Zero Milestone - History


In his plan for Washington, Pierre Charles L'Enfant intended a column to be placed 1 mile east of the Capitol, of which is now Lincoln Park, "from which all distances of places through the continent were to be calculated." Instead, in 1804, the Jefferson Stone or Jefferson Pier was placed on the meridian of the White House due west of the Capitol (119 m WNW of the center of the Washington Monument) to mark the Washington meridian, 77° 02' 12.0".

The current Zero Milestone monument was conceived by Good Roads Movement advocate Dr. S. M. Johnson, formally proposed on June 7, 1919. He was inspired by ancient Rome's Golden Milestone located in the Forum. On July 7, 1919, a temporary marker for the Zero Milestone was dedicated on the Ellipse south of the White House during ceremonies launching the Army's first attempt to send a convoy of military vehicles across the country to San Francisco, California. On June 5, 1920, Congress authorized the Secretary of War to erect the current monument, design to be approved by the Commission of Fine Arts and installed at no expense to the government. Dr. Johnson took charge of the details and raised donations for the design and construction. The permanent Zero Milestone was dedicated in a ceremony on June 4, 1923.

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