On March 12, 2017 · Comments Off on Regurgitated

Twelve Mile Circle goes back into its vault every once in awhile to offer little addenda to earlier articles. Sometimes it involves a flash of brilliance that I wish had come to mind during the creation of the original. Other times something new comes to light that didn’t exist beforehand. Still in others instances, it relates to trivial items that nobody cares about except for me. Guess which category prevailed today. Please feel free to indulge my personal whims or go ahead and skip to the next article that will appear in a few days. I won’t feel bad either way.


Duckpins Beer
Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin IPA

I mentioned an unusual variation of bowling found in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states not long ago called Duckpins. I said that it always seemed to be a "Baltimore" thing to me. Now I have more proof.

Look what I found sitting in my refrigerator when I came home from work a couple of days ago. Not one, but two beers with a duckpins theme. I guess my wife must have fixated on it after our recent journey to the duckpins lanes in Maryland. She explained that she got into a conversation with a brewery representative stocking the shelves at our local bottle shop, as she often does. He recommended Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin Double IPA, both made by Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore (map). I loved all of the duckpins that decorated the bottles, especially the Double.

The brewery certainly enjoyed this local connection, saying things like "the pins may be small but the flavor is huge" and "danker than a rental shoe and rolling with ten frames of juicy, resinous hops down a solid lane of malted barley and wheat." I couldn’t help feeling maybe they missed a marketing opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great to purchase bottles shaped like duckpins? Then I considered that nobody would collect and place them on a shelf like I would. Drinking and glass bowling pins might not be an ideal combination.

This wasn’t the first time a local beer made the pages of 12MC either, by the way (e.g., 12 Mile Circ… no wait, 16!)


Four Miler Elevation
Four Courts Four Miler Elevation
via Pacers Running

One time 12MC focused a series of pages on various natural forces including gravitation. I had my own experience with gravity yesterday. Seriously though, why would my wife sign me up for a 4-mile (6.4 km) running race with that awful hill in the elevation chart shown above (map)? Sure, running downhill would be great. However the uphill return began to haunt me in the days leading up to the event. Just to make things even more special, winter decided to return this weekend with a race-time temperature of 26° Fahrenheit (-3.3°C) and sustained winds of 14 miles per hour (23 k/hr). Guess which way the wind blew. Directly down the hill and into the faces of people climbing back up to the finish line.

Four Courts Four Miler
A Guinness at 10:00 a.m.? Sure. May I have another?

I didn’t have much of a plan although it went beyond my usual "Run Like Hell" strategy that wasn’t really a strategy. I did use Run Like Hell on the way down, then switched to "Catch Your Breath" on mile 3 because I knew I would have to revert to "Suck it Up" for the final mile. I wanted to break 30 minutes and I did manage to accomplish that, just barely, at 29:42 (a 7:26 min/mile pace).

That was good enough for first place in my age category although I didn’t have a lot of additional competitors in my bracket. We live in a very young area so it was me and a bunch of 20-somethings. Plus the really good runners skipped this little neighborhood jog for a large marathon taking place at the same time across the river in nearby Washington, DC. At least I scored a legitimate victory this time. My wife signed me up for the local Turkey Trot last Thanksgiving and I "won" my age category… because she accidentally signed me up as a woman.

The course actually involved a bit of geographic trivia. This hill — part of the Arlington Ridge — marked a transition between two of Virginia’s physiographic regions, the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont. That little nugget didn’t propel me uphill any faster although the free pint of Guinness waiting at the end did serve as decent motivation. After all, the race started and ended at a local Irish pub.


I explained my fear of the hill to a coworker a couple of days before the race. Nervous? Me? Really, it turned out to be a lot easier than the tricks it played on my mine beforehand. Don’t get me wrong — it was still dreadful — although I got through it mostly unscathed. He said it reminded him of a hill during his army training days. The soldiers wore heavy packs while they ran so that put things back into perspective for me. He couldn’t remember the nickname they gave the hill although it probably involved cursing. We decided a fine fictitious name would be something with a little play on words, like Damn it to Hill. That reminded me of the amusing Damfino Street in San Antonio, Texas.

