|Washington D.C. Overview
Washington DC, D.C.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Washington DC, D.C. is the capital city of the United States of America. "D.C." stands for the District of Columbia, the federal district containing the city of Washington DC. The city is named after George Washington DC, military leader of the American Revolution and the first President of the United States.
The District of Columbia and the city of Washington DC are coextensive and are governed by a single municipal government, so for most practical purposes they are considered to be the same entity (this was not always the case, though, as there were multiple jurisdictions within the district as late as 1871, when Georgetown ceased to be a separate city within the District). Although there is a municipal government and a mayor, Congress has the supreme authority over the city and district, which results in citizens having a different status and less representation in government than residents of the states.
The centers of all three branches of the U.S. federal government are in the District as well as the headquarters of most independent agencies. It serves as the headquarters for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States, and other national and international institutions. Washington DC is the frequent location of large political demonstrations and protests, particularly on the National Mall. Washington DC is the site of numerous national landmarks, monuments, and museums, and is a popular destination for tourists.
It is commonly known as D.C., The District, or simply Washington DC. Historically, it was called the Federal City or Washington DC City. It is easily confused with the state of Washington DC, located in the Pacific Northwest - to avoid this, the capital city is often called simply D.C., and the state referred to as Washington DC State. The population of the District of Columbia, as of 2005 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, is 582,049 persons. The Baltimore-Washington DC Metropolitan Area surpasses 8 million persons. If Washington DC, D.C. were a state, it would rank last in area behind Rhode Island, 50th in population ahead of Wyoming, first in population
density ahead of New Jersey, and 35th in Gross State Product.
The District of Columbia, founded on July 16, 1790, is a federal district as specified by the United States Constitution. The U.S. Congress has ultimate authority over the District of Columbia, though it has delegated limited local rule to the municipal government. The land forming the original District came from the states of Virginia and Maryland. However, the area south of the Potomac River (39 square miles or about 100 km²) was returned, or "retroceded", to Virginia in 1847 and now is incorporated into Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. After 1847, the remaining land that formed the area now known as the District of Columbia was
formed exclusively from land that once belonged to Maryland.
A Southern site for the new country's capital was agreed upon at a dinner between James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, hosted by Thomas Jefferson. The city was designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a Major in the United States Army. The initial plan for the "Federal District" was a diamond, measuring 10 miles (16 km) on each side, totaling 100 square miles . The actual site on the Potomac River was chosen by President Washington DC. Washington DC may have chosen the site for its natural scenery, believing the Potomac would become a great navigable waterway. The city was officially named "Washington DC" on September 9, 1791. Out
of modesty, George Washington DC never referred to it as such, preferring to call it "the Federal City". Despite choosing the site and living nearby at Mount Vernon, he rarely visited the city. The federal district was named the District of Columbia because Columbia was a poetic name for the United States used at the time.
Initially, the District of Columbia included four distinct sections, of which the city of Washington DC was only one. The others were Alexandria County, Georgetown, and the County of Washington DC. Georgetown occupied its current boundaries. Alexandria County included parts of the present-day City of Alexandria, as well as the current Arlington County, Virginia. Washington DC City occupied much of its current area but ended at present-day Rock Creek Park on the west and Florida Avenue and Benning Road on the north. Florida Avenue was then called "Boundary Street." The remainder of the district was Washington DC County.
In 1791-92, Andrew Ellicott and the free African-American Benjamin Banneker surveyed the border of the District with both Virginia and Maryland, placing boundary stones at every mile point; many of these still stand. The cornerstone of the White House, the first newly constructed building of the new capital, was laid on October 13, 1792. That was the day after the first solemn celebrations of Columbus Day, marking its 300th anniversary.
On August 24, 1814, British forces burned the capital during the most notable raid of the War of 1812 in retaliation for the sacking and burning of York (modern-day Toronto) during the winter months, which had left many Canadians homeless. President James Madison and U.S. forces fled before the British forces arrived and burned public buildings, including the Capitol and the Treasury building. The White House was burned and gutted. The Navy Yard was also burned-by American sailors. The home of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, located at the Marine Barracks, was one of the few government buildings not burned by the raiding British soldiers out of a sign
of respect and is now the oldest public building in continuous use in the nation's capital. The damage done by the British forces is often exaggerated and was not as reckless as the sacking of York. Civilians were not directly targeted and, initially, the British had approached the city hoping to secure a truce. However, they were fired upon, triggering frustration and anger among the British, which ultimately led to the sacking of government buildings.
During the 1830s the District was home to one of the largest slave trading operations in the country (see Alexandria, Virginia).
In 1846, the populace of Alexandria County, who resented the loss of business with the competing port of Georgetown and feared greater impact if slavery were outlawed in the capital, voted in a referendum to ask Congress to retrocede Alexandria back to the state of Virginia. Congress agreed to do so on July 9 of that year.
Washington DC remained a small city-the 1860 Census put the population at just over 75,000 persons-until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. The significant expansion of the federal government to administer the war and its legacies such as veterans' pensions led to notable growth in the city's population. By 1870, the District population had grown to nearly 132,000.
In July 1864, Confederate forces under Jubal Anderson Early made a brief raid into Washington DC, culminating in the Battle of Fort Stevens. The Confederates were repulsed, and Early eventually returned to the Shenandoah Valley. The fort is located near present day Walter Reed Army Medical Center in northwest Washington DC. The battle was the only battle where a U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln, was present and under enemy fire while in office.
In the early 1870s, Washington DC was given a territorial government, but Governor Alexander Robey Shepherd's reputation for extravagance resulted in Congress abolishing his office in favor of direct rule. Congressional governance of the District would continue for a century.
