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How did Washington, D.C., get its name?

How did Washington, D.C., get its name?

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Before Washington, D.C., became America’s capital in 1800, the Congress met in a number of different locations, including Baltimore, Trenton and New York City. After years of debate by the new nation’s leaders about the selection of a permanent seat of government, Congress passed the Residence Act in July 1790, which declared that the capital would be situated somewhere along the Potomac River and granted President George Washington the power to choose the final site. The president also was given the authority to appoint three commissioners to oversee the federal city’s development, and a deadline of December 1800 was established for the completion of a legislative hall for Congress and residence for the chief executive.

In January 1791, George Washington announced his choice for the federal district: 100 square miles of land ceded by Maryland and Virginia (in 1846, the Virginia land was returned to the state, shrinking the district by a third). In September 1791, the commissioners named the federal city in honor of Washington and dubbed the district in which it was located the Territory of Columbia. The name Columbia, derived from explorer Christopher Columbus, was used during the American Revolution era as a patriotic reference for the United States (In 1871, the Territory of Columbia officially was renamed District of Columbia.) Meanwhile, in the spring of 1791, the president hired French-born architect and engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant to lay out the capital city. L’Enfant, who served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, created a design that featured wide avenues and open spaces; however, he clashed with George Washington’s commissioners as well as local landowners and was forced to resign from the project after less than a year. L’Enfant’s design was revised by later planners.

Congress met in Washington for the first time in November 1800 (the man for whom the city was named had died in December of the previous year), and in February 1801 the District of Columbia, which at the time also included the cities of Alexandria and Georgetown, was placed under the control of Congress. Today, America’s capital city has more than 650,000 residents, and they’re represented by a non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 23rd Amendment gave citizens of D.C. the right to vote for president, starting in 1964, and since 1974 Washingtonians have elected their own mayor and city council.

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How did Washington, D.C., get its name? - HISTORY

How Washington, D.C., got its name

The city was named by the three commissioners, charged with supervising the construction of the public buildings, at one of their then monthly meetings on September 8, 1791. These three men were recently appointed by President Washington. Secretary of State Jefferson came down from the capital in Philadelphia to present the agenda of what the President wanted the commissioners to decide. Selecting the name for the city was one item and Washington told Jefferson to assure the commissioners that they had complete freedom. Of course, everyone knew that the city would be named after Washington. One name bruited about Philadelphia before the meeting was "Washingtonople." Jefferson described the meeting in a letter to Washington: the commissioners were "preadmonished that it was your desire that they should decide freely on their own view of things." No matter: "they concurred unanimously in. every point with what had been thought best in Philadelphia." The commissioners named the city "Washington." They also had to name the ten mile square, mandated by the Constitution, that the the city was in. In 1791 there were already two existing towns in that ten mile square, Georgetown and Alexandria. They chose the name "Columbia."

As far as I can ascertain there was no debate about "Columbia" either. During the Revolution, Columbia was hailed as the goddess protecting America against Britannia. For example Phyllis Wheatley sent a poem to General Washington in 1775, and it was published in the Pennsylvania Magazine in 1776, which contained these passages:

"Celestial choir! enthron'd in realms of light,
Columbia's scenes of glorious toils I write.
While freedom's cause her anxious breast alarms,
She flashes dreadful in refulgent arms.

Fix'd are the eyes of nations on the scales,
For in their hopes Columbia's arm prevails.
Anon Britannia droops the pensive head,
While round increase the rising hills of dead.
Ah! cruel blindness to Columbia's state!
Lament thy thirst of boundless power too late.
Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,
Thy ev'ry action let the goddess guide.
A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine,
With gold unfading,Washington be thine."

In 1784 Washington wrote to Lafayette's wife: "When the weight of so powerful an advocate is on our side, will you My Dr. Marchioness deny us the pleasure of accompanying him to the shores of Columbia?"

During this period the many counties and cities named Columbia got their names. So if one were to create a district which would represent all of the United States of America, the name everyone seemed to agree on was "Columbia." In the competition for the capital, some Pennsylvanians planned a city on the Susquehanna to be named Columbia.

In letters, debates and official documents the ten mile square along the Potomac was called the "Federal District." However, officially the congress met in "The City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia." In the early debates in Congress about the city, both names were used. Take this example in 1803 the House turned to the affairs of the "District of Columbia" and began discussing a bill to return portions of the "Territory of Columbia" to Virginia. I suppose the "Territory of Columbia" was no longer used after the District lost what home rule it had in the second half of the 19th century.


Georgetown, the oldest neighbourhood in the District of Columbia, was originally a trading village called Tohoga by the local Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans in the 1600s. By 1751 this area on the Potomac River was well established as a colonial tobacco port and named for King George II of England. Forty years later the port town was included in the parcel of land transferred by Maryland to become part of the District of Columbia. In 1789 Georgetown University was established as the first Roman Catholic academic institution in the country. Construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in the 19th century brought new jobs to the old port city. Mills, foundries, and lime kilns began to line Georgetown’s waterfront. Its population was ethnically and economically diverse and consisted mainly of merchants, labourers, and government employees.

Maintaining its own elected government, economy, and identity, Georgetown remained independent of Washington until 1871, when it was absorbed into the expanding city. For a time, newspapers referred to the port as West Washington, but ultimately the old name prevailed. By the end of the 19th century, however, Georgetown was no longer considered a fashionable place to live. Only a few wealthy residents remained in their dignified old mansions, which stood next to brick and wooden row houses occupied by lower- and middle-class labourers.

In the 1930s educated, idealistic, high-ranking New Deal government workers rediscovered the charm of Georgetown and started the renewal of the neighbourhood through the preservation and restoration of its older homes. Less-affluent residents sold their homes at attractive prices, starting an upward spiral of artificially high real-estate prices that have come to be expected in present-day Georgetown. In 1951 Congress designated most of Georgetown a historic district, and, by the end of the 20th century, several historic Georgetown homes had been opened to the public, including the Old Stone House, Tudor Place, Dumbarton House, and Dumbarton Oaks Estate and gardens. In the early 21st century, Georgetown residents included a mix of university students, government and private sector workers, and upper-middle-class families. The neighbourhood has a variety of unique shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.

Growth and change

Between 1830 and 1865 tremendous changes occurred in Washington, beginning with the arrival of Pres. Andrew Jackson (served 1829–37), who brought with him a retinue of new civil servants—beneficiaries of the “spoils system” who introduced democratizing social changes to the workplace and the community. Challenges were plentiful: the local economy was unstable silt in the Potomac River restricted navigation the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was delayed and epidemics were common. When railroads reached the city in the 1830s, a flood of tourists came with them, as did a proliferation of congressional spouses, who forever changed Washington’s social scene. Major construction projects for three federal buildings located just blocks apart in Downtown Washington (the Department of the Treasury, the General Post Office, and the Patent Office [the last is now part of the Smithsonian Institution]) also began in the 1830s.

During the American Civil War, the city was never far from the front lines, if only because Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, was so close. Following the assassination of Pres. Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre just days after the war’s end, Washington was plunged into a state of unprecedented desperation and despair.

In the years following the Civil War, the capital was slowly transformed into a showplace. Two factors contributed to this change. First, in 1871 self-government was granted for the first time to Washingtonians. Under the new territorial government, which lasted just three years, numerous city improvement projects were undertaken: modern schools and markets were erected, streets were paved, outdoor lighting was installed, sewers were built, and more than 50,000 trees were planted. The price for these improvements, however, was far more than Congress had anticipated. The new territorial government was short-lived, but Congress was required to complete the projects. Second, beginning in the 1880s, a number of newcomers arrived in Washington from across the country. Many of them were affluent intellectuals and lobbyists. This new “elite” made Washington their part-time home during the winter social season. Members of the old Washington society became known as “Cave Dwellers,” a local term for descendants of the original families of the area. They generally still keep within their own social circles.

Washington’s character improved significantly with the completion of the Washington Monument in 1884, the Library of Congress in 1897, and, beginning in the late 1890s, the proliferation of social organizations, private clubs, and formal societies for the arts. In 1901 the Senate Park Commission (also known as the McMillan Commission) offered comprehensive and resolute recommendations for revitalizing and beautifying Washington, advocating that no undertaking “be allowed to invade, to mutilate, or to mar the symmetry, simplicity, and dignity of the capital city.” The new plans were stunning, but years would pass before any of them could be realized.

D.C. wants to steal our state's name. They can have it

Washington D.C. policymakers have been pushing for statehood for a long time. If they achieve their goal, will they steal our name?

In an advisory vote Tuesday, the people of Washington, D.C. will decide whether to drop the name New Columbia from their statehood push. Their new idea, as proposed by the Washington, DC council: to name themselves the State of Washington, DC.

Two Washington states! The other Washington is trying to rob us of our name, some say. Evan Bush writing in the Seattle Times said “you can’t steal our statehood name, add a few letters and expect us to just sit back and enjoy the sea breeze while sipping on lattes and wearing flannel.”

I say, let them have it. We can do better.

First, from the very beginning, Congress has made a hash of avoiding confusion between the two entities. That mess still exists more than 160 years later.

