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.