Washington, D.C.

Learn Ten Facts about the Capital of the United States

The United States Capitol in Washington D.C.
View down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. Jumper/Getty Images

Washington, D.C., officially called the District of Columbia, is the capital of the United States (map). It was founded on July 16, 1790 and today has a city population of 599,657 (2009 estimate) and an area of 68 square miles (177 sq km). It should be noted however, that during the week, Washington, D.C.'s population rises to well over one million people due to suburban commuters. The population of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area was 5.4 million people as of 2009.

Washington, D.C. is home to all three branches of the U.S. government as well as many international organizations and the embassies of 174 foreign nations. In addition to being the center of U.S. government, Washington, D.C. is known for its history, many historic national monuments and famous museums like the Smithsonian Institution.

The following is a list of ten important things to know about Washington, D.C.:

1) When Europeans first arrived in what is present-day Washington, D.C. in the 17th century the area was inhabited by the Nacotchtank tribe of Native Americans.

By the 18th century though, Europeans had relocated the tribe and the region was becoming developed. In 1749, Alexandria, Virginia was founded and in 1751, the Province of Maryland chartered Georgetown along the Potomac River. Eventually both were included in the original Washington, D.C. District.

2) In 1788, James Madison stated that the new U.S. nation would need a capital that was distinct from the states. Shortly thereafter, Article I of the U.S Constitution stated that a district, separate from the states, would become the seat of government. On July 16, 1790, the Residence Act established that this capital district would be located along the Potomac River and President George Washington would decide exactly where.

3) Initially, Washington, D.C. was a square and measured ten miles (16 km) on each side. First a federal city was constructed near Georgetown and on September 9, 1791, the city was named Washington and the newly established federal district was named Columbia. In 1801, the Organic Act officially organized the District of Columbia and it was expanded to include Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria.

4) In August 1814, Washington, D.C. was attacked by British forces during the War of 1812 and the Capitol, Treasury and White House were all burned. They were quickly repaired however and governmental operations resumed. In 1846, Washington, D.C. lost some of its area when Congress returned all District territory south of the Potomac back to the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Organic Act of 1871 then combined the City of Washington, Georgetown and Washington County into a single entity known as the District of Columbia. This is the region that became known as today's Washington, D.C.

5) Today, Washington, D.C. is still considered separate from its neighboring states (Virginia and Maryland) and it is governed by a mayor and a city council. The U.S. Congress however has the highest authority over the area and it can overturn local laws if necessary. In addition, residents of Washington, D.C. were not allowed to vote in presidential elections until 1961. Washington, D.C. also has a non-voting Congressional delegate but it does not have any senators.

6) Washington, D.C. currently has a large growing economy that is mainly focused on the service-sector and government jobs. According to Wikipedia, in 2008, federal government jobs made up 27% of the jobs in Washington, D.C. In addition to government jobs, Washington, D.C. also has industries related to education, finance and research.

7) The total area of Washington, D.C. today is 68 square miles (177 sq km) - all of which formerly belonged to Maryland. The area is surrounded by Maryland on three sides and Virginia to the south. The highest point in Washington, D.C. is Point Reno at 409 feet (125 m) and it is located in the Tenleytown neighborhood. Much of Washington, D.C. is parkland and the district was highly planned during its initial construction. Washington, D.C. is divided into four quadrants: the Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest (map). Each quadrant radiates out from the Capitol building.

8) The climate of Washington, D.C. is considered humid subtropical. It has cold winters with average snowfall at about 14.7 inches (37 cm) and hot, humid summers.

The average January low temperature is 27.3˚F (-3˚C) while the average July high is 88˚F (31˚C).

9) As of 2007, Washington, D.C. had a population distribution of 56% African American, 36% White, 3% Asian and 5% other. The district has had a significant population of African Americans since its founding largely because of the freeing of slaves in the southern states following the American Revolution. Recently however, the percentage of African Americans has been declining in Washington, D.C. as more of the population moves to the suburbs.

10) Washington, D.C. is considered a cultural center of the U.S. because of its many National Historic Landmarks, museums and historic places such as the Capitol and White House. Washington, D.C. is home to the National Mall which is a large park within the city and it contains museums like the Smithsonian and the National Museum of Natural History. The Washington Monument is located on the west end of the National Mall.

To learn more about Washington, D.C., visit DC.gov, the official website of the Government of Washington, D.C and About.com's Washington, D.C.



Wikipedia.org. (5 October 2010). Washington Monument - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Monument

Wikipedia.org. (30 September 2010). Washington, D.C. - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington,_D.C.