The people of what became Washington state wanted to name their new territory Columbia. That was meant to distinguish us from Oregon and to honor the great river that made our economy and defined a border—and, indirectly, it honored the guy credited with “discovering America.” Folks in D.C. objected. They believed that if they named the new territory Columbia, people would confuse it with the nation’s seat of government, the District of Columbia, that odd chunk of federal swampland that was neither state nor territory.

Wanting to honor the nation’s first president, Washington was proposed by a slave-owning, border-state Congressman (and later Confederate leader). This would avoid confusion with Washington, DC it was argued. Thus, Columbia was stricken from the territorial act. In the Senate, Stephen A. Douglas tried to soften the name by proposing Washingtonia, but that failed. Washington it was, and it remains. But it has proven ever since to be confusing. People here simply refer to DC as “the other Washington.”

In the current flurry of renaming things, some have questioned whether naming things after George Washington is appropriate in general, due to his past as a slaveowner. Though if anywhere ought to be named Washington, the city that hosts the nation’s capitol seems most appropriate.

Interestingly, DC is wrestling with some of the same questions that were troublesome in the 1850s. Citizens there will be voting on a statehood measure and a draft state constitution for DC has been written. Up until October, the name of the proposed state was New Columbia—not particularly popular in DC, but a placeholder. It has been ditched, however.

On October 18, the council changed the designation of DC from District of Columbia to Douglass Commonwealth, named after the incomparable Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, social reformer, and DC resident. Thus, the new state’s official name would become “the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.” Kind of a mouthful.

I think DC should be a state. I think the name Washington should be theirs — the city has had that name for over 200 years, long before Lewis & Clark ever got to the mouth of the Columbia. I don’t think sharing the name is a great idea: West Washington State and East Washington State — separated by thousands of miles, we’re not going to be like the Carolinas.

They were first, Congress made a mistake, let’s take the chance. I think we should seize the opportunity for re-branding.

We could do with a new flag, a new song, a new face even. Washington’s portrait on the seal is basically just what we see everyday on a dollar bill.

A few suggestions come immediately to mind, to start the conversation.

We could go back to Columbia, but since our major cities have been switching Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, the name carries a lot of baggage. It would also connect us to our northern neighbor: British Columbia. We lose the opportunity to be more original.

Cascadia is a name that reflects the bio-region and suggests the hint of possible secession as part of a new entity in the Pacific Northwest that could include other Northwestern states and provinces., It is also gives tribute to a defining feature of the state (and region, from BC to California), the Cascade range. Cascadia also already has a flag featuring blue, white and green with a Douglas fir in the middle. Nothing says independence like “Old Doug.”

Ecotopia might also be available. Washington state was once a part of the imaginary West Coast republic of eco-conscious utopians conceived by author Ernest Callenbach in the 1970s. Author Joel Garreau gave the Northwest lands adjoining the Pacific Coast that name in his book 1990s book, “Nine Nations of North America.” It’s a bit dated, but carries an aspirational flair.

There’s also the possibility of adapting the state’s moniker, “the Evergreen State,” and simply being the state of Evergreen. That presents some challenges, including confusing the state with our hippie college. And do you change the name of the University of Washington to the University of Evergreen? Confusion in academia would abound.

We could go back to earlier names for the general area. Sir Francis Drake visited the region in 1579 to help establish claims of the British Empire, then newly conceived by Queen Elizabeth I’s mage, John Dee. Nova or New Albion, he called the West Coast. That name is probably too “white,” literally. Still, it has a kind of mystical resonance that suggests a distant Camelot.

Given the growth in the Hispanic population in the state and national demographic shifts, another colonial name to kick around like New Albion would be Spain’s name for the Northwest: Nueva Galicia.

Another possibility suggested by a Twitter follower: Tahoma. This would solve a couple of problems. It would recognize the region’s indigenous peoples. It would resolve the occasional eruptions of more than a century over whether we should rename Mt. Rainier to Mt. Tahoma or Mt. Tacoma.

Rainier was named for an officer in the British navy who opposed the United States during the Revolutionary war. In other words, an enemy of George Washington. Tahoma, thought to be a native term for the mountain, also names the one distinctive landmark that can be observed from both sides of the state (that, by the way, is why it is featured on the license plates). If not Tahoma, I am sure the tribes could come up with a suitable Native American name.

Re-branding is always tricky (New Coke!), and this would come with a lot of public process and Congressional meddling. But we never really wanted our current name to begin with, accepting it because territorial status and later statehood were too important to derail over a name.

Today, stepping aside and helping DC forge a new identity would be a good thing. We can rise to the challenge of finding a fresh name that better reflects who we are today, not who a bunch of politicians wanted us to be more than a century ago.

How Did Washington State and Washington, D.C., Get the Same Name?

Photo by Jupiterimages/Thinkstock.

The Washington state Legislature approved gay marriage Wednesday. When Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the bill into law, her state will become the second Washington to recognize gay marriage since Washington, D.C., did so in 2009. Why do we have two Washingtons?

Because it’s better than having two Columbias. The commission tasked with delineating the new national capital in 1791 named it the “Territory of Columbia.” (Federal statutes vacillated between calling the area a “territory” and a “district” for decades, with the latter becoming the official title in 1871.) When settlers in northern Oregon asked the government to establish an independent “Columbia Territory” in 1852, Congress faced a problem. Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, Kentucky Democrat Richard Henry Stanton noted, “We already have a Territory of Columbia.” The confusion could intensify, he added, if the new territory were to add a city called Washington or Georgetown. Congress agreed to grant the settlers independence from Oregon, but named their new state Washington to honor the first president.

Contemporary statesmen would have argued that Washington, D.C., was a city, not a territory or state, so the duplication of the name wouldn’t be such a big deal. There were already lots of localities that shared names with states, such as Florida, N.Y., and Georgia, Vt., not to mention cities that have the same name as their own state, like New York City and Delaware City. By the mid-19th century, there were already dozens of place names that included the word Washington, and there are at least 120 today. (The first was Fort Washington—now known as Washington Heights—established in New York during the Revolutionary War.)

The name of the Washington Territory became a public issue again when the territorial government petitioned for statehood in the 1880s, although duplication was only one element of the discussion. Prominent lawyer David Dudley Field II—most famous for the reformation and codification of the country’s arcane court procedures—kicked off a nationwide renaming movement with a wonderfully colorful speech to the American Geographic Society in 1885. Field argued that native names invariably sound better than the settlers’ alternatives: “What a name is New York for this queen of Western cities! Compare it with that which the Indian gave it, barbarian as we call him, Manhattan or Manahatta. Who for its euphony and its significance would not wish the old name back again?” Field singled out the place names Tombstone, Wild Cat, Rawhide, and Dirt Town, among a few others, as “disgusting” and suggestive of “semi-barbarous” residents.

Field also pointed out that naming places after prominent people has led to duplication and confusion. He noted, “I make my boast that I am an American … but the Brazilians and the Peruvians claim also to be Americans, and the claim cannot be denied.” Field urged the government avoid this mistake by converting the Washington Territory into the state of Tacoma. (Field also objected to the cardinal directions in the names of North and South Dakota, which were petitioning for statehood at the same time, and sought to change the name of the New Mexico Territory to “Sonora.”)

Residents of the Washington territory resisted Field’s proposals for name reform. Washingtonians—those from the state, not the city—thought Field’s argument was bunk. One letter-writer pointed out, “it would be a stupid postal clerk, indeed, who would fail to distinguish” between Washington, D.C., and Washington state. These arguments, paired with sheer inertia, carried the day.

By establishing a state of Washington, Congress belatedly fulfilled a century-old wish of the late Thomas Jefferson. In 1784, a Jefferson-chaired committee suggested that Congress divide the Northwest Territory into 10 states, for which Jefferson suggested names. Most of modern-day Ohio was to be called Washington state. (Washington, D.C., didn’t exist at the time, so the name wouldn’t have been duplicative.) Incidentally, if Congress had accepted Jefferson’s naming scheme in its entirety, modern-day Michiganders would be living in either Metropotamia or Chersonesus, depending on their location. People in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois would be residents of Assenispia.

