What’s the deal with … no J Street in D.C.?

The only J Street in the District is at the corner of 21st and H streets.

In a salute to one of D.C.’s left-out letters, GW named its food court J Street when the place was renovated in 1994. Students, however, may not know the real reason Washington’s alphabet-ordered street plan jumps from I Street to K Street.

“There are a lot of urban legends going around about it,” said G. David Anderson, the University’s archivist and historian.

One of the most talked about J Street rumors is that Pierre L’Enfant, who designed D.C.’s city plan in the late 1700s, chose not to include a J Street as a personal attack on John Jay, the country’s first chief justice of the Supreme Court. Another example of the hostility between the two: L’Enfant did not include a Supreme Court building in his city plan. The justices met in the basement of the Capitol until a Supreme Court building was constructed many years later.

Anderson said he tends to believe another story, which involves look-alike letters. The Latin alphabet, which L’Enfant used, did not make a distinction at the time between the two letters. They looked the same and were used interchangeably.

Seems like he’s right-The Washington Post printed a story in 1994 dispelling the John Jay myth and confirming that letter confusion was the reason for the left-out street.

Old Latin lettering is also the reason why there is no J Company in the army, according to the library at the Citadel, a military college in South Carolina.

GW might have more information on the J Street story in the near future. The University Archives, where Anderson works, is putting together a GW and Foggy Bottom online encyclopedia.

“We’re compiling questions that are asked a lot. This kind of trivia-like about J Street,” he said.

-Caitlin Carroll

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