"We use our cultural landscape reports in a number of different aspects to guide our management of the grounds and this was a unique feature that we wouldn’t think would be relevant today. It goes to show how the tradition of caring for the grounds in a professional manner has been around for over 130 years," said Kaufmann.

Kaufmann assigned Lee Dennis, Supervisory Facility Operations Specialist, to oversee the new Fiscal Year 2021 street-sweeping operation at the Capitol complex. Dennis studied the 130-year-old map and realized with some modifications the map could still be followed in 2021.

There are more aspects to street maintenance than the original map addressed. In the 1890s, the Capitol complex was much smaller and saw significantly less traffic. The 1891 street sweeper was no modern technological wonder — the sweeper was a groundskeeper with a broom, dustpan, horse and buggy.

Jim Kaufmann, Capitol Grounds and Arboretum Director, pictured with a copy of the 1891 street sweeping map.
Jim Kaufmann, Capitol Grounds and Arboretum Director, pictured with a copy of the 1891 street sweeping map.

"The map really simplifies the importance of each area back then," said Dennis. The 1890s map, conveniently color coded by frequency of sweeping, will serve as a guideline for Capitol Grounds and Arboretum groundskeepers. For now, with COVID-19 limiting operations to an as-needed basis, Capitol Grounds and Arboretum runs the street sweeper a few times a week with a focus on Capitol Square. When things return to normal, Capitol Square will be color coded green to indicate it will be swept daily. Areas swept three times a week are coded yellow, areas swept twice a week are coded light blue, and areas swept once a week are coded dark blue.

Not only does street sweeping keep the U.S. Capitol Grounds looking pristine, the technology behind today's street sweeper has a sustainable and environmental focus as well. The street sweeper is a more efficient way of cleaning the sidewalks and curb lines to keep debris from building up in the catch basins of the storm sewers.

"I can't help but wonder if any of the recommendations of the street sweeping plans were supported or directed by Frederick Law Olmsted," Dennis added. Olmsted, regarded as the founder of American landscape architecture, designed the U.S. Capitol Grounds and could have very well overseen a project of this nature. With millions of visitors each year, caring for the grounds is no easy feat and takes months of expert planning. The history and tradition of caring for the U.S. Capitol Grounds is a celebrated ritual that will continue for generations to come.


Very interesting! Thanks for your article.

Thank You for this timely article and keeping our Capital clean.

Capitol Grounds rocks!

I wonder if along with the "groundskeeper with a broom, dustpan, horse and buggy," there was a groundskeeper with a hose. I vaguely remember pictures of streets being watered down.

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