- Historic Sites
The Day They Burned The Capitol
Only a lucky rainfall put an end to our humiliation
December 1954 | Volume 6, Issue 1
But by break of dawn on Friday word had reached the fugitives that the British had gone, and people began to return to the stricken city. Dolley Madison reached the Virginia side of the burned bridge late in the day and was ferried across. Finding the White House an uninhabitable, fire-swept shell, she took shelter at the home of her sister, Mrs. Cutts, directly across F-Street from what is now the National Press Club. There the President joined her. Commodore Tingey had brought up a few marines from Alexandria and repossessed the Navy Yard, and Mayor Blake also returned.
Congress was about to convene, and the only building left in the city which would come close to accommodating it was Blodgett’s Hotel, the Patent Office which Thornton’s intervention had saved, and from which the patent models were now cleared to make room for the legislators. The Madison's moved into the Octagon as a temporary White House, and subscriptions began to be taken for the building of the temporary or “Brick Capitol.” Strong efforts to have the national Capital transferred elsewhere were offset by these quick temporary measures. While the war took a happier turn at Baltimore and New Orleans, the people of Washington turned to the task of picking up the charred pieces of the capital city.