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Who Is That Man, Anyway?
Subject: City Canal
Location: Constitution Gardens
( Constitution Avenue & 17th Street )
The Washington City Canal, completed in 1815, ran from 17th Street, along what is now Constitution Avenue, to the Capitol, where it made a turn south and eventually ended at the Anacostia River. This canal, along with the old B Street Canal, was intended to serve as a means for Maryland farmers to bring their goods into the city or to the ports at Georgetown, whence they could be shipped to the rest of the East Coast or abroad.
The canals were also intended to bring goods into the Federal City. The City Canal passed in front of what is now the National Archives building. In the early 1800s, this was the location of the Central Market, one of five farmers' markets in DC. (The only remaining structure of the farmers' markets is that of Eastern Market, located at 8th Street, SE, just north of Pennsylvania Avenue.) The Central Market's location along the canal route made it a very convenient place to sell and buy goods. At its height, the Central Market is said to have had some 1000 stalls for merchants and, at one point, included a slave auction block.
The canals were never as successful as organizer George Washington had hoped they'd be and, in 1928, they were sold by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to the Federal Government and filled in. It is said that the old City Canal and its companion B Street Canal still exist and have simply been incorporated into DC's storm drainage system.
Photos and text copyright © 2001 Jean K. Rosales and Michael R. Jobe, All Rights Reserved
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