Tiber Creek

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Tiber Creek
Tyber Creek
Goose Creek
View of the city of Washington in 1792.tif
Library of Congress
View of the City of Washington in 1792, showing Goose Creek (Tiber Creek)
Etymology Tiber River in Rome, Italy
Physical characteristics
In front of the White House
 - coordinates
38°53′23″N77°02′11″W / 38.889585°N 77.036419°W / 38.889585; -77.036419

Tiber Creek or Tyber Creek was originally called Goose Creek. It is a tributary of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.. It was a free-flowing creek until 1815 when it was channeled to become part of the Washington City Canal. Today, it is underground in tunnels around the city including under Constitution Avenue NW.

Tributary stream or river that flows into a main stem river or lake

A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage basin of its surface water and groundwater, leading the water out into an ocean.

Potomac River river in the mid-Atlantic United States

The Potomac River is located within the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States and flows from the Potomac Highlands into the Chesapeake Bay. The river is approximately 405 miles (652 km) long, with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles (38,000 km2). In terms of area, this makes the Potomac River the fourth largest river along the Atlantic coast of the United States and the 21st largest in the United States. Over 5 million people live within the Potomac watershed.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.



Originally called Goose Creek, it was renamed by settler Francis Pope. Pope owned a 400-acre (1.6 km2) farmstead along the banks of the creek which, in a play on his surname, he named "Rome" after the Italian city, and he renamed the creek in honor of the river which flows through that city. [1]

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Using the original Tiber Creek for commercial purposes was part of Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant's 1791 "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of the United States . . .". [2] The idea was that the creek could be widened and channeled into a canal to the Potomac. By 1815 the western portion of the creek became part of the Washington City Canal, running along what is now Constitution Avenue. [3] By the 1840s, however, because Washington had no separate storm drain and sewer system, the Washington City Canal had become a notorious open sewer. When Alexander "Boss" Shepherd joined the DC Board of Public Works in 1871, he and the Board engaged in a massive, albeit uneven, series of infrastructure improvements, including grading and paving streets, planting trees, installing sewers and laying out parks. One of these projects was to enclose Tiber Creek/Washington City Canal. A German immigrant engineer named Adolf Cluss, also on the Board, is credited with constructing a tunnel from Capitol Hill to the Potomac "wide enough for a bus to drive through to put Tiber Creek underground." [4] [5]

Washington City Canal river in the United States of America

The Washington City Canal operated from 1815 until the mid-1850s in Washington, D.C. The canal connected the Anacostia River, called the "Eastern Branch" at that time, to Tiber Creek, the Potomac River, and later the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O). The canal fell into disuse in the late 19th century and the city government covered over or filled in various sections in 1871.

Constitution Avenue is a major east-west street in the northwest and northeast quadrants of the city of Washington, D.C., in the United States. It was originally known as B Street, and its western section was greatly lengthened and widened between 1925 and 1933. It received its current name on February 26, 1931. Constitution Avenue's western half defines the northern border of the National Mall and extends from the United States Capitol to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. Its eastern half runs through the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and Kingman Park before it terminates at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. A large number of federal departmental headquarters, memorials, and museums line Constitution Avenue's western segment.

Adolf Cluss architect

Adolf Ludwig Cluss also known as Adolph Cluss was a German-born American immigrant who became one of the most important, influential and prolific architects in Washington, D.C., in the late 19th century, responsible for the design of numerous schools and other notable public buildings in the capital. Today, several of his buildings are still standing. He was also a City Engineer and a Building Inspector for the Board of Public Works. He is believed to have been the only person to have met both Karl Marx and President Ulysses S. Grant.

Many of the buildings on the north side of Constitution Avenue apparently are built on top of the creek, including the Internal Revenue Service Building, part of which is built on wooden piers sunk into the wet ground along the creek course. The low-lying topography there contributed to the flooding of the National Archives Building (Archives I in Washington, DC), IRS, and Ariel Rios buildings that forced their temporary closure beginning in late June 2006. In fact, until the mid-1990s, that part of Washington around the intersection of 14th Street and Constitution Avenue was an open parking lot because the underground water was too difficult to deal with. During construction of the Ronald Reagan Building (1990–98), the engineers figured out how to divert the water. But that dewatering then reduced the water level underneath the IRS building which caused the wooden piers to lose stability and part of the IRS building foundation to sink.

