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Why is it Called Capitalsaurus Court?  

You’re walking along F Street SE, along the south of Garfield Park when you notice it: the signs calling the area “Capitalsaurus Court”. Setting aside the question of whether F Street here is technically a “court” (which usually ends in a loop or a cul de sac), what is with the dinosaur?

It helps to know that the District has an official dinosaur. Yep, for real.

It was discovered in 1898 when workmen were digging for a sewer at First and F Streets SE. After the initial excitement, the bones –vertebra and other bone fragments– sat at the Smithsonian Museum for ninety years. According to Smithsonian Magazine, that’s when paleontologist Peter Kranz re-examined them and determined they were from a hitherto unknown dinosaur, which he informally named “Capitalsaurus” for a 1990 Washingtonian article.  

The name is formal and informal: Kranz never provided the kind of description that precedes a scientific name. DC’s Office of the Secretary said that in 1998, the centennial of the discovery, “some enterprising DC Public School students at Watkins and Smothers Elementary School lobbied the DC Council to dub it the Capitalsaurus and declare it the official dinosaur of the District of Columbia.” 

So, DC Council passed legislation in 1998, designating “Capitalsaurus” the District’s official dinosaur, naming the area where it was found “Capitalsaurus Court” and designating Jan. 28, the day of its discovery, as “Capitalsaurus Day”.  

What kind of dinosaur was it, anyway? It still hasn’t been identified, and it could take a while to amass enough evidence. Any additional fragments have been paved over for more than a century, so the fuller picture is left to a day when those on the Capitol are ready to start digging up the past. The bones remain in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. 

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