City Desk

Today in D.C. History: City’s 1st Municipal Elections Held

On June 7, 1802, the District's first municipal elections were held. Although the District's governance structure changed a handful of times in the 19th century, at the time, the president selected the city's mayor, while local residents elected a city council. President Thomas Jefferson had chosen local merchant and landowner Robert Brent to be the District's first mayor on June 3. Brent's name survives in today's Brentwood, a Ward 5 neighborhood and Maryland town that occupy part of his landholding, in addition to Brentwood Road, which runs through it.

The city's first polling place was at Rhodes Tavern, pictured above at 15th and F streets NW, a building built in 1799 that was demolished in 1984 after a heated preservation fight. The tavern served a number of purposes, including the city's "first town hall," a place "where White House architect James Hoban and other citizens met to petition Congress for representation and locally elected government" in 1801.

As federal buildings were burned by the British after the U.S. defeat at the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814, Rhodes Tavern escaped destruction, serving as a "dining spot [for] British soldiers who watched the White House burn."

The building also served as a bank, stock exchange, and a home for the National Press Club during periods of its history.

 

Photo courtesy the Library of Congress' Prints & Photographs Division/Historic American Buildings Survey

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  • http://www.streetsofwashington.blogspot.com John DeFerrari

    It's a common misconception that the British dined at Rhodes Tavern; they actually did their dining a block south, at Barbara Suter's boardinghouse on the southeast corner of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, which gave them a much clearer view of the burning White House than Rhodes tavern would have. Suter had just moved her boardinghouse in June of 1814 (the British came in August), which may be the source of the historical confusion. More about Suter's boardinghouse can be read at http://streetsofwashington.blogspot.com/2009/12/crossroads-of-america-hotels-at-15th.html

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