National Geographic : 1953 Apr
Founded in 17 51, George- town was already a ma- ture community by the new Republic's standards. It had a thriving trade, gay social life, and devel- oping culture. Only paper plans existed for rearing a Nation's Capital on the wild, tangled, and swampy lands to the east and south. A scattering of struc- tures and brick kilns broke this uninviting expanse in the spring of 1800, when the entire National Gov- ernment began arriving from the temporary capital at Philadelphia. Counting thePresident, c.abinet members, officials, and clerks, the total of Fed- eral employees was fewer than 150. Georgetown, with a population of 3,000, was not impressed. Law- makers' activities found scant space in its gazettes. Shipping news was more important. In time-and it took almost a century-the Federal City engulfed Georgetown, and the 53d Congress finally voted it out of official existence on February 11, 1895. Georgetown, however, kept on being Georgetown. 514 National Geo g raphic Photographers B. An thony Stewart and J ohn E. Fletcher This perseverance had its eventual reward. Three years ago Congress de- cided the legally nonexist- ent community had been surviving all along. A new law was approved, September 22,1950, which A World Map for a World Business in Little Georgetown Martha Johnson (left) and Doris Thompson, owners of Francis Scott Key Book Shop, search the globe for rare volumes and cater to patrons on six continents (page 513). The National Geo graphic Society's World Map helps them keep track of customers sent abroad by diplomatic and defense services. found, takes care of cu tamers' canaries or goldfish over week ends, keeps spare keys for forgetful neighbors, gets your shoes to the cobbler, and locates owners of lost dogs that stray in. One grateful poodle even sent a bouquet, and another time there was a cake from a cairn. When the limits of the District of Columbia were traced in 1791, Georgetown found it elf within them as part of Maryland 's contribu- tion toward the area, " not exceeding ten miles square," authorized for the Federal City that was to be. This chance circumstance, how- ever, has never kept the town from priding itself on its separate identity. At first no one could challenge that identity. defined its boundaries and set up precautions to preserve its character as a place of historic interest, though keeping it legally still part of the District of Columbia. " Old George- town," as the law chose to call it, received the news with calm satisfaction. Where Tranquillity Waits Among the first evidences of community gratification was restoration of old street names. For the benefit of non-residents, our lampposts continue to display the designations imposed half a century ago when Congress directed the change of "nomenclature of the streets and avenues of Georgetown to con- form to tho e of Washington."