Could there actually be a hill with that name, perhaps shortened to something like Damita Hill? Well no, and I checked the Geographic Names Information System carefully. The closest I got was The Dam Hill in Essex County, New York (map) and Dam Hill in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania (map). I similarly found Pull and Be Damned Point in Skagit County, Washington (map) and Give-A-Damn Canyon in Lincoln County, New Mexico (map).

I also learned that there were at least several people named Damita Hill.

Crystal City

On December 23, 2016 · Comments Off on Crystal City

Familiar place names always catch my attention. Often they share a bond with locations near my home in the Washington, DC area. Several years ago I wrote about one such situation in A Tale of Three Ridges. This time Crystal City served as the common denominator.

Crystal City, Virginia

Arlington Crystal city (1)
Arlington Crystal city. Photo by DymphieH on Flickr (cc)

Virginia’s Crystal City abuts Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. However, most flyers probably never noticed it. Minds tend to wander across the Potomac River to the famous monuments on the National Mall. However, a glance in the opposite direction would show large blocks of office towers and apartments instead. That skyline marked Crystal City.

Crystal City didn’t exist until the Cold War. This unplanned creation handled the overflow of Federal agencies, government contractors, and residents. Jackson City once stood there in the mid 19th Century, providing space for two forts during the Civil War. Then the area declined.

After the war ended, it devolved into a seedy red-light district, complete with saloons, betting parlors and brothels — most of which were burned down in 1904 by a self-appointed cleanup crew known as the "Good Citizens League." From those ashes rose an industrial sprawl of brickyards, warehouses, iron-fabricating factories and junk lots that spread south.

The revival began with the construction of the Crystal House apartments (map) in the 1960’s. It happened to feature an ornate crystal chandelier. That started a naming trend for new construction in the area — everything became Crystal something-or-another.

I used to work in Crystal City. The old American Meridian ran directly through it. I drove across it every day, living in the former Western Hemisphere and working in the the Eastern Hemisphere. Twelve Mile Circle even sponsored a Happy Hour gathering back in 2010 at a Crystal City pub almost directly atop the Meridian. I had fond geo-geek memories of the place.

Crystal City, Texas

Crystal City Popeye
Crystal City Popeye. Photo by Jerry and Pat Donaho on Flickr (cc)

The Crystal City in Texas provided the excuse for this article. My genealogy hobby uncovered a distant relative in that town in Zavala County. He lived there in 1910, working in a livery stable. It seemed odd that the town shared a name with a place in Virginia. The city explained its origin:

Two land developers, Carl F. Groos and E. J. Buckingham, developed the town in the early 1900s. In 1905 they purchased the 10,000-acre Cross S Ranch, sold off most of the land as farms, and platted the townsite of Crystal City, named for the clear artesian water of the area.

Usually when I describe little places like this I struggle to find much of historical value. Crystal City defied that trend. It became known for several reasons in the last few decades. First, it served as one of the largest internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II. Then it received a lot of coverage in early 2016. Federal agents arrested almost every top official. They allegedly took bribes from a guy called Mr. T. who ran an illegal gambling scheme. Those indicted included the mayor, mayor pro tempore, city manager and two of three councilmen.

I preferred to recognize Crystal City for its motto, as the "Spinach Capital of the World." They even placed a statue of Popeye the Sailor Man in front of city hall (map) and included him on the city seal.

Crystal City, Missouri

Ford Crown Victoria
Crystal City-Missouri Police. Photo by World Police Vehicles on Flickr (cc)

However, the fun didn’t end there. I discovered additional Crystal Cities. One of them landed in Missouri (map). That city said,

Around 1843 an Eastern company conducted a search in this area of Missouri, looking for land with valuable minerals. In 1868 Forrest Sheppards, a mineralogist and geologist, located silica (sand rock) near the mouth of Plattin Creek. The sand was of superior quality for glass manufacturing. What followed was an enthusiastic pursuit of development, and The American Plate Glass Company was founded here by Captain Ebenezer B. Ward of Detroit, in 1871.

Crystal City began as a company town named for the glass. The factory remained until 1990, or nearly 150 years. However, the company controlled every facet of life for the first few decades. An independent town grew immediately to its west, with privately owned homes and business, particularly saloons. The two came to be known as The Twin Cities, Crystal City and Festus (Minnesota’s Minneapolis and St. Paul might disagree). Festus supposedly got its name from a lady who opened her bible onto a random page. Her finger landed on Acts 25:1 and the name Festus. This replaced Tanglefoot. It didn’t seem like much of an improvement.

