Get our free newsletter

On Feb. 9, 1821, President James Monroe approved a congressional charter for Columbian College in the District of Columbia, today now known as George Washington University. The college, today located in Foggy Bottom, was originally situated adjacent to today’s Florida Avenue near 14th Street NW. Several Baptist ministers, notably Luther Rice, Obadiah B. Brown, Spencer H. Cone, and Enoch Reynolds, purchased the land for the college for $7,000.

Columbian College initially had a just a prep school and two academic departments: theology and classics. The class of 1822, comprised of 30 students, was taught by three professors, and a tutor. Congress required the college be free of religious discrimination:

Persons of every religious denomination shall be capable of being elected Trustees; nor shall any person, either as President, Professor, Tutor or pupil, be refused admittance, or denied any of the privileges, immunities, or advantages thereof, for or on account of his sentiments in matters of religion.

The university changed its name to The George Washington University in 1904, as part of an agreement with the George Washington Memorial Association. The university moved to its Foggy Bottom location in 1912.

Photo by Flickr user arvindgrover using an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license