Updated:
Original:
Year
1800
Month Day
May 15

President John Adams orders federal government to Washington, D.C.

On this day in 1800, President John Adams orders the federal government to pack up and leave Philadelphia and set up shop in the nation’s new capital in Washington, D.C.

After Congress adjourned its last meeting in Philadelphia on May 15, Adams told his cabinet to make sure Congress and all federal offices were up and running smoothly in their new headquarters by June 15, 1800. Philadelphia officially ceased to serve as the nation’s capital as of June 11, 1800.

At the time, there were only about 125 federal employees. Official documents and archives were transferred from Philadelphia to the new capital by ship over inland waterways. President and Mrs. Adams did not move in to the (unfinished) president’s mansion until November of that year. Settling in to the White House was a challenge for the new first lady. In December, Abigail Adams wrote to a friend later she had to line-dry their clothes in what eventually became the East Room.

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