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Who Is That Man, Anyway?
Subject: Bulfinch Gatehouse
Sculptor: Charles Bulfinch
( Constitution Avenue & 15th )
During the early part of the 1800s, the Mall was heavily wooded and open space used in much the same way as an early British commons. Some DC residents allowed their cattle to graze on the open lands of the Mall and, it is said, the cattle developed a habit of wandering onto the grounds of the new Capitol Building and (perhaps) walking into the chambers and disturbing the debates.
Congress finally directed the Architect of the Capitol, Charles Bulfinch, to address the problem. His solution was to raise an iron fence around the grounds. This gatehouse, its companion at 17th and Constitution, and four stone posts (three of which are placed at the corners of the 15th and Constitution intersection and one of which stands at 7th and Constitution) were all part of the structure that held the fence in place.
Two markers appear on the southeast corner of this gatehouse indicating the high water marks of floods that occurred in 1877 and 1881. This second flood, for which the water reached a height of approximately 30 inches, contributed to Congress directing the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Potomac River. Under the direction of Major General Peter Hains, the Corps dredged both the Potomac and the Washington Channel and used the collected silt to create East Potomac Park.
Photos and text copyright © 2001 Jean K. Rosales and Michael R. Jobe, All Rights Reserved
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