row at left (Mrs. Sprigg's Boardinghouse in 1840s), between 1860 and 1880.
View looking east down Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. ... Carroll Row at left (Mrs. Sprigg's Boardinghouse in 1840s) ( between 1860 and 1880)

Washington During the Civil War-- General Scenes

Flag raising at the White House (1861)
Flag raising at the White House (1861)
Civil war troops (1861)
Civil war troops (1861)
Arsenal, Washington, D.C., north front. Interior court -- group of officers in foreground (between 1861 and 1865)
Arsenal, Washington, D.C., north front. Interior court -- group of officers in foreground (between 1861 and 1865)
Washington, D.C. Maimed soldiers and others before office of U.S. Christian Commission (1865)
Washington, D.C. Maimed soldiers and others before office of U.S. Christian Commission (1865)
Washington, District of Columbia. Captain Chas. H. Tompkin's (A.Q.M.) office. Group in doorway(1865)
Washington, District of Columbia. Captain Chas. H. Tompkin's (A.Q.M.) office. Group in doorway(1865)
Washington, D.C. The Old Capitol Prison, 1st and A Streets NE (between 1860 and 1865)
Washington, D.C. The Old Capitol Prison, 1st and A Streets NE (between 1860 and 1865)
Washington, D.C. Hanging hooded bodies of the four conspirators; crowd departing (1865)
Washington, D.C. Hanging hooded bodies of the four conspirators; crowd departing (1865)
Crowd at Lincoln's second inauguration, March 4, 1865 (1865)
Crowd at Lincoln's second inauguration, March 4, 1865 (1865)
Washington, D.C. Ford's Theater with guards posted at entrance and crepe draped from windows (1865)
Washington, D.C. Ford's Theater with guards posted at entrance and crepe draped from windows (1865)
The grand review at Washington, May 23th 1865. The glorious Army of the Potomac passing the head stand.(1865)
The grand review at Washington, May 23th 1865. The glorious Army of the Potomac passing the head stand.(1865)
Washington, District of Columbia. The Grand Review of the Army. [Cavalry?] passing on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Treasury. (1865)
Washington, District of Columbia. The Grand Review of the Army. [Cavalry?] passing on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Treasury. (1865)
U.S. Army and Cavalry officers in front of the U.S. Capitol Building [Tholey] (between 1861 and 1865)
U.S. Army and Cavalry officers in front of the U.S. Capitol Building [Tholey] (between 1861 and 1865)
 

Finding Additional Images

Searching for images of Washington, D.C., can be challenging because of the variations in how the place name is expressed, because "Washington, D.C." appears in many Library of Congress descriptions to indicate the location of the Library rather than as an indication of subject matter, and because search systems handle abbreviations in different ways. The following search tips may be helpful in searching the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog:

Searching for "Washington, D.C." and sites within Washington, D.C.:

  • Enclose the phrase in quotes: "Washington, D.C."
  • Search "Washington, D.C." as a subject rather than a keyword (this will eliminate retrieval of descriptions that are giving Washington, D.C., as the location of the Library of Congress, but will also eliminate descriptions that are indicating subject matter in a title or note without using a subject heading).
  • Add a decade to your search (e.g., "Washington, D.C. 1860"), this may help narrow down your results to pictures from a particular decade but may also eliminate descriptions that do not include a reference to the decade, even if it would be appropriate. It will also retrieve any number "1860," even if it does not represent a date.
  • Search within particular collections that are likely to depict Washington, D.C. (e.g., Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, where "District of Columbia" is the more encompassing phrase; Johnston Collection, Harris & Ewing Collection, Horydczak Collection, National Photo Company Collection).
  • Search more precisely for locations in Washington, D.C., by using the name of the site, a street name, a type of building (e.g., monuments, hotels) or an event (e.g. "Washington (D.C.)--History--Capture by British, 1814" or "Washington (D.C.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865").
  • For images of the White House, also try searching its earlier designations, "Executive Mansion" and "president's house."
  • For images of the United States Capitol, enclose the phrase in quotes and try variants, such as "U.S. Capitol."

