Residents of the District east of the Anacostia River have long complained that their area has become the dumping ground for facilities unwelcome elsewhere in the city: a sewage treatment plant, an impoundment lot for discarded automobiles, the functional equivalent of a poor farm, a shelter for the homeless and excessive numbers of public housing projects.
Well, it didn't all begin here in the late 20th century.
In 1863, when the president was Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday we noted yesterday, the Army needed a site to relocate its remount depot for horses and mules. Camp Fuller, the old remount depot, was then located in Foggy Bottom on the present site of the State Department.
But the teamsters and other personnel attending as many as 30,000 animals were an unruly lot, and besides, the animals produced a prodigious volume of manure. Neither the teamsters nor the manure was terribly welcome in the neighborhood only seven blocks west of the White House.
The answer: move the animals and their attendants to Anacostia, to the then-rural Giesborough (often shortened to Giesboro) Point, roughly the present site of the Naval Research Laboratory. There the teamsters could be more contained and the manure could be disposed of less intrusively.
The outline of this information comes from Maj. Gen. Richard M. Lee, a retired infantry general from Bethesda who wrote the book "Mr. Lincoln's Washington," describing the city in the Civil War. Lee spoke on Lincoln's birthday eve to the D.C. Civil War Roundtable at Fort McNair.
When the stables were in Foggy Bottom, Lee recounted, "the city's cruelest fire" occurred. On Dec. 26, 1861, more than 200 horses were burned to death or suffocated in their jerry-built stables. A thousand horses, freed, "galloped into every quarter of the city." Some of them, badly burned, had to be destroyed.