Washington, D.C., the inconvenient city

January 23rd, 2013

The Federal Government moved from Philadelphia to the new city of Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1800. Although the primary office of the War Department moved, some offices, like that of the keeper of military stores, remained in Philadelphia for a time.

Toward the end of July, Jeremiah Condy sent a letter from his home in the District of Columbia to Samuel Hodgdon, who was still in Philadelphia. Condy was a clerk in the Accountant’s Office as well as a practicing lawyer, and he was less than impressed with the new capital city.

In his letter, Condy told Hodgdon “not to come here if you can possibly avoid it”. Washington was unhealthy, with many cases of dysentery and bilious fever. Condy lived in Georgetown, part of the District of Columbia but a separate city from Washington, and while the climate there seemed to be healthier, he still seems to have felt it was worse than Philadelphia.

Moreover, Washington was expensive: “The markets are about one third dearer than in Philad[elphia] when we arrived they were much at the same prices, since then they have advanced about 33 [percent], when Congress comes they will I entertain no doubt be double.” While Washington no longer sees epidemics of dysentery, but new arrivals still complain about the cost of living, not to mention traffic and the weather.