Today, the U. S. Capitol Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers when they laid the building’s center foundation on August 24, 1818, four years after the British burned the area.
From the Edinburgh Gazetteer, or Geographical Dictionary, Volume Sixth, published in 1822:
Washington, the metropolis of the United States, in the district of Columbia.
The city of Washington became the seat of the national government in 1800. It is situated on the Maryland side of the Potomac, 295 miles by the course of the river and bay, from the Atlantic, on a point of land between the Eastern Branch and the Potomac; and its site, as laid out, extends two or three miles up each of these rivers.
It is separated from Georgetown by Rock Creek, over which axe two bridges; and there is a bridge over the Potomac, more than a mile in length, leading to Alexandria.
A canal is constructed from the Potomac, passing up the Tiber, a small stream which flows through Washington, and then across the plain of the city to the Eastern Branch, forming a communication between the two rivers.
The natural situation of Washington is pleasant and salubrious; and it is laid out on a plan which, when completed, will render it one of the handsomest and most commodious cities in the world.
It is divided into squares by spacious streets or avenues, running north and south, intersected by others at right angles.
These are crossed transversely by 15 other spacious streets or avenues, named after the different states.
The rectangular streets are designated by the letters of the alphabet, and by numbers.
The grand avenues, and such streets as lead immediately to public places, are from 130 to 160 feet wide; the other streets are from 90 to 110 feet wide.
A very small part of the plan only is as yet completed.
The buildings, which cover but a small portion of the site, as laid out, stand in four or five separate divisions; and Washington at present exhibits the appearance, not of one regular city, but of a collection of villages; in which the splendid edifices appear of a disproportionate grandeur.
About three-fourths of the buildings are of brick, and there are some elegant private mansions.
The principal public buildings and institutions in the city, are the capital, the president’s house, the buildings for the great departments of the national government, the general post-office, the navy-yard, extensive barracks for the marine corps, a jail, a theatre, a public library, four banks, including a branch of the United States’ bank, and ten churches, two for Presbyterians, two for Episcopalians, two for Baptists, two for Methodists, one for Catholics, and one for Friends.
The capitol is finely situated on an eminence, commanding a beautiful prospect of the Potomac, of every part of the city, and of a wide extent of the surrounding country.
It is surrounded by an elegant iron railing, inclosing a large extent of ground, which is planted with various kinds of trees and shrubs.
The two wings only have yet been erected.
They are 100 feet square each, and are to be connected by a well proportioned centre.
The foundation of the central part has recently been laid, and the capitol is now in rapid progress, and is finishing in a style of great elegance and grandeur.
It is built of white freestone, and, when completed, will be a most magnificent edifice, presenting a front of 362 feet.
The president’s house is situated on a gentle elevation, about a mile and a half west of the capitol, and is built of the same kind of stone.
It is a very elegant edifice, 170 feet by 85, of two stories, with a suitable basement story.
The buildings which contain the offices for the great departments of government, consist of four spacious brick edifices of two stories, situated at a small distance from the president’s house.
In these buildings are kept the papers, records, archives, and offices of the departments of state, of the treasury, of war, and of the navy.
The general post-office is a large brick edifice, situated about a mile west-north-west of the capitol, and contains, besides the various offices belonging to the post-office establishment, the general land office, the patent-office, where are deposited all the models of inventions for which patents have been granted, forming a very extensive and curious collection; and a temporary library room for the national library, purchased in 1815, of the honorable Thomas Jefferson, late president of the United States, and consisting of about 8000 volumes.
The navy-yard is situated on the Eastern Branch, which forms a safe and commodious harbor, being sufficiently deep for large ships about four miles from its mouth.
On the 24th of August 1814, this city was taken by the British, who burnt the public edifices, not sparing even the national library.
All these edifices are now rebuilt and repaired.
The foundations of the centre of the capitol was laid on the 24th of August 1818, just four years after the conflagration.
This event has tended greatly to increase the prosperity of the city; the national pride having been excited not only to rebuild what was destroyed, but to complete what was unfinished.
Population in, 1800, 3210; in 1810, 8208; and in 1818, about 12,000.
The U. S. Capitol Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of the burned building, circa 1814.