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Various tribes of the Algonquian-speaking Piscataway people (also known as the Conoy) inhabited the lands around the Potomac River when Europeans first visited the area in the early 17th century. One group known as the Nacotchtank (also called the Nacostines by Catholic missionaries) maintained settlements around the Anacostia River within the present-day District of Columbia. Conflicts with European colonists and neighboring tribes forced the relocation of the Piscataway people, some of whom established a new settlement in 1699 near Point of Rocks, Maryland. [18]

In his Federalist No. 43, published January 23, 1788, James Madison argued that the new federal government would need authority over a national capital to provide for its own maintenance and safety. [19] Five years earlier, a band of unpaid soldiers had besieged Congress while its members were meeting in Philadelphia. Known as the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, the event emphasized the need for the national government not to rely on any state for its own security. [20]

Article One, Section Eight, of the Constitution permits the establishment of a "District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States". [21] However, the Constitution does not specify a location for the capital. In what is now known as the Compromise of 1790, Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson agreed that the federal government would pay each state's remaining Revolutionary War debts in exchange for establishing the new national capital in the Southern United States. [22] [a]


On July 9, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which approved the creation of a national capital on the Potomac River. The exact location was to be selected by President George Washington, who signed the bill into law on July 16. Formed from land donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, the initial shape of the federal district was a square measuring 10 miles (16 km) on each side, totaling 100 square miles (259 km 2 ). [23] [b]

Two pre-existing settlements were included in the territory: the port of Georgetown, Maryland, founded in 1751, [24] and the city of Alexandria, Virginia, founded in 1749. [25] During 1791–92, a team under Andrew Ellicott, including Ellicott's brothers Joseph and Benjamin and African-American astronomer Benjamin Banneker, surveyed the borders of the federal district and placed boundary stones at every mile point. [26] Many of the stones are still standing. [27]

A new federal city was then constructed on the north bank of the Potomac, to the east of Georgetown. On September 9, 1791, the three commissioners overseeing the capital's construction named the city in honor of President Washington. The same day, the federal district was named Columbia (a feminine form of "Columbus"), which was a poetic name for the United States commonly in use at that time. [28] [29] Congress held its first session there on November 17, 1800. [30] [31]

Congress passed the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 which officially organized the district and placed the entire territory under the exclusive control of the federal government. Further, the unincorporated area within the district was organized into two counties: the County of Washington to the east of the Potomac and the County of Alexandria to the west. [32] After the passage of this Act, citizens living in the district were no longer considered residents of Maryland or Virginia, which therefore ended their representation in Congress. [33]

Burning during the War of 1812

On August 24–25, 1814, in a raid known as the Burning of Washington, British forces invaded the capital during the War of 1812. The Capitol, Treasury, and White House were burned and gutted during the attack. [34] Most government buildings were repaired quickly however, the Capitol was largely under construction at the time and was not completed in its current form until 1868. [35]

Retrocession and the Civil War

In the 1830s, the district's southern territory of Alexandria went into economic decline partly due to neglect by Congress. [36] The city of Alexandria was a major market in the American slave trade, and pro-slavery residents feared that abolitionists in Congress would end slavery in the district, further depressing the economy. Alexandria's citizens petitioned Virginia to take back the land it had donated to form the district, through a process known as retrocession. [37]

The Virginia General Assembly voted in February 1846 to accept the return of Alexandria. On July 9, 1846, Congress agreed to return all the territory that Virginia had ceded. Therefore, the district's area consists only of the portion originally donated by Maryland. [36] Confirming the fears of pro-slavery Alexandrians, the Compromise of 1850 outlawed the slave trade in the district, although not slavery itself. [38]

The outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 led to the expansion of the federal government and notable growth in the district's population, including a large influx of freed slaves. [39] President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act in 1862, which ended slavery in the district of Columbia and freed about 3,100 enslaved persons, nine months prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. [40] In 1868, Congress granted the district's African American male residents the right to vote in municipal elections. [39]

Growth and redevelopment

By 1870, the district's population had grown 75% from the previous census to nearly 132,000 residents. [41] Despite the city's growth, Washington still had dirt roads and lacked basic sanitation. Some members of Congress suggested moving the capital further west, but President Ulysses S. Grant refused to consider such a proposal. [42]

Congress passed the Organic Act of 1871, which repealed the individual charters of the cities of Washington and Georgetown, and created a new territorial government for the whole District of Columbia. [43] President Grant appointed Alexander Robey Shepherd to the position of governor in 1873. Shepherd authorized large-scale projects that greatly modernized the City of Washington, but ultimately bankrupted the district government. In 1874, Congress replaced the territorial government with an appointed three-member Board of Commissioners. [44]

The city's first motorized streetcars began service in 1888. They generated growth in areas of the district beyond the City of Washington's original boundaries. Washington's urban plan was expanded throughout the district in the following decades. [45] Georgetown's street grid and other administrative details were formally merged to those of the legal City of Washington in 1895. [46] However, the city had poor housing conditions and strained public works. The district was the first city in the nation to undergo urban renewal projects as part of the "City Beautiful movement" in the early 1900s. [47]

Increased federal spending as a result of the New Deal in the 1930s led to the construction of new government buildings, memorials, and museums in the district, [48] though the chairman of the House Subcommittee on District Appropriations Ross A. Collins from Mississippi justified cuts to funds for welfare and education for local residents, saying that "my constituents wouldn't stand for spending money on niggers." [49]

World War II further increased government activity, adding to the number of federal employees in the capital [50] by 1950, the district's population reached its peak of 802,178 residents. [41]

Civil rights and home rule era

The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1961, granting the district three votes in the Electoral College for the election of president and vice president, but still no voting representation in Congress. [51]

After the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on April 4, 1968, riots broke out in the district, primarily in the U Street, 14th Street, 7th Street, and H Street corridors, centers of black residential and commercial areas. The riots raged for three days until more than 13,600 federal troops and D.C. Army National Guardsmen stopped the violence. Many stores and other buildings were burned rebuilding was not completed until the late 1990s. [52]

In 1973, Congress enacted the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, providing for an elected mayor and thirteen-member council for the district. [53] In 1975, Walter Washington became the first elected and first black mayor of the district. [54]

Washington, D.C., is located in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. East Coast. Due to the District of Columbia retrocession, the city has a total area of 68.34 square miles (177 km 2 ), of which 61.05 square miles (158.1 km 2 ) is land and 7.29 square miles (18.9 km 2 ) (10.67%) is water. [55] The district is bordered by Montgomery County, Maryland to the northwest Prince George's County, Maryland to the east Arlington County, Virginia to the west and Alexandria, Virginia to the south. Washington, D.C., is 38 miles (61 km) from Baltimore, 124 miles (200 km) from Philadelphia and 227 miles (365 km) from New York City.

The south bank of the Potomac River forms the district's border with Virginia and has two major tributaries: the Anacostia River and Rock Creek. [56] Tiber Creek, a natural watercourse that once passed through the National Mall, was fully enclosed underground during the 1870s. [57] The creek also formed a portion of the now-filled Washington City Canal, which allowed passage through the city to the Anacostia River from 1815 until the 1850s. [58] The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal starts in Georgetown and was used during the 19th century to bypass the Little Falls of the Potomac River, located at the northwest edge of Washington at the Atlantic Seaboard fall line. [59]

The highest natural elevation in the district is 409 feet (125 m) above sea level at Fort Reno Park in upper northwest Washington. [60] The lowest point is sea level at the Potomac River. [61] The geographic center of Washington is near the intersection of 4th and L Streets NW. [62] [63] [64]

The district has 7,464 acres (30.21 km 2 ) of parkland, about 19% of the city's total area and the second-highest percentage among high-density U.S. cities. [65] This factor contributed to Washington, D.C., being ranked as third in the nation for park access and quality in the 2018 ParkScore ranking of the park systems of the 100 most populous cities in the United States, according to the nonprofit Trust for Public Land. [66]

The National Park Service manages most of the 9,122 acres (36.92 km 2 ) of city land owned by the U.S. government. [67] Rock Creek Park is a 1,754-acre (7.10 km 2 ) urban forest in Northwest Washington, which extends 9.3 miles (15.0 km) through a stream valley that bisects the city. Established in 1890, it is the country's fourth-oldest national park and is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including raccoon, deer, owls, and coyotes. [68] Other National Park Service properties include the C&O Canal National Historical Park, the National Mall and Memorial Parks, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Columbia Island, Fort Dupont Park, Meridian Hill Park, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, and Anacostia Park. [69] The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation maintains the city's 900 acres (3.6 km 2 ) of athletic fields and playgrounds, 40 swimming pools, and 68 recreation centers. [70] The U.S. Department of Agriculture operates the 446-acre (1.80 km 2 ) U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington. [71]


Washington is in the humid subtropical climate zone (Köppen: Cfa). [72] The Trewartha classification is defined as an oceanic climate (Do). [73] Winters are usually cool with light snow, and summers are hot and humid. The district is in plant hardiness zone 8a near downtown, and zone 7b elsewhere in the city, indicating a humid subtropical climate. [74]

Spring and fall are mild to warm, while winter is cool with annual snowfall averaging 15.5 inches (39 cm). Winter temperatures average around 38 °F (3 °C) from mid-December to mid-February. [75] However, winter temperatures in excess of 60 °F (16 °C) are not uncommon. [76]

Summers are hot and humid with a July daily average of 79.8 °F (26.6 °C) and average daily relative humidity around 66%, which can cause moderate personal discomfort. Heat indices regularly approach 100 °F (38 °C) at the height of summer. [77] The combination of heat and humidity in the summer brings very frequent thunderstorms, some of which occasionally produce tornadoes in the area. [78]

Blizzards affect Washington, on average, once every four to six years. The most violent storms are called "nor'easters", which often affect large sections of the East Coast. [79] From January 27 to 28, 1922, the city officially received 28 inches (71 cm) of snowfall, the largest snowstorm since official measurements began in 1885. [80] According to notes kept at the time, the city received between 30 and 36 inches (76 and 91 cm) from a snowstorm in January 1772. [81]

