For decades, hundreds of stones that were once part of the U.S. Capitol were abandoned behind a maintenance facility off an unmarked trail at a park in Washington, D.C., delighting visitors.
But no longer. The stones, about two centuries old and made of sandstone and marble, will be shuttled from their home in Rock Creek Park to a storage facility in Fort Meade, Maryland, and sealed from public view, a relocation that may take years, Bloomberg Government reported.
Fencing already blocks the stones from close view, a spokesperson for the National Park Service said. The move has sparked the ire of residents and history buffs accustomed to accessing the unofficial landmark, located about 6 miles from the U.S. Capitol.
The stones are the property of the Architect of the Capitol, which maintains and operates buildings in the Capitol’s complex, a spokesperson for the National Park Service said. She added that the Park Service had not yet removed any stones but had issued a permit to the Architect of the Capitol for their removal.
One elected official is pushing back on the plan.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s nonvoting delegate, believes the stones should stay “in the location they have been for almost 50 years while causing no harm.”
“Being stones, they’re well-made to withstand the weather and children climbing on them, and access to historical artifacts can only be beneficial for visitors to Rock Creek Park and the district,” Norton said in a news release.
Details about when the relocation is expected to happen were not available.
The Architect of the Capitol did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A spokesperson told Bloomberg Government in a statement that the stones were being removed at the request of the National Park Service.
The removal of the Capitol’s stones has been planned since at least 2019, according to the National Park Service. A spokesperson said that the agency issued a decision that year to expand the park’s maintenance area by 75 feet and “restore to natural habitat” the area where the stones are situated.
The U.S. Capitol, perched at the eastern end of the National Mall, is the meeting place of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Construction on the building first began in 1793. Since then, it has been set on fire, rebuilt and restored. Today, the building contains more than 600 rooms and covers about 4 acres.
The stones were dismantled from the East Front Portico after that side was restored from 1958 to 1962, according to The Washington Post. Before finding a resting place in Rock Creek Park, they were stored at the Capitol Power Plant, about a mile south of the Capitol.
Since at least 1982, the stones have been strewn in a secluded area of Rock Creek Park, a 1,754-acre park in the District of Columbia and the third in the nation to be granted national status and now cover nearly 15,000 square feet of ground, the Post reported.
Over the years, the hidden ruins of the U.S. Capitol became an under-the-radar destination and even garnered a 4.3-star rating on Google Maps. One reviewer called the stones a “little slice of historical heaven.” Another described a “very cool graveyard of the past pieces of the Capitol.”
The relocation of the stones has been criticized by locals who believe the stones should remain a distinctive feature of their community.
Caitlin Hughes, 54, who lives less than a mile from Rock Creek Park, agreed that it was “most practical” for the stones to be left alone in the park, which is filled with other interesting facets from local history.
“They are meant to be outside in the elements providing a structure, and that’s what they do right now in the park,” Hughes said.