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District Of Columbia Deed History

The District of Columbia officially became the nation’s capital in 1790 when the Residence Act approved the creation of a capital district. The area consists of land donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia; however, Congress returned the portion from Virginia in 1846. Benjamin Stoddert, a merchant in Georgetown, bought land within the federal district, along with other Potomac landowners, and agreed to transfer the land to the federal government under an agreement with President George Washington. A deed recorded in 1801 from Benjamin Stoddert to the President, Directors, and Company of the Bank of Columbia shows a consideration of $50,000 and was acknowledged before William Thornton, “one of the Commissioners under the Act for Establishing the Temporary and Permanent Seat of the Government of the United States.” Stoddert also helped to found the Bank of Columbia in order to handle land purchases in D.C. for the federal government.

Initially, the District was split into two counties: The County of Washington and the County of Alexandria. When Congress passed the Organic Act of 1871, the individual charters of Washington and Alexandria were repealed and a territorial government was established for the District. Washington, D.C. is under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress and is not part of any state. Currently, the area has a total of 68.3 square miles, 6.9 square miles of which are water.

Congress created the Recorder of Deeds office in D.C. in 1863. In 1869, the agency was officially responsible for recording all deeds, contracts, and other instruments in writing affecting the title or ownership of real or personal property in the District. The first recorder of deeds in the District of Columbia was Frederick Douglass, who was appointed in 1881.