Hurricanes (or their remnants) occasionally track through the area in late summer and early fall. However, they are often weak by the time they reach Washington, partly due to the city's inland location. [82] Flooding of the Potomac River, however, caused by a combination of high tide, storm surge, and runoff, has been known to cause extensive property damage in the neighborhood of Georgetown. [83]

Precipitation occurs throughout the year. [84]

Washington's climate will grow warmer and rainfall will increase as the result of climate change. [85]

The highest recorded temperature was 106 °F (41 °C) on August 6, 1918, and on July 20, 1930. [86] while the lowest recorded temperature was −15 °F (−26 °C) on February 11, 1899, right before the Great Blizzard of 1899. [79] During a typical year, the city averages about 37 days at or above 90 °F (32 °C) and 64 nights at or below the freezing mark (32 °F or 0 °C). [75] On average, the first day with a minimum at or below freezing is November 18 and the last day is March 27. [87] [88]

Washington, D.C., is a planned city. In 1791, President Washington commissioned Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant, a French-born architect and city planner, to design the new capital. He enlisted Scottish surveyor Alexander Ralston to help lay out the city plan. [93] The L'Enfant Plan featured broad streets and avenues radiating out from rectangles, providing room for open space and landscaping. [94] He based his design on plans of cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, Karlsruhe, and Milan that Thomas Jefferson had sent to him. [95] L'Enfant's design also envisioned a garden-lined "grand avenue" approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) in length and 400 feet (120 m) wide in the area that is now the National Mall. [96] President Washington dismissed L'Enfant in March 1792 due to conflicts with the three commissioners appointed to supervise the capital's construction. Andrew Ellicott, who had worked with L'Enfant surveying the city, was then tasked with completing the design. Though Ellicott made revisions to the original plans—including changes to some street patterns—L'Enfant is still credited with the overall design of the city. [97]

By the early 20th century, L'Enfant's vision of a grand national capital had become marred by slums and randomly placed buildings, including a railroad station on the National Mall. Congress formed a special committee charged with beautifying Washington's ceremonial core. [47] What became known as the McMillan Plan was finalized in 1901 and included re-landscaping the Capitol grounds and the National Mall, clearing slums, and establishing a new citywide park system. The plan is thought to have largely preserved L'Enfant's intended design. [94]

By law, Washington's skyline is low and sprawling. The federal Height of Buildings Act of 1910 allows buildings that are no taller than the width of the adjacent street, plus 20 feet (6.1 m). [98] Despite popular belief, no law has ever limited buildings to the height of the United States Capitol Building or the 555-foot (169 m) Washington Monument, [64] which remains the district's tallest structure. City leaders have criticized the height restriction as a primary reason why the district has limited affordable housing and traffic problems caused by suburban sprawl. [98]

The district is divided into four quadrants of unequal area: Northwest (NW), Northeast (NE), Southeast (SE), and Southwest (SW). The axes bounding the quadrants radiate from the U.S. Capitol building. [99] All road names include the quadrant abbreviation to indicate their location and house numbers generally correspond with the number of blocks away from the Capitol. Most streets are set out in a grid pattern with east–west streets named with letters (e.g., C Street SW), north–south streets with numbers (e.g., 4th Street NW), and diagonal avenues, many of which are named after states. [99]

The City of Washington was bordered by Boundary Street to the north (renamed Florida Avenue in 1890), Rock Creek to the west, and the Anacostia River to the east. [45] [94] Washington's street grid was extended, where possible, throughout the district starting in 1888. [100] Georgetown's streets were renamed in 1895. [46] Some streets are particularly noteworthy, such as Pennsylvania Avenue—which connects the White House to the Capitol, and K Street—which houses the offices of many lobbying groups. [101] Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue, located on the north and south sides of the National Mall, respectively, are home to many of Washington's iconic museums, including the Smithsonian institutions, the National Archives Building, and the Newseum. Washington hosts 177 foreign embassies, constituting approximately 297 buildings beyond the more than 1,600 residential properties owned by foreign countries, many of which are on a section of Massachusetts Avenue informally known as Embassy Row. [102]


The architecture of Washington varies greatly. Six of the top 10 buildings in the American Institute of Architects' 2007 ranking of "America's Favorite Architecture" are in the District of Columbia: [103] the White House, the Washington National Cathedral, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the United States Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The neoclassical, Georgian, gothic, and modern architectural styles are all reflected among those six structures and many other prominent edifices in Washington. Notable exceptions include buildings constructed in the French Second Empire style such as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. [104]

Outside downtown Washington, architectural styles are even more varied. Historic buildings are designed primarily in the Queen Anne, Châteauesque, Richardsonian Romanesque, Georgian revival, Beaux-Arts, and a variety of Victorian styles. Rowhouses are especially prominent in areas developed after the Civil War and typically follow Federalist and late Victorian designs. [105] Georgetown's Old Stone House was built in 1765, making it the oldest-standing original building in the city. [106] Founded in 1789, Georgetown University features a mix of Romanesque and Gothic Revival architecture. [104] The Ronald Reagan Building is the largest building in the district with a total area of approximately 3.1 million square feet (288,000 m 2 ). [107]

Historical population
Census Pop.
181015,471 90.0%
182023,336 50.8%
183030,261 29.7%
184033,745 11.5%
185051,687 53.2%
186075,080 45.3%
1870131,700 75.4%
1880177,624 34.9%
1890230,392 29.7%
1900278,718 21.0%
1910331,069 18.8%
1920437,571 32.2%
1930486,869 11.3%
1940663,091 36.2%
1950802,178 21.0%
1960763,956 −4.8%
1970756,510 −1.0%
1980638,333 −15.6%
1990606,900 −4.9%
2000572,059 −5.7%
2010601,723 5.2%
2020689,545 14.6%
Source: [108] [e] [41] [109] Note: [f]
Demographic profile 2010 [111] 1990 [112] 1970 [112] 1940 [112]
White 38.5% 29.6% 27.7% 71.5%
—Non-Hispanic whites 34.8% 27.4% 26.5% [113] 71.4%
Black or African American 50.7% 65.8% 71.1% 28.2%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 9.1% 5.4% 2.1% [113] 0.1%
Asian 3.5% 1.8% 0.6% 0.2%

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the district's population was 705,749 as of July 2019, an increase of more than 100,000 people compared to the 2010 United States Census. When measured on a decade-over-decade basis, this continues a growth trend since 2000, following a half-century of population decline. [114] But on a year-over-year basis, the July 2019 census count shows a population decline of 16,000 individuals over the preceding 12-month period. [115] Washington was the 24th most populous place in the United States as of 2010 [update] . [116] According to data from 2010, commuters from the suburbs increase the district's daytime population to over a million. [117] If the district were a state it would rank 49th in population, ahead of Vermont and Wyoming. [118]

The Washington Metropolitan Area, which includes the district and surrounding suburbs, is the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the United States with an estimated six million residents in 2014. [119] When the Washington area is included with Baltimore and its suburbs, the Baltimore–Washington Metropolitan Area had a population exceeding 9.6 million residents in 2016, the fourth-largest combined statistical area in the country. [120]

According to 2017 Census Bureau data, the population of Washington, D.C., was 47.1% Black or African American, 45.1% White (36.8% non-Hispanic White), 4.3% Asian, 0.6% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.1% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Individuals from two or more races made up 2.7% of the population. Hispanics of any race made up 11.0% of the district's population. [118]

Washington has had a significant African American population since the city's foundation. [121] African American residents compose about 30% of the district's total population between 1800 and 1940. [41] The black population reached a peak of 70% by 1970, but has since steadily declined due to many African Americans moving to the surrounding suburbs. Partly as a result of gentrification, there was a 31.4% increase in the non-Hispanic white population and an 11.5% decrease in the black population between 2000 and 2010. [122] According to a study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, D.C. has experienced more "intense" gentrification than any other American city, with 40% of neighborhoods gentrified. [123]

About 17% of D.C. residents were age 18 or younger in 2010, lower than the U.S. average of 24%. However, at 34 years old, the district had the lowest median age compared to the 50 states. [124] As of 2010 [update] , there were an estimated 81,734 immigrants living in Washington, D.C. [125] Major sources of immigration include El Salvador, Vietnam, and Ethiopia, with a concentration of Salvadorans in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. [126]

Researchers found that there were 4,822 same-sex couples in the District of Columbia in 2010, about 2% of total households. [127] Legislation authorizing same-sex marriage passed in 2009, and the district began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in March 2010. [128]

A 2007 report found that about a third of district residents were functionally illiterate, compared to a national rate of about one in five. This is attributed in part to immigrants who are not proficient in English. [129] As of 2011 [update] , 85% of D.C. residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a primary language. [130] Half of residents had at least a four-year college degree in 2006. [125] In 2017, the median household income in D.C. was $77,649 [131] also in 2017, D.C. residents had a personal income per capita of $50,832 (higher than any of the 50 states). [131] [132] However, 19% of residents were below the poverty level in 2005, higher than any state except Mississippi. In 2019, the poverty rate stood at 14.7%. [133] [g] [135]