For more search tips and resource suggestions, see: Researching Historic Washington, D.C., Buildings, especially the section on Resources in the Prints & Photographs Division: http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/coll/dcbuildings.html#pandp.

Selected Bibliography

99 Historic Images of Civil War Washington. Edited by Gary E. Adelman and John J. Richter. Oldsmar, Fla. : Center for Civil War Photography and the Civil War Preservation Trust, 2006. LC Call Number:  F198 .A16 2006 (P&P) (LC Permalink:http://lccn.loc.gov/2008364259).

Allen, William C. History of the United States Capitol: a Chronicle of Design, Construction and Politics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 2001. LC Call Number : F204.C2 A458 2001 (P&P) (LC Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2001023757). Full text available: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/004293394

The Architecture of Washington, D.C., edited by Bates Lowry.  Washington, D.C.: Dunlap Society, 1976-1979.  Microfiche.  LC Call Number:  NA 735 .W3 A72  (P&P) (LC Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/76057942).

Visual archive of all known early drawings, prints, and photos, from variety of resources, including many from the  Library of Congress. Volume Two, Chapter I has 11 fiche of pre-1850  images of the U.S. Capitol.  Chapter II has 10 fiche of post-1850 images of the U.S. Capitol.

Brown, Glenn.  History of the United States Capitol. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1900-03.  LC Call Number:  F204 .C2 B8 (P&P Folio) (LC Permalink:  http://lccn.loc.gov/01007535). Full text of 2007 annotated edition available: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005679141

Capital Drawings: Architectural Designs for Washington, D.C., from the Library of Congress. Edited by C. Ford Peatross. Baltimore and Washington, DC: Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the Library of Congress, 2005.  LC Call Number: NA2695.U6 L533 2005 (P&P) (LC Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2004025490).

A guide to the library’s collection of 40,000 items on the development of Washington, D.C., including the ambitious project of designing the nation’s capitol.

Junior League of Washington. The City of Washington: An Illustrated History edited by Thomas Froncek. New York: Knopf, 1977. LC Call Number:  F194 .J8 1977 (P&P) (LC Permalink:  http://lccn.loc.gov/77075008).

Latrobe, Benjamin Henry . The Architectural Drawings of Benjamin Henry Latrobe. [Edited by] Jeffrey A. Cohen and Charles E. Brownell. New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Maryland Historical Society and the American Philosophical Society, 1994. LC Call Number: NA2707 .L37 A4 1994 (P&P) (LC Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/94003121).

Vol. 2, pages 344-424, cover the U.S. Capitol design, First Campaign.  Prints & Photographs Division copy annotated with reproduction numbers of drawings owned by the Library of Congress. 

Lee, Richard M. Mr. Lincoln’s City: An Illustrated Guide to the Civil War Sites of Washington. LC Call Number: F192.3 .L44 (P&P). (LC Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/81003267).

Reed, Robert. Old Washington, D.C., in Early Photographs, 1846-1932. New York : Dover Publications, 1980. LC Call Number: F195 .R3 1980 (P&P). (LC Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/79052841).

Rights and Reproductions

The images are presented for educational and research purposes. The Library of Congress is unaware of any restrictions on the use of the images. However, patrons who plan to publish or otherwise distribute any of the images should be aware that determination regarding the appropriate use of an image ultimately rests with the patron. The Library generally does not own rights to material in its collections. Therefore, it does not charge permission fees for use of such material and cannot give or deny permission for use of the images. For further information, see "Copyright and Other Restrictions That Apply to Publication/Distribution of Images..."

Quality copies of the images may be ordered through the Library of Congress Duplication Services.


Compiled by: Marilyn Ibach, Reference Specialist. Last revised: May 2013.


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