In 1878, Congress passed an Organic Act that made the boundaries of the city of Washington DC coterminous with those of the District of Columbia. This effectively eliminated Washington DC County; Georgetown, technically made a part of the city, was allowed to remain nominally separate until 1895 when it was formally combined with Washington DC.
The Washington DC Monument opened in 1888. Plans were laid to further develop the monumental aspects of the city, with work contributed by such noted figures as Frederick Law Olmsted and Daniel Burnham. However, development of the Lincoln Memorial and other structures on the National Mall did not begin until the early 20th century.
The District's population peaked in 1950, when the census for that year recorded a record population of 802,178 people. At the time, the city was the ninth-largest in the country, ahead of Boston and behind Saint Louis. The population declined in the following decades, mirroring the suburban emigration of many of the nation's older urban centers following World War II.
The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on March 29, 1961, allowing residents of Washington DC, D.C. to vote for president and have their votes count in the Electoral College.
After the assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, riots broke out in downtown Washington DC. The violence raged for four days. Much of downtown D.C. was burned. At one point, the rioters came within two blocks of the White House. President Lyndon Johnson ordered over 13,000 federal troops to occupy the city--the largest occupation of an American city since the Civil War. Although religious and civic leaders of all races, creeds and colors gathered afterwards to work together to try to rebuild the devastated city, it took decades for D.C.'s downtown to recover, and as late as 2006 there are
still vacant lots, 38 years later, which were caused by the rioting as some buildings which were damaged, torn down and never rebuilt after the 1968 riots. Many businesses, theaters and even houses of worship closed or moved to the suburbs. It was the country's bicentennial in 1976 that helped attract investment back to the capital. The train station--which had been a tattered shell known locally as "Amshack"-- was turned into a visitor's center and then eventually transformed to the glittering building it is today.
One of the most important developments in bringing people back downtown was the building of the subway system. The first 4.6 miles (7.4 km) of the Washington DC Metro subway system opened on March 27, 1976.
Walter Washington DC became the first elected mayor of the District in 1974. Marion Barry became mayor in 1978, but he was arrested for drug use in an FBI sting operation on January 18, 1990, and served a six-month jail term. His successor, Sharon Pratt Kelly, became the first black woman to lead a city of that size and importance in the U.S. Barry, however, defeated her in the 1994 primary and was once again elected mayor for his fourth term, during which time the city nearly became insolvent and was forced to give up some home rule to a congressionally-appointed financial control board. In 1998, Anthony A. Williams was elected the city's mayor and led
the city into a fiscal recovery, which made him a popular figure. Williams was reelected in 2002.
On September 29, 2004, Major League Baseball officially relocated the Montreal Expos to Washington DC for the 2005 season, now named the Washington DC Nationals, despite opposition from Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos. A very public lengthy discussion between the city council and MLB threatened to scuttle the agreement until December 21, when a plan for a new stadium in Southeast D.C. was finalized. The Nationals will play at R.F.K. Stadium until the new stadium is ready on the waterfront in 2008.
Washington DC has a humid subtropical climate typical of the Mid-Atlantic U.S., with four distinct seasons. Summer tends to be hot and humid with daily high temperatures in July and August averaging in the high 80s to low 90s F (about 30 to 33 C). The combination of heat and humidity makes thunderstorms very frequent in the summer. Spring and fall are mild with high temperatures in April and October averaging in the high 60s Fahrenheit (about 20 C). Winter brings cool temperatures and occasional snowfall. Average highs tend to be in the 40s (4 to 8 C) and lows in the 20s (-6 to -2 C) from mid December to mid February. While hurricanes (or the remnants of
them) occasionally track through the area in the late summer and early fall, they have often weakened by the time they reach Washington DC. Spring is the most favorable time of year, with low humidity, mild temperatures and blooming foliage. This period generally lasts from late March until mid May.
The average annual snowfall is 15 inches (381 mm) and the average high temperature in January is 43 F (6 C); the average low for January is 27 F (-3 C). The highest recorded temperature was 106 F (41 C) on July 20, 1930 and August 6, 1918 and the lowest recorded temperature was -15 F (-26 C) on February 11, 1899
Landmarks and museums
Washington DC is home to numerous national landmarks and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. The National Mall is a large, open area in the center of the city featuring many monuments to American leaders; it also serves to connect the White House and the United States Capitol buildings. Located prominently in the center of the Mall is the Washington DC Monument. Other notable points of interest near the Mall include the Jefferson Memorial (see right), Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the District of Columbia War
Memorial and the Albert Einstein Memorial.
he world famous Smithsonian Institution is located in the District. The Smithsonian today is a collection of museums that includes the Anacostia Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery, National Postal Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, and the National Zoo.
There are many art museums in D.C., in addition to those that are part of the Smithsonian, including the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Phillips Collection.
The Library of Congress and the National Archives house thousands of documents covering every period in American history. Some of the more notable documents in the National Archives include the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The District of Columbia operates its own public library system with 27 branches throughout the city. The main branch - which occupies a multi-story glass and steel-framed building at the intersection of 9th and G Streets, N.W., designed by modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - is known as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. It has a large mural in its mail hall depicting the eponymously named civil rights leader.
Other points of interest in the District include Arena Stage, Chinatown, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Blair House, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Folger Shakespeare Library, Ford's Theatre, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, International Spy Museum, National Building Museum, the Awakening at Hains Point, Old Post Office Building, Theodore Roosevelt Island, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Washington DC National Cathedral.