As of 2010 [update] , more than 90% of D.C. residents had health insurance coverage, the second-highest rate in the nation. This is due in part to city programs that help provide insurance to low-income individuals who do not qualify for other types of coverage. [137] A 2009 report found that at least three percent of district residents have HIV or AIDS, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) characterizes as a "generalized and severe" epidemic. [138]


Crime in Washington, D.C., is concentrated in areas associated with poverty, drug abuse, and gangs. A 2010 study found that 5 percent of city blocks accounted for more than 25% of the district's total crimes. [139]

The more affluent neighborhoods of Northwest Washington are typically safe, especially in areas with concentrations of government operations, such as Downtown Washington, D.C., Foggy Bottom, Embassy Row, and Penn Quarter, but reports of violent crime increase in poorer neighborhoods generally concentrated in the eastern portion of the city. [139] Approximately 60,000 residents are ex-convicts. [140]

In 2012, Washington's annual murder count had dropped to 88, the lowest total since 1961. [141] The murder rate has since risen from that historic low, though it remains close to half the rate of the early 2000s. [142] Washington was once described as the "murder capital" of the United States during the early 1990s. [143] The number of murders peaked in 1991 at 479, but the level of violence then began to decline significantly. [144]

In 2016, the district's Metropolitan Police Department tallied 135 homicides, a 53% increase from 2012 but a 17% decrease from 2015. [145] Many neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights and Logan Circle are becoming safer and vibrant. However, incidents of robberies and thefts have remained higher in these areas because of increased nightlife activity and greater numbers of affluent residents. [146] Even still, citywide reports of both property and violent crimes have declined by nearly half since their most recent highs in the mid-1990s. [147]

On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States held in District of Columbia v. Heller that the city's 1976 handgun ban violated the right to keep and bear arms as protected under the Second Amendment. [148] However, the ruling does not prohibit all forms of gun control laws requiring firearm registration remain in place, as does the city's assault weapon ban. [149]

In addition to the district's own Metropolitan Police Department, many federal law enforcement agencies have jurisdiction in the city as well—most visibly the U.S. Park Police, founded in 1791. [150]

Washington has a growing, diversified economy with an increasing percentage of professional and business service jobs. [151] The district's gross state product in 2018-Q2 was $141 billion. [152] The Washington Metropolitan Area's gross product was $435 billion in 2014, making it the sixth-largest metropolitan economy in the United States. [153] Between 2009 and 2016, GDP per capita in Washington has consistently ranked on the very top among U.S. states. [154] In 2016, at $160,472, its GDP per capita is almost three times as high as that of Massachusetts, which was ranked second in the nation. [154] As of 2011 [update] , the Washington Metropolitan Area had an unemployment rate of 6.2% the second-lowest rate among the 49 largest metro areas in the nation. [155] The District of Columbia itself had an unemployment rate of 9.8% during the same time period. [156]

In December 2017, 25% of the employees in Washington, D.C., were employed by a federal governmental agency. [157] [158] This is thought to immunize Washington, D.C., to national economic downturns because the federal government continues operations even during recessions. [159] Many organizations such as law firms, defense contractors, civilian contractors, nonprofit organizations, lobbying firms, trade unions, industry trade groups, and professional associations have their headquarters in or near Washington, D.C., in order to be close to the federal government. [101] The city of Rosslyn, Virginia, located across the Potomac River from D.C., serves as a base of operations for several Fortune 500 companies, due to the building height restrictions in place within the District of Columbia. In 2018, Amazon announced they would build "HQ 2" in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. [160]

Tourism is Washington's second-largest industry. Approximately 18.9 million visitors contributed an estimated $4.8 billion to the local economy in 2012. [161] The district also hosts nearly 200 foreign embassies and international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization. In 2008, the foreign diplomatic corps in Washington employed about 10,000 people and contributed an estimated $400 million annually to the local economy. [102]

The district has growing industries not directly related to government, especially in the areas of education, finance, public policy, and scientific research. Georgetown University, George Washington University, Washington Hospital Center, Children's National Medical Center and Howard University are the top five non-government-related employers in the city as of 2009 [update] . [162] According to statistics compiled in 2011, four of the largest 500 companies in the country were headquartered in the district. [163] In the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Washington was ranked as having the 12th most competitive financial center in the world, and fifth most competitive in the United States (after New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston). [164]


The National Mall is a large, open park in downtown Washington between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol. Given its prominence, the mall is often the location of political protests, concerts, festivals, and presidential inaugurations. The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Pier are near the center of the mall, south of the White House. Also on the mall are the National World War II Memorial at the east end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. [165]

Directly south of the mall, the Tidal Basin features rows of Japanese cherry trees. [166] The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, George Mason Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the District of Columbia War Memorial are around the Tidal Basin. [165]

The National Archives houses thousands of documents important to American history, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. [167] Located in three buildings on Capitol Hill, the Library of Congress is the largest library complex in the world with a collection of more than 147 million books, manuscripts, and other materials. [168] The United States Supreme Court Building was completed in 1935 before then, the court held sessions in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol. [169]


The Smithsonian Institution is an educational foundation chartered by Congress in 1846 that maintains most of the nation's official museums and galleries in Washington, D.C. The U.S. government partially funds the Smithsonian, and its collections are open to the public free of charge. [171] The Smithsonian's locations had a combined total of 30 million visits in 2013. The most visited museum is the National Museum of Natural History on the National Mall. [172] Other Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries on the mall are: the National Air and Space Museum the National Museum of African Art the National Museum of American History the National Museum of the American Indian the Sackler and Freer galleries, which both focus on Asian art and culture the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden the Arts and Industries Building the S. Dillon Ripley Center and the Smithsonian Institution Building (also known as "The Castle"), which serves as the institution's headquarters. [173] The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are housed in the Old Patent Office Building, near Washington's Chinatown. [174] The Renwick Gallery is officially part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum but is in a separate building near the White House. Other Smithsonian museums and galleries include: the Anacostia Community Museum in Southeast Washington the National Postal Museum near Union Station and the National Zoo in Woodley Park. [173]

The National Gallery of Art is on the National Mall near the Capitol and features American and European artworks. The U.S. government owns the gallery and its collections. However, they are not a part of the Smithsonian Institution. [175] The National Building Museum, which occupies the former Pension Building near Judiciary Square, was chartered by Congress and hosts exhibits on architecture, urban planning, and design. [176]

There are many private art museums in the District of Columbia, which house major collections and exhibits open to the public, such as the National Museum of Women in the Arts and The Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle, the first museum of modern art in the United States. [177] Other private museums in Washington include the Newseum, the O Street Museum, the International Spy Museum, the National Geographic Society Museum, and the Museum of the Bible. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum near the National Mall maintains exhibits, documentation, and artifacts related to the Holocaust. [178]

Washington, D.C., is a national center for the arts. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, and the Washington Ballet. The Kennedy Center Honors are awarded each year to those in the performing arts who have contributed greatly to the cultural life of the United States. [179] The historic Ford's Theatre, site of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, continues to operate as a functioning performance space as well as a museum. [180]

The Marine Barracks near Capitol Hill houses the United States Marine Band founded in 1798, it is the country's oldest professional musical organization. [181] American march composer and Washington-native John Philip Sousa led the Marine Band from 1880 until 1892. [182] Founded in 1925, the United States Navy Band has its headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard and performs at official events and public concerts around the city. [183] Washington has a strong local theater tradition. Founded in 1950, Arena Stage achieved national attention and spurred growth in the city's independent theater movement that now includes organizations such as the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and the Studio Theatre. [184] Arena Stage opened its newly renovated home in the city's emerging Southwest waterfront area in 2010. [185] The GALA Hispanic Theatre, now housed in the historic Tivoli Theatre in Columbia Heights, was founded in 1976 and is a National Center for the Latino Performing Arts. [186]

The U Street Corridor in Northwest D.C., known as "Washington's Black Broadway", is home to institutions like the Howard Theatre, Bohemian Caverns, and the Lincoln Theatre, which hosted music legends such as Washington-native Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. [187] Washington has its own native music genre called go-go a post-funk, percussion-driven flavor of rhythm and blues that was popularized in the late 1970s by D.C. band leader Chuck Brown. [188]

The district is an important center for indie culture and music in the United States. The label Dischord Records, formed by Ian MacKaye, frontman of Fugazi, was one of the most crucial independent labels in the genesis of 1980s punk and eventually indie rock in the 1990s. [189] Modern alternative and indie music venues like The Black Cat and the 9:30 Club bring popular acts to the U Street area. [190]


Washington is one of 13 cities in the United States with teams from all four major professional men's sports and is home to one major professional women's team. The Washington Wizards (National Basketball Association) and the Washington Capitals (National Hockey League) play at the Capital One Arena in Chinatown. The Washington Mystics (Women's National Basketball Association) play in the St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena. Nationals Park, which opened in Southeast D.C. in 2008, is home to the Washington Nationals (Major League Baseball). D.C. United (Major League Soccer) plays at Audi Field. The Washington Football Team (National Football League) plays at FedExField in nearby Landover, Maryland.

