National Capital Parks
A History
NPS Logo


National Capital Parks is a unique organization within the National Park Service, tracing its origin to the founding of the city of Washington in 1790. By the act of July 16, 1790, the President of the United States was authorized to appoint three Federal Commissioners to lay out a district ten miles square to be the seat of the Federal Government. These three Federal Commissioners had exclusive control of all public lands, including parks. The parks of the National Capital have remained under Federal control for more than 160 years. During this time they have been administered by the same office, although it has been known by several different official titles.

In 1791 the office of the three Federal Commissioners was the one Federal office, which had charge of the supervision, maintenance, and operation of all government properties relating to the District of Columbia. As the area grew, certain powers of the office were transferred to newly established Government agencies. Nevertheless, the line of legal existence from the original office in 1791 can be exactly traced to its present successor — National Capital Parks. On August 9, 1933, National Capital Parks became a unit of the National Park Service. The National Capital Parks embraced in 1951 seven hundred eighty (780) distinct reservations totaling approximately 45,000 acres of land in the District of Columbia and the neighboring States of Maryland and Virginia.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 31-Jul-2003