Washington is Burning! August 1814 TourOn August 24, 1814, Washington, D.C. was invaded. British soldiers led by Rear Admiral George Cockburn marched methodically from site to site, setting fire to government buildings.  Follow the path of the British during a walking tour that brings to life the incredible story of the nation’s capital and its brave citizens.


A single government building escaped the conflagration ignited by the British on August 24, 1814, and for that the citizenry could thank Dr. William Thornton, original architect of the U.S. Capitol.  This walk will commence in downtown with the account of how he persuaded an English colonel to leave a building Thornton compared to the “Alexandrian Library” standing. Barbara Suter was not as successful convincing the British that her boarding house had little in the way of hospitality to offer: it became their temporary headquarters, ideally situated to view the fires across the street. In Lafayette Park, participants will learn the connection between naval hero Stephen Decatur, whose house still stands, and Francis Scott Key, author of The Star-Spangled Banner. And then it is on to the White House. What befell the elegant rooms refurbished by First Lady Dolley Madison and the priceless national treasures housed inside? The walk concludes at the home that served as temporary residence for the Madisons in the aftermath of the invasion: the Octagon. Participants receive a guided tour of the home and learn about its key role not only in providing a base of operation for the U.S. presidency but also in the conclusion of the War of 1812.


This walk is part of our Get Local! Saturday walks, a series of weekly walking tours that focus on D.C. neighborhoods and historic sites. Click here to see them all!


Star-Spangled Banner TrailMany of the sites seen during “Washington is Burning! August 1814” are included on the “Star-Spangled Banner Trail”, a 560-mile land and water route that tells the story of the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake Bay region.