They could change Crystal City to Cletus and create the perfect hillbilly combination, though.

Crystal City, Manitoba

we built this city on grain (and rock 'n' roll)
Grain elevator in Crystal City, Manitoba. Photo by Agent Magenta on Flickr (cc)

Canada included a Crystal City too, in Manitoba (map).

Greenway proceeded to map a street layout for a "city" south and east of Crystal Creek. The idea of our "town" being a city in the then future was not so far-fetched. Crystal City had a population of 230 plus, with Brandon recording around 100, while even Winnipeg numbered in at 400 in 1878. Greenway had seen Ontario towns with less, become great, simply due to time, immigration and internal growth. The dream for the town was to become a city, a leader in the southern prairies, maybe even the provincial capital.

Of course, this Crystal City never grew into that great city. Fewer than 400 people live there today.

My Speech

On February 28, 2016 · Comments Off on My Speech

On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of presenting a speech about the Washington, DC Boundary Stones to the Stone Bridge Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Ashburn, Virginia. Since this was a group based in Northern Virginia, I placed a special emphasis on those markers on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.

Map of the District of Columbia, 1835
Washington, DC in 1835
via Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

An official with the Stone Bridge chapter found my Washington, DC Boundary Stones page and wondered if I might be interested in introducing the topic to the group at one of its monthly meetings. I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t fear public speaking, and in fact I quite enjoy it so of course I accepted the offer. That was the first time anyone had ever requested such a thing in the eight years I’ve written Twelve Mile Circle and the twenty years I’ve posted material related to my interests on the Intertubes so I knew I might never get another chance. I was also delighted to know that someone actually read and enjoyed one of the more obscure pages on my site that I’d tucked away in the attic, probably covered with cobwebs.

West Cornerstone – video by 12MC

I was slated for their February meeting which seemed like a lifetime away when we made arrangements last July. Time had a way of slipping away as it always does and February arrived before I knew it. Soon enough I found myself stepping up to the podium. I rambled on for about half an hour and I thought I did acceptably well, although one never truly knows. The speech allowed me to meander down a few geo-oddity tangents as well, like telling one of my favorite stories about the multi-jurisdictional Woodrow Wilson Bridge. I didn’t see much yawning in the audience and listeners asked a lot of pertinent questions that showed they were paying attention. I took those as good signs.

Washington DC Boundary - Stone SW4
Southwest Stone #4 – photo by 12MC

One question caught me a bit off-guard and I think it may have been the question I enjoyed the most. A member of the audience asked very simply if I had a favorite boundary stone. I’d never thought about that before. I liked all of them from a geo-geek perspective and they all look pretty much the same. However I wanted to frame a response that encouraged those in attendance to visit a marker that offered more than a simple stone enclosed within a wrought iron cage like the world’s smallest cemetery. I suggested the South Cornerstone for several reasons: it was the first stone placed and thus the most significant historically; it rested along a beautiful stretch of the Potomac River; the site included an old lighthouse; the surrounding park featured other amenities such as a bike trail and a basketball court; there was a large easily-accessible parking lot, and so on. However I thought of another marker on the drive home that evening that was much more meaningful to me personally.

Washington Boundary Stone Northeast 7
Northeast Stone #7 – photo by 12MC

It was lowly Northeast Stone #7 on the border between Washington, DC and the State of Maryland at Fort Lincoln Cemetery. It was an ugly stone, and looked like it had been through hard times as did the protective cage surrounding it. I wrote about my experience at the cemetery in 2011 after my 102-year-old grandmother passed away and was buried there next to my grandfather who I never met because he died several years before I was born. It’s hard to believe that my visit to Fort Lincoln happened nearly five years ago. I need to get back out there again soon.

Stone Bridge DAR
The Nice Gift Bag – thank you Stone Bridge DAR!

The Stone Bridge Chapter of DAR also gave me a nice gift bag, which was quite unexpected and much appreciated. And I got to stick around for the Chili Cook-Off competition. All-in-all it was a great evening and I thank the women of the Stone Bridge Chapter for the opportunity to share some of my obsession with local geography and history, hopefully without boring them too much.

