Suter Tavern, K Street at 31st, Washington, DC, 1850 – 1880
On March 12, 1791 the Georgetown Weekly Ledger reported the arrival of Benjamin Banneker, one of Maryland’s most illustrious African Americans. When Andrew Elliott was commissioned by the President early in 1791 to measure and mark the boundaries of the site authorized by Congress for the nation’s capital, he chose Banneker to be his assistant: “He [Ellicott] is attended by Benjamin Banneker, an Ethiopian, whose abilities, as a surveyor and as an astronomer, clearly prove that Mr. Jefferson’s concluding that race of men were void of mental endowments, was without foundation.” Thus a gifted free African American served with distinction on the team that surveyed the tracts ceded by Maryland and Virginias to the Federal Government. Banneker’s fellow surveyors secured temporary lodging in Georgetown taverns and met with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington at Suter Tavern. Banneker ate with his colleagues, but at separate tables, at his own request, he slept in a tent on the survey sites where he worked on and produced his almanacs. Of this time, Andrew Elliott’s niece Martha, wrote in her diary: “Banneker’s [sic] deportment throughout the whole of this engagement received their respect, and there is good authority for believing that his endowments led the commissioner to overlook the color of his skin, to converse with him freely, and enjoy the clearness and originality of his remarks on various subjects.” Banneker worked on the project seven days a week for about three months. He then returned to his farm at Ellicott City near Baltimore to continue work on his six almanacs, one of which he sent to Thomas Jefferson as proof of the intellectual powers of his race. Upon completion of the project, Georgetown, along with the other Maryland river towns, was included in the new District of Columbia.
(Source: Black Georgetown Remembered)
Suter Tavern site marker text:
SITE OF SUTER TAVERN
THIS PLAT OF GROUND WAS CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH THE FOUNDING AND PLANNING OF THE NATIONAL CAPITAL.
HERE STOOD A TAVERN BUILT ABOUT 1760 AND OCCUPIED BY JOHN SUTER FROM 1783-1795. ON MARCH 30, 1791, GEORGE WASHINGTON MET NEIGHBORING LANDOWNERS IN THIS TAVERN AND NEGOTIATED THE PURCHASE OF LANDS REQUIRED FOR THE FEDERAL CITY.
MAJOR PIERRE CHARLES L’ENFANT COMPLETED THE ORIGINAL PLAN FOR THE CAPITOL CITY AT SUTERS IN 1791 AND ESTABLISHED OFFICES FROM WHICH THE FEDERAL COMMISSIONERS DIRECTED THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE WHITE HOUSE, THE CAPITAL BUILDING, AND THE EARLY DEVELOPMENT OF THE CITY O WASHINGTON.
THE TAVERN WAS RAZED SOMETIMES AFTER 1896.
THE GEORGETOWN CITIZENS ASSOCIATION