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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Judiciary Square in Northwest Washington in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Old City Hall

Civil War to Civil Rights

— Downtown Heritage Trail —

 
 
Old City Hall Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Richard E. Miller, August 16, 2009
1. Old City Hall Marker
Inscription.  
witness
to the end of slavery
in the nation’s capital.


This imposing Greek Revival building was Washington’s first city hall, designed by George Hadfield and built between 1820 and 1850. It house the city court and an elected mayor and city council until 1871. Its prestigious high site overlooked Pennsylvania Avenue and bordered Judiciary Square, then as now, a hub of community life.

This building also stood witness to the end of slavery in the District of Columbia. President Lincoln had authorized up to $1 million to pay loyal D.C. slaveholders for their human property. A slave sale commission working here had the impossible task of putting a monetary value on human life. It was an experiment by Lincoln designed to solve the issue of slavery through compensated emancipation, that was carried out only in Washington, D.C.

The Lincoln statue at the entrance is the first public monument in the United States to the assassinated 16th president, paid for almost entirely by District residents who were appalled that he had been killed in their city. Designed by sculptor Lee Flannery, who
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had known Lincoln, it was dedicated in 1868 and was originally placed at the top of a 35 foot tall column.

Today the building is vacant, awaiting a new use by the city government.
 
Erected by Cultural Tourism D.C. (Marker Number e.2.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansGovernment & Politics. In addition, it is included in the Downtown Heritage Trail, the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the National Historic Landmarks series lists. A significant historical year for this entry is 1820.
 
Location. This marker has been replaced by another marker nearby. 38° 53.697′ N, 77° 1.058′ W. Marker is in Northwest Washington in Washington, District of Columbia. It is in Judiciary Square. Marker is on Indiana Avenue Northwest east of 5th Street Northwest, on the right when traveling west. Marker is midway between 4th and 5th Streets, NW, on the sidewalk at the south entrance to the Old City Hall building which now contains the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. (Note that the building's main entrance is on its north side off E Street, NW.). Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 430 E Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance
Old City Hall Marker - near the statue of Lincoln image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Richard E. Miller, August 16, 2009
2. Old City Hall Marker - near the statue of Lincoln
at the south entrance to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
of this location. Sitting in Judgment (here, next to this marker); Old City Hall and District of Columbia Court House (within shouting distance of this marker); Building Out the Square (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); A Courthouse Reborn (about 400 feet away); Discover DC / Judiciary Square (about 400 feet away); Senator Daniel Webster (about 400 feet away); Daniel Webster (about 500 feet away); Roger Brooke Taney (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Northwest Washington.
 
More about this marker. [Picture captions:]

top and above
The dome seen in this drawing of Old City Hall, top, was never built. The statue of Lincoln once stood atop a 35-foot column. (Library of Congress)

below
The slave house of J.W. Neal & Co. at Seventh Street and the National Mall, pictured here in 1835, was a center of the District slave trade.
(Historical Society of Washington, D.C.)

above
An inventory of African Americans held in slavery by D.C. resident Margaret Barber, 1862. (Library of Congress)

below and left
The Capital City Hotel at Third and Pennsylvania, formerly the St. Charles, catered to slave owners. Their African American slaves were confined below ground. (Washingtonian
Old City Hall / DC Court of Appeals Building image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Richard E. Miller, August 16, 2009
3. Old City Hall / DC Court of Appeals Building
Division, D.C. Public Library.)
 
Regarding Old City Hall. This marker was replaced at the same location by a new marker titled "Sitting in Judgment." The new marker is number e.4, reflecting a change to the trail system.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 30, 2023. It was originally submitted on August 18, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 4,428 times since then and 1,073 times this year. Last updated on April 10, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on August 18, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.

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Jul. 19, 2024