I figured a few of you might be interested in what I discussed so I’ve presented my speaking outline below which I am offering under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license should anyone else ever wish to use it. This was just a basic guide. I went off-script and down rabbit holes at several points as it suited me.


United States Constitution, Article 1 Section 8 (Article 1 deals with the Legislature)

"The Congress shall have Power… To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States…"



  • Articles of Confederation – Philadelphia was the capital; central government had little power
  • Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783
    • Continental Army soldiers in Philadelphia demanded payment for Revolutionary War service
    • Several hundred soldiers surrounded Independence Hall
    • Congress of Confederation made a request to governor of Pennsylvania to protect the federal government
    • The governor declined to intervene
    • Congress relocated to Princeton, New Jersey; capital moved several times thereafter
  • The framers of the new Constitution needed an independent capital



  • Constitution specified a maximum size for District (“ten Miles square” = 100 square miles), not a location
  • Northern and Southern interests
  • Compromise
    • Southern states would assume a portion of northern states’ Revolutionary War debts
    • The capital would be located in a southern area
  • The Residency Act allowed the President to choose the spot
  • George Washington wanted Alexandria to be within the District; the area would also include Georgetown
    • Alexandria was an important port city
    • Washington and his family/friends owned property around Alexandria
  • Compromise
    • Alexandria would be included in the District
    • All public buildings would be located on land formerly part of Maryland



  • Alexandria would anchor the southern tip of a "ten Miles square" diamond
  • Washington commissioned a survey team led by Andrew Ellicott (African American surveyor/astronomer Benjamin Banneker part of the crew)
  • Boundary would be designated by sandstone markers quarried at Aquia Creek in Virginia (also used for buildings in DC; e.g., original Capitol columns now at National Arboretum)
  • The effort took two years, 1791-1792
    • First stone — the South Cornerstone — placed at Jones Point at the confluence of the Potomac River and Hunting Creek
    • The crew then headed clockwise
    • Path 20 feet wide cleared on each side of marker
    • Forty mile perimeter — forty stones placed
      • Thirty Six still survive
      • Oldest Federally-placed monuments in the U.S.
  • Officially became District of Columbia in 1801



  • The District had two counties, Washington and Alexandria
  • Alexandria diminished in importance; viability threatened
    • Federal presence on other side of the Potomac
    • Georgetown on the C&O Canal
    • Reliance upon the slave trade
    • Undercurrents of Congressional involvement; abolitionist movement
    • All District residents disenfranchised
  • Alexandria appealed to Richmond; lobbied for return
  • Virginia would accept Alexandria’s return if U.S. Congress consented
  • Congress consented in 1846, subject to a referendum of Alexandria residents
  • Residents approved referendum; Congress issued a proclamation of transfer
  • Virginia approved the transfer in 1847 and its original lands returned
  • The Compromise of 1850 did indeed outlaw the slave trade in the District

The Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of the retrocession



  • The southwestern side of the ten Miles square now traverses Virginia land
    • Includes 14 markers (South & West Cornerstones; all southwest intermediate stones; first three northwest intermediate stones)
    • SW2 is a replacement stone
    • See
  • Most of the original boundary stones are still there
    • They still form a boundary, principally for Arlington County, with Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church
    • Less so with the City of Alexandria
  • The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) placed iron fences around the markers in 1915
  • Otherwise they were neglected and largely forgotten
  • Finally getting renewed attention in the last couple of decades
  • Most of the markers on the Virginia side are very easy to visit



South Cornerstone

  • Jones Point Park
  • Large parking lot underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge
  • Trivia – Woodrow Wilson Bridge


Southwest Stone 9

  • Benjamin Banneker Park; 6620 N. 18th St., Arlington
  • Easy street parking in a quiet suburban location
  • The park has a lot more than just the boundary stone
  • Trivia – W&OD access


West Cornerstone

  • Andrew Ellicott Park at the West Cornerstone; 2824 N. Arizona St., Arlington
  • Easy street parking in a quiet suburban location
  • Trivia – Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church tripoint (only 4th alphabet street in Arlington)

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