Internal Revenue Service Building

The Internal Revenue Service Building is a federal building which serves as the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service. It is located at 12th Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C., in the Federal Triangle.

A pub near Tiber Creek's historic course north of Capitol Hill was named after it. The Bistro Bis restaurant now occupies the Tiber Creek Pub's former location. [6] A lock keeper's house from the Washington branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal remains at the southwest corner of Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, NW, near the former mouth of Tiber Creek, and the western end of the Washington City Canal. [7] [8] [9]

Lockkeepers House, C & O Canal Extension

The Lockkeeper's House, C & O Canal Extension is the oldest building on the National Mall, built in 1837 at what is now the southwest corner of 17th Street, NW and Constitution Avenue, NW, near Constitution Gardens.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal canal in Washington, D.C. and Maryland

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, abbreviated as the C&O Canal and occasionally called the "Grand Old Ditch," operated from 1831 until 1924 along the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland. The canal's principal cargo was coal from the Allegheny Mountains.

According to General James Wilkinson's memoirs, "I may be excused for mention another incident, which deeply interested [...] my family. My father, to preserve his health and property, purchased 500 acres of land lying on the Tyber and Potomack, which probably comprises the President's house; but at the time, about 1762, the present seat of government was considered so remote from the early settlements of the province, that my mother objected to the removal on accounts of the distance, and my father transferred the property to Thomas Johns, esq. a friend and contemporary, of his neighborhood, to whose family it proved an auspicious contract; but in this case, the benefactor did not long enjoy the prosperity he had promoted." [10]

Today, the streams flowing under the city is often referred to as Tiber Creek though its common past with the Canal is acknowledged. [11]

Location and Course

It laid southeast of then Georgetown, Maryland, amid lands that were selected for the City of Washington, the new capital of the United States. [1] Today this land is the National Mall.

Several small streams flowed from the north and south meeting at the base of Capitol Hill then heading west to flow into the Potomac River near Jefferson Pier. The overall course of the creek was kept when the Canal was built in 1815.

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Anacostia River tributary of the Potomac River in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway parkway in Washington D.C.

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Outdoor sculpture in Washington, D.C. Wikimedia list article

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Independence Avenue (Washington, D.C.) major east-west street in the southwest and southeast quadrants of Washington, D.C., United States

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Jefferson Pier monument stone

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Goose Creek (Potomac River tributary) tributary of the Potomac River in Virginia, United States

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James Creek river in the United States of America

James Creek was a tributary of the Anacostia River in the southwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., once known as St. James' Creek and perhaps named after local landowner James Greenleaf.


  1. 1 2 The Mysterious Mr. Jenkins of Jenkins Hill: The Early History of the Capitol Site - John Michael Vlach (Spring 2004)
  2. "Original Plan of Washington, D.C." U.S. Library of Congress. Accessed 2009-09-16.
  3. Cornelius W. Heine (1953). "The Washington City Canal." Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington, D.C.53-56 (1953-56) 1-27. Now called Historical Society of Washington, DC. Archived 2009-12-07 at the Wayback Machine
  4. German-American Heritage Society of Washington, D.C. Accessed 2009-09-16.
  5. "The Tiber Creek Sewer Flush Gates, Washington, D.C.", Engineering News and American Railway Journal, February 8, 1894.
  6. Goldreich, Samuel (1998). "Bistro Bis succeeds Capitol Hill pub as welcoming lunch option." Washington Times. 1998-10-12.
  7. dcMemorials.com. Plaque beside the Lockkeeper's House marking the former location in Washington, D.C. Accessed 2009-09-16.
  8. HMdb.org: The Historical Marker Database. "Lock Keeper’s House Marker." Accessed 2009-09-16.
  9. Coordinates of lock keeper's house: 38°53′31″N77°02′23″W / 38.8919305°N 77.0397498°W
  10. Memoirs of My Own Times, General James Wilkinson. Pg 9.
  11. What you’d see in Washington’s Tiber Creek sewer — if you dared to go - The Washington Post - John Kelly - August 28, 2013

Further reading