Chesapeake Theater Continued (Part Five)
United States Capitol Building
East Capitol Street, NE and 1st Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002(202) 456-7041
The Capitol Building, which occupies what would be the intersections of Pennsylvania and Maryland Avenues, was blackened during the burning of Washington. Lacking its well-known rotunda, the 1814 structure looked very little like it does today. The sandstone and marble building, which had been under construction since 1793, did not burn readily, and a providential rainstorm saved it from complete destruction. The House and Senate meeting chambers were restored and ready for use by 1819, and the remainder of the structure, including the rotunda was completed seven years later. Although extensive design changes and reconstruction have altered the building’s appearance over the years, it stands among the most recognizable structures in the world. Displays on the first floor include relics from the War of 1812 and the British assault of Washington.
United States Marine Barracks
8th and I Streets
Washington, D.C. 20390(202) 433-4073
Not burned during the brief 1814 British occupation of Washington, D.C. was the U.S. Marine Barracks at 8th and I Streets. Consequently, several of the original military post buildings still stand, and they are among Washington’s oldest existing structures. Although the historic complex remains part of an active military facility, it is open for tours on Wednesdays.
United States Naval Academy
52 King George Street
Annapolis, Maryland 21402(410) 280-0445
Although the U.S. Naval Academy was not established until 1845, the Naval Academy Museum has a number of fine artifacts on display that relate to the War of 1812, including the boatswain’s pipe from the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake and flags from captured British vessels. Relevant monuments and plaques dot the grounds as well. The museum is in Preble Hall on Maryland Avenue.
Old Fort Washington
13551 Fort Washington Road
Fort Washington, Maryland 20744(301) 763-4600
Intended to stop enemy fleets from approaching Washington, D.C. by way of the Potomac, Fort Washington was established about 12 miles south of the capital. During the 1814 British campaign in the Chesapeake, the British sent a force of about 1,000 men to seize the fort. Realizing that they could not resist such a substantial force, the Americans blew up their powder, spiked their cannon, and completely destroyed the fort. A new Fort Washington eventually replaced the earlier one, but it looks very little like the original structure. Located off Maryland Route 120 on the east side of the Potomac River, Old Fort Washington nonetheless offers displays on its predecessor and the part it played in the War of 1812.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500(202) 456-7041
The White House, famously located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and burned during the British occupation of Washington, was handsomely restored after the war and remains to this day the home of American presidents. Under its sparkling white coat of paint, however, remain the coal-black scars of vengeance extracted by the British two centuries ago. Tours of the White House, usually available only through a congressman, offer an opportunity to consider the American experiment in nationhood, which though still developing, has been by and large successful. While walking through the publicly accessible rooms, it is also possible to imagine Ross’s redcoats outside with their torches and Dolly Madison desperately scurrying about trying to save whatever she could from the enemy.