The ownership of the segment of Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. between 15th and 17th Streets is related to a series of events in hte creation of a ten mile square for the permanent seat of government of hte United States authorized by a July 16, 1790 act of Congress, The President was authorized to appoint three commissioners, and any two of them to "have power to purchase or accept" land as the President "shall deem proper for the use of the United States and provide suitable buildings for the accomodation of Congress, and the President, and for the public offices of hte government of the United States". An act was also passed by Maryland on December 19, 1791 ceding all that part of the territory called Columbia sying within the state to the Congress and government ofhte United States with full and absolute right and exclusive jurisdiction. The right to any property by the United States was made subject to transfer of property by the owners.
Based on the foregoing, proprietors conveyed and throught trustees to be laid out as a city, i.e. the City of Washington, with such streets or squares, parcels or lots as the President should approve. The land not retained by the United States was placed back into private ownership. One half of the lots were reconveyed to the orignial owners and the balance of lots were sold to raise money for establishing the seat of government.
It was, therefore, through the conveyances by the original proprietors that title to the original streets and the site for the President's House is vested in the United States. The site for the President's House is located within the first public appropriation described by metes and bounds in President Washington's letter of Merch 2, 1797 to Messrs. Beall and Gantt. This letter directs these trustees to convey all the streets as laid out and delineated in Dermott's Plan of the City, and also the several squares, parcels and lots of ground as described by metes and bounds in the letter. The ground or land other than the streets are listed as public appropriations numbered from one through seventeen. Dermott's plan clearly shows a large open space where Appropriation Number ONe is situated. It also shows lines to indicate streets flanking the east and west sides of Appropriation Number One. Dermott's plan does not show any street crossing Appropriation Number One between Madison Place and Jackson Place.
Currently, as shown on the attached sketch, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue lying between Madison Place and Jackson Place passes across Appropriation Number One. The segment of the Avenue between 15th Street and the extension of the easterly line of Lafayette Park is flanked by Square 221 on the north and the Treasury Building on the south.
The segment of the Avenue between the westerly line of Lafayette Park extended and 17th Street is flanked by Square 167 onthe north and the Executive Office Building on the south. The Treasury Building and the Executive Office Building lie within Appropriation Number One.
As shown on the sketch, the northerly 90 feet width of Pennsylvania Avenue abutting only Squares 221 nd 167, respectively, is not within Appropriation Number One and some of the pavement south of the 90 foot wide segments lie within Appropriation Number One.
The fact that original streets and public squares are vested in the United States is also confirmed in an opinion delivered by Mr. Justice Story for the Supreme Court in the year 183 (4 Peters 232). This was the case of John P. Van Ness et al vs. the ayor, Alderman and Board of Common Council of the City of Washington and the United States of America.
In summary, Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. between 15th and 17th Streets lies partly within Appropriation Number One and partly outside or exterior to Appropriation Number One, and title to it all is vested in the United States of America.