District of Columbia Court of Appeals

Historic Site

Editorial Review

More than 50 years before the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated, D.C. residents erected a statue of Lincoln in front of City Hall - the first public monument to the slain president. Much has changed since 1868: The statue originally stood on a 35-foot column in the middle of D Street but was moved when the plaza was renovated in the 1880s.

The building, now the D.C. Court of Appeals, has changed, too. Built between 1820 and 1850, this fine Greek Revival building served as Washington's city hall until 1871. It held the offices of the mayor and city council but also the city's court, where in 1862 the government began an experiment: Slaveholders were compensated for their freed slaves, who were then emancipated and offered the choice of staying in America or resettling in Haiti or Liberia. This program was attempted nowhere else.

-- Fritz Hahn (April 2011)