D.C. teams have won a combined thirteen professional league championships: the Washington Football Team (then named the Washington Redskins) have won five (including three Super Bowls during the 1980s) [191] D.C. United has won four [192] and the Washington Wizards (then the Washington Bullets), Washington Capitals, Washington Mystics and Washington Nationals have each won a single championship. [193] [194]

Other professional and semi-professional teams in Washington include: DC Defenders (XFL), Old Glory DC (Major League Rugby), the Washington Kastles (World TeamTennis) the Washington D.C. Slayers (USA Rugby League) the Baltimore Washington Eagles (U.S. Australian Football League) the D.C. Divas (Independent Women's Football League) and the Potomac Athletic Club RFC (Rugby Super League). The William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park hosts the Citi Open. Washington is also home to two major annual marathon races: the Marine Corps Marathon, which is held every autumn, and the Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon held in the spring. The Marine Corps Marathon began in 1976 and is sometimes called "The People's Marathon" because it is the largest marathon that does not offer prize money to participants. [195]

The district's four NCAA Division I teams, American Eagles, George Washington Colonials, Georgetown Hoyas and Howard Bison and Lady Bison, have a broad following. The Georgetown Hoyas men's basketball team is the most notable and also plays at the Capital One Arena. From 2008 to 2012, the district hosted an annual college football bowl game at RFK Stadium, called the Military Bowl. [196] The D.C. area is home to one regional sports television network, Comcast SportsNet (CSN), based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Washington, D.C., is a prominent center for national and international media. The Washington Post, founded in 1877, is the oldest and most-read local daily newspaper in Washington. [197] "The Post", as it is popularly called, is well known as the newspaper that exposed the Watergate scandal. [198] It had the sixth-highest readership of all news dailies in the country in 2011. [199] From 2003 to 2019, The Washington Post Company published a daily free commuter newspaper called the Express, which summarized events, sports and entertainment [200] it still publishes the Spanish-language paper El Tiempo Latino.

Another popular local daily is The Washington Times, the city's second general interest broadsheet and also an influential paper in conservative political circles. [201] The alternative weekly Washington City Paper also has a substantial readership in the Washington area. [202] [203]

Some community and specialty papers focus on neighborhood and cultural issues, including the weekly Washington Blade and Metro Weekly, which focus on LGBT issues the Washington Informer and The Washington Afro American, which highlight topics of interest to the black community and neighborhood newspapers published by The Current Newspapers. Congressional Quarterly, The Hill, Politico and Roll Call newspapers focus exclusively on issues related to Congress and the federal government. Other publications based in Washington include the National Geographic magazine and political publications such as The Washington Examiner, The New Republic and Washington Monthly. [204]

The Washington Metropolitan Area is the ninth-largest television media market in the nation, with two million homes, approximately 2% of the country's population. [205] Several media companies and cable television channels have their headquarters in the area, including C-SPAN Black Entertainment Television (BET) Radio One the National Geographic Channel Smithsonian Networks National Public Radio (NPR) Travel Channel (in Chevy Chase, Maryland) Discovery Communications (in Silver Spring, Maryland) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) (in Arlington, Virginia). The headquarters of Voice of America, the U.S. government's international news service, is near the Capitol in Southwest Washington. [206]

Washington has two local NPR affiliates, WAMU and WETA.


Article One, Section Eight of the United States Constitution grants the United States Congress "exclusive jurisdiction" over the city. The district did not have an elected local government until the passage of the 1973 Home Rule Act. The Act devolved certain Congressional powers to an elected mayor and the thirteen-member Council of the District of Columbia. However, Congress retains the right to review and overturn laws created by the council and intervene in local affairs. [207]

Each of the city's eight wards elects a single member of the council and residents elect four at-large members to represent the district as a whole. The council chair is also elected at-large. [208] There are 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) elected by small neighborhood districts. ANCs can issue recommendations on all issues that affect residents government agencies take their advice under careful consideration. [209] The attorney general of the District of Columbia is elected to a four-year term. [210]

Washington, D.C., observes all federal holidays and also celebrates Emancipation Day on April 16, which commemorates the end of slavery in the district. [40] The flag of Washington, D.C., was adopted in 1938 and is a variation on George Washington's family coat of arms. [211]

Washington, D.C., is overwhelmingly Democratic, having voted for the Democratic candidate solidly since it was granted electoral votes in 1964. Each Republican candidate was voted down in favor of the Democratic candidate by a margin of at least 56 percentage points each time the closest, albeit very large, margin between the two parties in a presidential election was in 1972, when Richard Nixon secured 21.56% of the vote to George McGovern's 78.10%. Since then, the Republican candidate has never received more than 20 percent of the vote. Every Democrat since 2008 has received over 90% of the vote.

Additionally, since 2016, the city's residential voting population has become almost unanimously Democratic, more so than it has ever been. Since 2016, no Democrat has received less than 93% of the major-party vote in the federal district, a level of support that has not been crossed districtwide before that election.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the district since 2010, and conversion therapy has been prohibited since 2015. Assisted suicide is also permitted in the district, with a bill legalizing the practice being introduced in 2015, signed by mayor Muriel Bowser in 2016, and going into effect in 2017, making Washington, D.C., the seventh jurisdiction in the United States to have legalized assisted suicide, along with Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana and Vermont.

Washington, D.C., has been a member state of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) since 2015.

The idiom Inside the Beltway is an occasional reference used by media to describe political issues inside of Washington, D.C., by way of geographical demarcation regarding the region inner to the Capital's Beltway, Interstate 495, the city's highway loop (beltway) constructed in 1964.

Budgetary issues

The mayor and council set local taxes and a budget, which Congress must approve. The Government Accountability Office and other analysts have estimated that the city's high percentage of tax-exempt property and the Congressional prohibition of commuter taxes create a structural deficit in the district's local budget of anywhere between $470 million and over $1 billion per year. Congress typically provides additional grants for federal programs such as Medicaid and the operation of the local justice system however, analysts claim that the payments do not fully resolve the imbalance. [212] [213]

The city's local government, particularly during the mayoralty of Marion Barry, was criticized for mismanagement and waste. [214] During his administration in 1989, The Washington Monthly magazine claimed that the district had "the worst city government in America". [215] In 1995, at the start of Barry's fourth term, Congress created the District of Columbia Financial Control Board to oversee all municipal spending. [216] Mayor Anthony Williams won election in 1998 and oversaw a period of urban renewal and budget surpluses.

The district regained control over its finances in 2001 and the oversight board's operations were suspended. [217]

The district has a federally funded "Emergency Planning and Security Fund" to cover security related to visits by foreign leaders and diplomats, presidential inaugurations, protests, and terrorism concerns. During the Trump administration, the fund has run with a deficit. Trump's January 2017 inauguration cost the city $27 million of that, $7 million was never repaid to the fund. Trump's 2019 Independence Day event, "A Salute to America", cost six times more than Independence Day events in past years. [218]

Voting rights debate

The district is not a state and therefore has no voting representation in Congress. D.C. residents elect a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives (D.C. At-Large), who may sit on committees, participate in debate, and introduce legislation, but cannot vote on the House floor. The district has no official representation in the United States Senate. Neither chamber seats the district's elected "shadow" representative or senators. Unlike residents of U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico or Guam, which also have non-voting delegates, D.C. residents are subject to all federal taxes. [219] In the financial year 2012, D.C. residents and businesses paid $20.7 billion in federal taxes more than the taxes collected from 19 states and the highest federal taxes per capita. [220]

A 2005 poll found that 78% of Americans did not know residents of the District of Columbia have less representation in Congress than residents of the fifty states. [221] Efforts to raise awareness about the issue have included campaigns by grassroots organizations and featuring the city's unofficial motto, "Taxation Without Representation", on D.C. vehicle license plates. [222] There is evidence of nationwide approval for D.C. voting rights various polls indicate that 61 to 82% of Americans believe D.C. should have voting representation in Congress. [221] [223]

Several approaches to resolving these concerns been suggested over the years:

    : Almost all the District of Columbia would become the 51st State as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. The much-reduced District of Columbia would run from Capitol Hill west to the Potomac, including the White House and many federal buildings no one resides permanently in this federal enclave. : As Arlington County in 1846 was retroceded to Virginia, proponents believe the rest of the District of Columbia except for a small strip of land around the Capitol and the White House (the federal enclave) would be given back to Maryland, allowing for DC residents to become Maryland residents as they were before the Residence Act of 1790. : this option would allow DC residents to vote in Maryland or Virginia for their congressional representatives, with the District of Columbia remaining an independent entity. This was in effect from 1790 to 1801, before the Organic Act of 1801.

