The Jefferson Pier, Washington DC

Monument · Hidden Gem · Historic Site
Jefferson Pier, Jefferson Stone, or the Jefferson Pier Stone, in Washington, D.C., marks the second prime meridian of the United States even though it was never officially recognized, either by presidential proclamation or by a resolution or act of Congress.Location and inscriptionThe stone is on the National Mall almost due south of the center of the White House and the midline of 16th Street, NW, about due west of the center of the United States Capitol building, almost due north of the center of the Jefferson Memorial and 391ft WNW of the center of the Washington Monument.The monument is a 2.25x, 3ft tall granitic monolith with crossing longitudinal and latitudinal lines engraved on its upper surface and with a defaced inscription engraved on its west face that states:Position of Jefferson Pier erected December 18, 1804. Recovered and Re-erected December 2, 1889. District of ColumbiaThe chiseled-out fifth line reportedly once incorrectly stated: "BEING THE CENTRE POINT OF THE".Plan of Washington, D.C.According to a notation on Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant's 1791 "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of the United States...", Andrew Ellicott measured a prime meridian through the future site of the U.S. Capitol. (Shortly after L'Enfant prepared this plan, its subject received the name "City of Washington".) Thomas Jefferson, who at the time was serving as the United States Secretary of State, supervised Ellicott's and L'Enfant's activities during the initial planning of the nation's capital city. Jefferson hoped that the United States would become scientifically as well as politically independent from Europe. He therefore desired that the new nation's capital city should contain a new "first meridian".
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  • Looking for less tourist things to see in the National Mall, the Jefferson Pier came up. It is also known as Jefferson Stone or Jefferson Pier Stone. According to the history, small stone was place....  more »
  • I came across the stone as I walked the distance between Lincoln Memorial towards the Washington Monument and stopped to pose barefoot in the grass at the imaginary line between White House and...  more »
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  • This is around a bout the point where the Washington monument should have been, on the north-south, east-west axis. According to the L'Enfant plan, an equestrian statue of George Washington would have been built here. But when the monument was changed to an enormously heavy (81,000 tonne) obelisk. The decision was made not to place the Washington monument on the axis, as the marshy and soft ground would have compromised the monuments structural integrity. But instead a few hundred feet south-east which is why the monument is not on the axis, and the National mall is unsymmetrical.
  • According to the National Park Service: " On December 18th, 1804, a simple granite obelisk was erected at the intersection of lines from the front doors of the Executive Mansion and the Capitol Building, as part of a meridian system used to align city streets and development. As President, Thomas Jefferson wished for the United States to become scientifically as well as politically independent from Europe, so he wished for the new national capital itself to be a new “first meridian.” The original marker aided surveyors and later served as a benchmark during construction of the Washington Monument. As Tiber Creek was transformed into the Washington City Canal, the marker became known as the “Jefferson Pier” because barges navigating the Potomac River routinely used the original marker as an anchoring post. The entire Mall area west of the Pier Stone was once under water! The original marker disappeared in 1874, but a replacement marker was erected December 21, 1889. This simple obelisk is about 100 yards on a diagonal from the northwest corner of the Washington Monument. In addition to offering a glimpse into the dramatic changes the National Mall has undergone, this spot offers marvelous views of the surrounding monuments. When viewed at night from this vantage point, flashbulbs going off in the chamber of the Lincoln memorial look like fireflies on a warm summer night."
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