When a DC monument was struck in a vehicle crash, one Virginia man took the lead to save it

The damaged metal fence on South Capitol Street in Southeast used to house one of D.C. 's 40 Boundary Stones, the markers used to outline the original 100-square-mile boundary of D.C. That is, before it was hit by a car. (WTOP/Grace Newton)

You might not even notice the small mangled square metal fence located at the intersection of South Capitol Street and Southern Avenue Southeast on the border of D.C. and Maryland.

But Chairman of the Nation’s Capital Boundary Stones Committee Stephen Powers said it’s actually a pretty big deal.

“Boundary stones are the oldest monuments ever purchased by the United States government,” Powers said. “They were put in place in 1791 and 1792 as a result of the Residence Act, which allowed George Washington the ability to put a 10-mile square somewhere along the Potomac River.”

And that damaged metal fence on South Capitol Street used to house one of D.C.’s 40 Boundary Stones, the markers used to outline the original 100-square-mile boundary of D.C. That is, before it was hit by a car.

On April 20, Powers got a call from a friend telling him the stone, also known as Boundary Stone Southeast #7, had been hit by a car.

Powers said back in 2013, the Daughters of the American Revolution had a cinder block knee wall built around the stone and added a metal fence for protection.

When he arrived at the scene, Powers said the stone was totally covered in rubble from the knee wall while the bumper of the car and license plate had also fallen off.

Taking his time to dig out the boundary stone, Powers said he was surprised to find the stone undamaged. More surprising was why.

“Fortunately, the fence and the knee wall and all the trash that had been put in, you know people use that one as a trash receptacle throwing a lot of that trash in,” Powers said. “[That trash] served as a buffer and the bars and the cinder blocks there, they all kind of buffered … and the stone didn’t get damaged at all.”

He contacted D.C.’s historic preservation office about the stone. Just a few days later representatives from D.C.’s Department of Transportation came to collect the monument and have had it since.

WTOP has reached out to DDOT for information on when the stone will be replaced.

When asked what he thinks would have happened if he never got that call in April about the car crash, Powers says:

“I do think [the Boundary Stone] would have sat there for a couple of weeks until somebody brought it to the right people’s attention.”

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Grace Newton

Grace Newton is an Associate Producer at WTOP. She also works as an associate producer for NPR Newscast. Grace was born and raised in North Carolina but has lived in D.C. since 2018. Grace graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in art history in 2022.

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