Opponents of D.C. voting rights propose that the Founding Fathers never intended for district residents to have a vote in Congress since the Constitution makes clear that representation must come from the states. Those opposed to making D.C. a state claim such a move would destroy the notion of a separate national capital and that statehood would unfairly grant Senate representation to a single city. [224]

Sister cities

Washington, D.C., has fifteen official sister city agreements. Each of the listed cities is a national capital except for Sunderland, which includes the town of Washington, the ancestral home of George Washington's family. [225] Paris and Rome are each formally recognized as a partner city due to their special one sister city policy. [226] Listed in the order each agreement was first established, they are:

    , Thailand (1962, renewed 2002 and 2012) , Senegal (1980, renewed 2006) , China (1984, renewed 2004 and 2012) , Belgium (1985, renewed 2002 and 2011) , Greece (2000) , France (2000 as a friendship and cooperation agreement, renewed 2005) [226][227] , South Africa (2002, renewed 2008 and 2011) , South Korea (2006) , Ghana (2006) , United Kingdom (2006, renewed 2012) [225] , Italy (2011, renewed 2013) [226] , Turkey (2011) , Brazil (2013) , Ethiopia (2013) [228] , El Salvador (2018)

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) operates the city's 123 public schools. [230] The number of students in DCPS steadily decreased for 39 years until 2009. In the 2010–11 school year, 46,191 students were enrolled in the public school system. [231] DCPS has one of the highest-cost, yet lowest-performing school systems in the country, in terms of both infrastructure and student achievement. [232] Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration made sweeping changes to the system by closing schools, replacing teachers, firing principals, and using private education firms to aid curriculum development. [233]

The District of Columbia Public Charter School Board monitors the 52 public charter schools in the city. [234] Due to the perceived problems with the traditional public school system, enrollment in public charter schools had by 2007 steadily increased. [235] As of 2010, D.C., charter schools had a total enrollment of about 32,000, a 9% increase from the prior year. [231] The district is also home to 92 private schools, which enrolled approximately 18,000 students in 2008. [236] The District of Columbia Public Library operates 25 neighborhood locations including the landmark Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. [237]

Higher education

The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is a public land-grant university providing undergraduate and graduate education. D.C. residents may also be eligible for a grant of up to $10,000 per year to offset the cost of tuition at any public university in the country. [238]

The district is known for its medical research institutions such as Washington Hospital Center and the Children's National Medical Center, as well as the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition, the city is home to three medical schools and associated teaching hospitals at George Washington, Georgetown, and Howard universities. [239]


There are 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of streets, parkways, and avenues in the district. [240] Due to the freeway revolts of the 1960s, much of the proposed interstate highway system through the middle of Washington was never built. Interstate 95 (I-95), the nation's major east coast highway, therefore bends around the district to form the eastern portion of the Capital Beltway. A portion of the proposed highway funding was directed to the region's public transportation infrastructure instead. [241] The interstate highways that continue into Washington, including I-66 and I-395, both terminate shortly after entering the city. [242]

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates the Washington Metro, the city's rapid transit system, as well as Metrobus. Both systems serve the district and its suburbs. Metro opened on March 27, 1976 and, as of 2014 [update] , consists of 91 stations and 117 miles (188 km) of track. [243] With an average of about one million trips each weekday, Metro is the second-busiest rapid transit system in the country. Metrobus serves more than 400,000 riders each weekday and is the nation's fifth-largest bus system. [244] The city also operates its own DC Circulator bus system, which connects commercial areas within central Washington. [245]

Union Station is the city's main train station and services approximately 70,000 people each day. It is Amtrak's second-busiest station with 4.6 million passengers annually and is the southern terminus for the Northeast Corridor and Acela Express routes. Maryland's MARC and Virginia's VRE commuter trains and the Metrorail Red Line also provide service into Union Station. [246] Following renovations in 2011, Union Station became Washington's primary intercity bus transit center. [247]

Three major airports serve the district. The closest is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which is about 5 miles from the city and is primarily reserved for domestic flights, but is the least busy in the region. The busiest by international flights is Washington Dulles International Airport located about 24 miles away from the city center, [248] and the busiest by total passenger boardings is Baltimore/Washington International Airport, about 30 miles from the city. Each of these three airports also serves as a hub for a major American airline: Reagan is a small hub for American Airlines, Dulles is a major hub for United Airlines and Star Alliance partners, and BWI is a major focus city for Southwest Airlines.

According to a 2010 study, Washington-area commuters spent 70 hours a year in traffic delays, which tied with Chicago for having the nation's worst road congestion. [249] However, 37% of Washington-area commuters take public transportation to work, the second-highest rate in the country. [250] An additional 12% of D.C. commuters walked to work, 6% carpooled, and 3% traveled by bicycle in 2010. [251] A 2011 study by Walk Score found that Washington was the seventh-most walkable city in the country with 80% of residents living in neighborhoods that are not car dependent. [252] In 2013, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan statistical area (MSA) had the eighth lowest percentage of workers who commuted by private automobile (75.7 percent), with 8 percent of area workers traveling via rail transit. [253]

An expected 32% increase in transit usage within the district by 2030 has spurred the construction of a new DC Streetcar system to interconnect the city's neighborhoods. [254] An additional Metro line that will connect Washington to Dulles airport is expected to open by July 2021 at the earliest. [255] [256] The district is part of the regional Capital Bikeshare program. Started in 2010, it is one of the largest bicycle sharing systems in the country with more than 4,351 bicycles and more than 395 stations, [257] all provided by PBSC Urban Solutions. By 2012, the city's network of marked bicycle lanes covered 56 miles (90 km) of streets. [258]


The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (i.e., WASA or D.C. Water) is an independent authority of the D.C. government that provides drinking water and wastewater collection in Washington. WASA purchases water from the historic Washington Aqueduct, which is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The water, sourced from the Potomac River, is treated and stored in the city's Dalecarlia, Georgetown, and McMillan reservoirs. The aqueduct provides drinking water for a total of 1.1 million people in the district and Virginia, including Arlington, Falls Church, and a portion of Fairfax County. [259] The authority also provides sewage treatment services for an additional 1.6 million people in four surrounding Maryland and Virginia counties. [260]

Pepco is the city's electric utility and services 793,000 customers in the district and suburban Maryland. [261] An 1889 law prohibits overhead wires within much of the historic City of Washington. As a result, all power lines and telecommunication cables are located underground in downtown Washington, and traffic signals are placed at the edge of the street. [262] A plan announced in 2013 would bury an additional 60 miles (97 km) of primary power lines throughout the district. [263]

Washington Gas is the city's natural gas utility and serves more than a million customers in the district and its suburbs. Incorporated by Congress in 1848, the company installed the city's first gas lights in the Capitol, the White House, and along Pennsylvania Avenue. [264]

Character of the city

Washington is an extraordinary city, one with multiple personalities: a working federal city, an international metropolis, a picturesque tourist destination, an unmatched treasury of the country’s history and artifacts, and a cosmopolitan centre that retains a neighbourly small-town ambience. The role Washington plays as the capital of the United States often overshadows its lively local history and its complex political, economic, and social issues. About half the land in Washington is owned by the U.S. government, which pays no taxes on it. Several hundred thousand people in the D.C. metropolitan area work for the federal government.

During the last half of the 20th century, “suburban flight” of the middle class contributed to the city’s loss of more than one-fourth of its population. As new jobs, especially those in the high-technology industries, were created in Maryland and Virginia, the population of the suburbs increased as much as 50 percent per decade. By the first decade of the 21st century, however, Washington’s population began to increase as younger workers moved into revitalized city neighbourhoods. Despite these shifts in population, the economies of the District and those of nearby Maryland and Virginia remain interdependent.

Holy Roman Empire Rules Today

+Doug S "I'm from Maryland far from down under"
Did you know this?
Washington D.C.'s original name was Rome, Maryland
It has been a discovery for me too in the recent past.
The Vatican is behind everything and my country the Netherlands has also (again) been taken over by the Roman Empire, because that's what the Vatican stands for and the Pope is the Emperor, disguised as the leader of the largest 'Christian church'.
But it's all according to prophesy and JESUS is coming to destroy this Babylonian, Vatican NWO.
He's God and once He gave Samson the power to deal with God's enemies, and He taught Samson HIS WAY by dying as a sacrifice for the sake of God's people.
He died with his stretched arms out wide, just like JESUS on the cross.
I mean. talking about a body builder.
What a man!
But he was nothing without the God of Israel, who happens to be JESUS, the only real HERO!
JESUS be with us!

+Doug S
No, I'm from the Netherlands, and that's the country that founded New Amsterdam, which the British stole from us on behalf of the Vatican and renamed it into New York, and that's a shame because the British people were fellow Protestants, but the British monarchy was serving the Pope of Rome.
It led to several wars between England and Holland, and in the end the Dutch lost because they were only a people of about 2 million people back in the day.
The Netherlands fought 80 years against the Vatican led Spanish, who had been occupiers of my country in the past, and it became the first modern republic, so without a monarchy, but then Napoleon came and conquered my country and he reinstalled a FAKE monarchy, which is (secretly) serving the Vatican.

Most Americans don't know that the USA is also (secretly) serving the Vatican, and I'm trying to make people aware of this.

The same goes for the people of my country, because most Dutch (and Europeans) don't know what the EU really stands for: the revived Roman Empire with the blue flag of 'Mary' with its circle of 12 stars.

This so called 'Mary' is none other than (the 'goddess') Semiramis from Babylon, renamed into 'Mary' in order to deceive believers in JESUS and especially Catholics.

The Roman Catholic CULT is the true church of Satan.

The Lord JESUS be with us!

