Thursday, 21 August 2008
Dominating the centre of Washington, as it was designed to do, the Capitol Building stands on the crest of a hill. That hill is often referred to as "Jenkins Hill". Why that name became attached is a mystery. It was L'Enfant who first used this name. The land however was bought from Daniel Carroll of Duddington, and was described as "New Troy". This name was the only one recorded for this 500 acre tract from its first grant by Lord Baltimore to George Thompson in 1663 until L'Enfant's use of 'Jenkin's Hill' in 1791.
There was a Daniel Carroll in the First Congress, but he was an older cousin who served as one of the three Commissioners charged with defining and purchasing the land for the Federal territory.
So who was Jenkins? - and why did L'Enfant use his name? John Michael Vlach wrote an article for 'Capitol Dome', the journal of the US Capitol History Society in Spring 2004.
He argues that Thomas Jenkins did own a 54 acre plot on Capitol Hill during the period in which L'Enfant was researching and preparing his plan for the city. This plot was about seven blocks to the East (approximately one mile) on the ferry road to the Anacostia River. Vlatch suggests that L'Enfant may well have met Jenkins or his slaves whilst crossing the larger area of the hill upon which the Capitol was to be built (at its edge). A map in Nicolas Mann's book "The Sacred Geometry of Washington DC" (p54 Figure 26A) uses the term 'Jenkins Hill' for the larger area of higher land to the east of the Capitol.
If you have any comments - or other information - please post them on this blog.