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Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is best known for its water resources and environmental work and its construction of facilities on military bases however, in its long history the Corps has performed many missions, some of which continue to the present and others that reflected the needs of a particular period of our nation s history. Although not forgotten, but perhaps imperfectly remembered, the Corps critical role in the development of Washington, D.C., is a fascinating and important chapter in U.S. Army Engineer history. The Corps role began when the federal government called on the expertise of the few formally educated engineers in the early republic to provide urban services such as a reliable water supply or to contribute to the expansion of the Capitol. As the small and rudimentary city expanded during and after the Civil War, the requirement for greatly increased engineering services became evident, both for the city s governmental center and for its neighborhoods where residents lived and businesses operated. For almost seventy years, Army Engineer officers supervised the monumental, federal core of the city as the Mall grew, evolved, and became the primary focus for the tributes the nation erected for its heroes. The Office of Public Building and Grounds was at the heart of the transformation of the city s federal center. At almost the same time, Army Engineers were given a critical role in governing the city where Washingtonians lived and worked. As one of three commissioners who ran the city, the Engineer Commissioners were powerful figures directing public works and providing the expanding public urban infrastructure that a modern city needed as it grew in size and complexity after the Civil War. And finally, Army Engineers performed their traditional missions in the Washington area by maintaining navigation on the city s rivers and building facilities on its many military installations.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History
  • Civil Engineering

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