+Doug S
Many people think the Pope is the False Prophet, but he's the Antichrist and that's inherent to his title 'the Vicar of Christ'=the instead of Christ, which is pure blasphemy.
No other leader dares to call himself a replacement for JESUS Christ.
Many people don't realize the Pope is the most powerful person on earth and NOT people like 'Obama' or Putin.
Satan is a deceiver and he uses the Roman Catholic CULT as a guise and as a means to achieve his goal: world domination.
Almost all world leaders are complicit and those who don't comply will be forced into complicity or killed.
Examples are Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi.

The Term 'Antichrist'

"I can't wait til the Lord Jesus Christ comes back and he will sit on his throne forever and ever and be worshipped for all eternity."

+William Pittenger +Joyce Ben
The Vatican-Jesuit-Masonic network operates mainly out of the following cities:
Vatican City, Rome, Italy. (religious center) (sovereign state since 1929)
City of London, London, United Kingdom. (economic center) (sovereign state since 1649, owned by the City of London Corporation)
District of Columbia (which includes Washington D.C.), United States. (military center)
The "District of Columbia Act of 1871" turned D.C. into a municipal corporation. Congress has the supreme authority over the city and the federal district, with its own special constitutional amendment since 1961. Furthermore the District of Columbia is judicially governed by the Lex fori as opposed to Lex causae.
"There is an increasingly common belief among many that this Act has overturned the United States Constitutional Republic. These theorists state that the "Corporate US" is actually operating under the name: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, noting the capital letters as a distinction from the Constitutional Republic." [11]

The Jesuit bishop John Carroll was probably the richest man in America in the late 1700's. Carroll allowed funding to construct D.C. (which is nicknamed "Rome on the Potomac"). The owner of the land used to be Francis Pope and his priest was Jesuit Andrew White.
Washington D.C.'s original name was Rome, Maryland, and a branch of the Potomac River was called Tiber Creek, which was named after the Tiber river in Rome. Like Rome, Washington D.C. has 7 hills, whose names are: Capitol Hill, Meridian Hill, Floral Hills, Forest Hills, Hillbrook, Hillcrest, and Knox Hill. [12]
Other masonic elements in this city: Jesuit Georgetown University, the masonic street layout and monuments, and the 2008 World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges.
Other important cities: Geneva, New York, Brussels, Paris, the various microstates, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Moscow, Hong Kong, .
(aristocratic->masonic->corporate->political networks)

Ronald Reagan's presidency was very CATHOLIC and from the onset the USA was a project of the VATICAN: Washington D.C.'s original name was Rome, Maryland

But a CRIME remains a CRIME!

The USA started as a CRIMINAL STATE, just like a MAFIA organization, and this was because of the SATANIC Vatican, which was interfering with EVERYTHING from the very start of the USA.
Washington was ROME, which was being built on CATHOLIC GROUND, situated between VIRGIN-ia and MARY-land!

The USA is the SECOND BEAST of Revelation 13, and it LOOKS like a LAMB (Christianity), but it speaks like a DRAGON=SATAN OBAMA.

Washington City becomes Washington D.C. District of Columbia!!
In the U.S., the big push to canonize or deify the pirate Columbus came after the fall of the Papal States in 1870. On June 1, 1871, the name of the headquarters of the government was changed from Washington City to Washington D.C. —District of Columbia!! No expense was spared by the Knights of Columbus to glorify this thief, and murderer, A seal and motto, "Justitia Omnibus" (Justice for All), was adopted for the District of Columbia.

In 1937 President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed every Oct. 12 as Columbus Day and in 1971, President Nixon declared it a federal public holiday on the 2nd Monday in October.
Michael Hall's profile photoJoyceBelieves InJesusChrist's profile photoHans S's profile photoMaria Mediavilla's profile photo
Michael Hall
7:27 AM

Very interesting
Hans S
7:42 AM

+JoyceBelieves InJesusChrist The Papal Colonization of America

Washington D.C.'s original name was Rome, Maryland

+Michael Hall 
JoyceBelieves InJesusChrist
9:47 PM

+Hans S The first pope was Simon Magus
Hans S
9:59 PM

+JoyceBelieves InJesusChrist
I'm checking it out.
This is information I already knew: Emperor Constantine Was the First Pope!!
Hans S
10:09 PM

+JoyceBelieves InJesusChrist
No, Simon Magus wasn't the first Pope, because a Pope has both spiritual and secular power, because a Pope is in fact the hidden ROMAN EMPEROR and Simon Magus just didn't have this authority.

Washington, DC Names (Etymology of Names)

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district. Washington, D.C., had an estimated population of 646,449 in 2013, the 24th most populous place in the United States. The District is bordered by Montgomery County, Maryland, to the northwest Prince George's County, Maryland, to the east and Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, to the south and west.

The name Washington was to honor the first president of the USA, George Washington. The name Columbia is in reference to Christopher Columbus.

Washington, DC Nicknames

  • DC
  • Chocolate City
  • The Federal City
  • The District
  • Executive City
  • Great White City
  • Capital Of America
  • Capital Of The Vast
  • Republic
  • Capital City The American Rome
  • The Capital of the World
  • City of Magnificent Distances (reported in the 1880s)
  • City of Magnificent Intentions (first coined by Charles Dickens)
  • Murder Capital of America (late 1980s to early 1990s)
  • Hollywood for Ugly People
  • The nickname "DMV", for "District - Maryland - Virginia" has also been used as a nickname for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

How did Washington, D.C., get its name? - HISTORY

1835 map showing Alexandria as part of original District of Columbia. (Source: Library of Congress)

We have the states of Maryland and Virginia to thank for the land that created the nation’s capital and the greater District of Columbia. It was through their cession of territory via the Residence Act of 1790 that Congress was able to establish a permanent home for a federal government that was up to that point rather itinerant. [1]

The 100-square-mile block called for by Congress that would constitute the District was made up of 69 square miles of territory from Maryland and another 31 square miles from Virginia. The District, which was organized by the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801, organized the territory and officially placed it under the control of Congress. [2] The bill was enacted on February 27, 1801, and almost from the moment of its passage, Virginia was looking for a way to get its territory back.

The cession of territory from Virginia resulted in the town of Alexandria being absorbed into the District. Alexandria had previously been the county seat of Fairfax County, so the state of Virginia had to move the county seat and courthouse further inland, away from the District. Additionally, Alexandria residents lost their Virginia state citizenship, and, after 1802, could no longer vote in Congressional or presidential elections. [3]

This did not sit well with those D.C. residents who fought for and supported the Revolution and the drawn out debate over the formation of the new federal government and the Constitution. The bitter irony was that these people would be living in sight of the very capitol that they could not vote to populate with their representatives.

This disenfranchisement was made worse when it became known that the mayor and key members of D.C. municipal government would in fact be appointed by the president and Congress. Additionally, an amendment to the Residence Act in 1791 prohibited the construction of public buildings anywhere other than on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. [4] This had the effect of essentially keeping the Alexandria area of D.C. as rural farmland while the Maryland side would reap much of the commercial benefits of hosting the nation’s capital.

Alexandria could not compete with nearby Georgetown or other ports for widespread commercial traffic, but it did have a thriving commercial hub for the slave trade. This terrible fact was a blight on the nation’s capital in the eyes of abolitionists in the 1820s and 1830s. They recognized that removing slavery from the Southern states was a formidable task, but it was at least a hope that the slave trade could be abolished in the District.

A series of bills were proposed in Congress beginning in 1804 to return the Alexandria portion of D.C. to Virginia. There were several groups that supported the effort at various times, and while they did not have the same interests at heart, they did have the same final goal in mind.

Just as abolitionists wanted to kick Alexandria out of the District because of slavery, pro-slavery advocates from Virginia wanted the territory back because it would add two sympathetic representatives to the state assembly. Others advocated keeping Alexandria in the District for its potential military value, though the area remained notoriously undeveloped. The federal government had forty years to build a military base there and it never did.

Debate raged for years, with some concerned that the District could not be fundamentally changed unless the Constitution was amended. Alexandria citizens repeatedly petitioned the Virginia state government and Congress to come up with a solution to the situation.

The Virginia General Assembly made the first move toward final action in February 1846 when it passed a retrocession bill. Three weeks after that, the House Committee on the District, the Congressional body that essentially governed D.C., approved the Retrocession Act and sent it to the House floor for a vote. The House passed the bill 96-65, and the Senate later concurred with a 32-14 vote. President James Polk signed the legislation returning Alexandria to Virginia on July 9, 1846.

Analysis of the final vote by historians indicates that the slave trade in D.C. and Virginia’s pro-slavery stance may not have been the deciding factor in the retrocession vote. [5]

Historian Mark David Richards writes, “the actual vote in 1846 indicates that the issue was not sharply divided along free versus slave lines. A majority of both free and slave states supported retrocession in both the Senate and the House. There were no free states in which all members voted against retrocession in only three slave states did all members approve: Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana. Jefferson Davis voted against retrocession and Andrew Johnson voted for it.” [6]

The biggest motivator for the citizens of Alexandria to return to their home state may have been the Constitutional neglect they experienced while being under the rule of the District of Columbia. The battle for equal representation in Congress and adequate home rule in the District would continue for decades after the retrocession of 1846. Alexandrians were the first to successfully fight for their rights, even if it meant leaving the District altogether.


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