Site SelectionIn 1791, President George Washington (who was raised in Stafford County 10 miles south of this site at Ferry Farm) appointed three Commissioners to oversee construction of the new federal capital city (later named Washington, D.C.). The Commissioners sent Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant to survey the lands along the Potomac River for adequate deposits of freestone.
L'Enfant selected Brent's Island for its bountiful supply of good-quality freestone, proximity to the capital city, and accessibility for water-transit.
On December 2, 1791, L'Enfant purchased the quarry for the federal government. Thereafter, the site was known as The Public Quarry. Today, the site is commonly known as Government Island.
The Commissioners also contracted with other nearby, private quarry owners to supply additional building material. The use of these quarries, in addition to Government Island, helped to further establish quarrying as an important industry in Stafford County.
In 1791, L'Enfant wrote to his assistant, stating, "...repair immediately to Aquia Creek to see the qurries [sic] there belonging to the public - to have barracks erected upon theron for twenty men on each of these quarries, on the island purchased from Mr. George Brent...."Architectural FeaturesAquia stone was easy to carve, which made it a natural choice for intricate decorative details and trim elements around windows and doors. from the late 1600s through the 1700s, Aquia sandstone was commonly used for gravestones, boundary markers, fireplace mantels, millstones and bridges. This stone was used throughout Virginia and the mid-Atlantic colonies. During the Federal Period, intricate carving of Aquia Stone created striking features at the White House and U.S. Capitol.
Approximately two miles northwest of this site stands Aquia Episcopal Church (1751-1757), which has freestone architectural components, including keystones, quoins, and pediments. Aquia sandstone was used in other prominent Virginia buildings, such as Kenmore in Fredericksburg (ca. 1772), Gunston Hallat Mason Neck (1755-1760), and Christ Church in Alexandria (1767-1773).