Lost Washington: Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station

(Courtesy DC Public Library Commons' photostream)

(Courtesy DC Public Library Commons' photostream)

The Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station was located at the southwest corner of Constitution Avenue and 6th Street, NW. It was constructed between 1873 and  1878, being an outstanding example of the use of Victorian Gothic motifs.

Because of the soft ground over Tiber Creek, the building was supported by wooden piles driven to a depth of 35 ft. The tracks leading to the station crossed Long Bridge (roughly where 14th Street Bridge is), proceeded down Maryland Avenue, SW, crossed the Mall at 6th Street, and terminated at Constitution Avenue (then B Street).

There was a 130 ft train shed stretched halfway across the Mall leading up to the station, and this eyesore, along with the adjacent piles of coal for the engines, remained until the entire station was razed in 1908, following the opening of the new Union Station.

The most significant event in the history of the station was the assassination of President James A. Garfield, which took place in the main lobby at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 2, 1881. After only being in office for four months, Garfield was shot in the back and shoulder by Charles J. Guiteau, a mentally deranged office seeker. Garfield was taken to the White House where doctors were unable to locate and remove the bullet. Because of the uncomfortable heat and humidity, Garfield was taken by train to Elberton, New Jersey, where he died on September 19th.


11 Responses to “Lost Washington: Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station”

  1. is there anything to mark where president garfield was shot at?

  2. Unfortunately, there is nothing to mark the spot. You might want to read Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell.

  3. “Destiny of the Republic” by Candice Millard is excellent.

  4. I am drafting a letter to the National Gallery of Art to ask that they consider putting up a marker either on exterior or interior signage.

  5. Tom Clemence Says:

    I’ve always thought it would be interesting to locate the exact location where he was shot. A while back, I found a reference to an old guide book of DC that mentions that the place on the floor in the waiting room of the old station where Garfield fell was marked with an “x”. Through map regression analysis and a floor plan of the station one might have a pretty good chance at pinpointing the spot on the ground where he was shot. That spot today is either on the ground outside the National Gallery of Art West Building between the road and the exterior wall (as the line of the road is slightly different today), or its inside the Gallery. Would be cool to try to track it down, but it would take a lot of work searching in some DC archives to assemble the sources, floor plan, and detailed maps at large scale of the streets right around where the old station was to do it. But if you did, a memorial marker could probably go within feet of, or, maybe on the exact spot.

  6. […] that a few former commanders in chief are floating around the place in spectral form. Site of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station, where James A. Garfield was shot in 1881.  Blair House – often used as guest quarters […]

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  8. The other day, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive a forty foot drop, just so she
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  9. […] James Garfield was shot? It’s not marked at all. Garfield was about to catch a train at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, when Charles Guiteau shot him in the back. The president almost certainly would have lived, had […]

  10. Lost Washington: Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station | Washington Kaleidoscope

    […]Wow, superb weblog structure! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for?[…]

  11. […] President James Garfield took just a few steps inside the gentlemen’s waiting area at the Baltimore and Potomac train station. Three feet behind him stood Charles Guiteau. Guiteau raised his .44 caliber British Bulldog pistol […]

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