History Washington D.C.
Before the capital district was created, the area of present-day Washington D.C. was inhabited by the Nacotchtank Indians. The first Europeans arrived in the area in the 17h century and the Indians largely relocated by the early 18th century.
After the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, when 400 soldiers of the Continental Army protested against government in Philadelphia, it became clear that the government needed an actual capital where it would be able to work without having to rely on any state. It was also decided that the future national capital should not be part of any state at all, in order to avoid one state becoming more powerful than the others, and the best solution was to create a separate and independent district. The foundation of a capital district was permitted by the Article One, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution and the only thing left to decide was the location. On July 9, 1790, the Congress passed the Residence Act that approved the creation of the capital on the Potomac River. George Washington selected the exact location, since he knew the area from his childhood. The land was donated by both Maryland and Virginia and the district incorporated the preexisting settlements on the land. In 1791, the city was named after President Washington and the federal district was named Columbia (a popular and rather romantic name for America used at the time). The first session of the Congress in the new capital was held on November 17, 1800.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the District was attacked by the British troops and many of the structures, including the President’s mansion, the Capitol and the Treasury were burnt down. The structures were later reconstructed and the President’s mansion was painted white, remaining known as the White House ever since.
In the 1930s Alexandria, part of the District what was given by Virginia, petitioned its former home state to take it back because they feared that Congress would abolish slavery in the District (the economy of Alexandria always relied greatly on slave trade). In 1846 Congress agreed to return the lands donated by Virginia and the current territory of the District actually consist only of the land that used to belong to Maryland.
When the Civil War started in 1861, the District experienced notable growth as the federal government expanded and the freed black slaves settled in the city. Slavery was abolished in D.C. in 1862, nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation.
After the war, the District continued to grow but it still lacked many basic amenities, such as proper sanitation, it was dirty and the cultural life was rather dull. In 1871 a new territorial government for the District of Columbia was formed and it encompassed the cities of Washington and Georgetown. The District expanded even further and became more modernized. In the early 20th century it underwent urban renewal projects and later, in the 1930s, many new buildings, infrastructures, memorials and monuments were built.
In the 1960s Washington D.C. reflected the social upheaval that was going on in the rest of the nation. The National Mall was the site of many important events, such as the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Following King’s assassination in 1968, violent riots broke out throughout D.C. It took three days and 13,600 federal troops to stop the riots and the rebuilding of the destroyed structures was not complete until the late 1990s.
Washington D.C. had some of the highest rate crimes in the nation in the 1980s and the 1990s.
Washington D.C. Geography
Washington D.C. is located on the East Coast of the United States. It is surrounded by Virginia to the Southwest and Maryland to the southeast, northeast and northwest. It practically lies on the border between the two states, on the south banks of the natural boundary between the two states, the Potomac River. The District occupies an area of 68.3 square miles, 10.16% of which is water and the rest is land.
The topography of the District resembles that of the state of Maryland. In addition to the Potomac River, it has two other, although smaller flowing bodies of water: the Rock Creek and the Anacostia River. There is also the artificially created Washington Channel and three man-made reservoirs: Dalecarlia, Georgetown and McMillan reservoirs. The highest elevation in D.C. is 410 feet above sea level in Tenleytown.
Other notable geographic features in Washington D.C. include the Three Sisters islands, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Columbia Island (all in the Potomac River) and Hains Point.
The District is divided into eight wards, ,which are numbered and not named, and 37 official neighborhoods. It has strict building height laws, which serve to protect the grandeur of the Capitol, the White House, the National Mall and other key landmarks.
The climate in Washington D.C. can be classified as humid subtropical. It has the typical weather for a Mid-Atlantic region away from large bodies of water and has four distinct seasons. Winter is generally cool, with snowfall in small accumulations and also with occasional freezing rain. Spring and autumn are mostly dry and often sunny, especially the spring. Summer is hot and humid and it is the humidity that most people complain about, as it can often be very uncomfortable. Late summer and early autumn bring occasional hurricanes.
Washington D.C. Population
In 2011, the District of Columbia had an estimated population of 617,996, which is a 2.7% increase since the 2010 Census. As a city, it is the 24th most populous place in the USA and if it were a state it would rank 50th, ahead of Wyoming.
The Washington Metropolitan Area includes the District and its suburbs and has a population of 5.6 million residents, which makes it the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the nation. The Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area has 8.5 million inhabitants and it is the fourth-largest combined statistical area in the USA.
In 2010, the racial makeup in Washington D.C. was 50.7% Black or African American, 34.8% non-Hispanic White, 9.1% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 3.5% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 4.1% some other race and 2.9% two or more races.
The District of Columbia always had a large African American population, ever since its foundation. In the last decade there has been an 11.5% decrease in black population, which is considered to be the result of gentrification.
In 2008, 28% of the residents were Baptists, 13% were Roman Catholics and 31% were members of other Christian denominations.
More than 90% of residents of Washington D.C. have health insurance coverage. In 2009, a study found that 3% of the residents have HIV or AIDS, which was classified as a generalized and severe epidemic.
In 2006, approximately half of the residents in the District had a four-year college degree or higher. The same year, personal per capita income was $55,755, which was higher than in any of the U.S. states. However, the District also had one of the highest number of residents living below the poverty line among the U.S. states.
The largest employer in the District of Columbia is the federal government, which accounts for approximately 29% of all the jobs. It is believed that because of this D.C. managed to stay immune to most economic downfalls and recessions throughout the 20th century, including the latest one. Other companies and firms, associated with the government but not its actual part, also provide a sizeable portion of the jobs in the District. In addition, various associations, organizations, groups and unions also have their headquarters there, in order to stay close to the government.
Washington D.C. is also home to many international organizations, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Pan-American Health Organization, Association of American States and Inter-American Development Bank.
Industries in the field of education, healthcare, research and science are also well represented in the District. Top non-government employers are the Georgetown University, George Washington University, Washington Hospital Center, Children’s National Medical Center and Howard University.
Tourism is also a significant source of income for the District. Major tourist attractions include the White House, the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Pier, the Washington Monument, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art and many more.
Washington D.C. Government and legislation
The “exclusive jurisdiction” over Washington D.C. was given to the Congress through the Article One, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution. The District did not have elected government of its own until the Home Rule Act of 1973, which instituted the mayor and the 13-member Council of the District of Columbia. Congress, however, still retains some power over local affairs. Washington D.C. observes all federal holidays and also the Emancipation Day, on April 16.
Since the District is not a state, it has no voting representation in the Congress. There is one delegate in the House of Representatives who can participate in debate and introduce legislation, but has no right of vote. On the other hand, the residents are subject to all federal taxes. This, naturally, does not sound right to most residents, which is why there are currently several campaigns led by grassroots organizations to promote the national debate about the D.C.’s representation and voting rights.
Washington D.C. has 123 public schools, operated by the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). DCPS is considered to be one of the most expensive and yet least performing school systems in the nation.
There are also 52 public charter schools, operated by the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board, and 92 private schools.
The public university of D.C. is the University of the District of Columbia, which provides undergraduate and graduate education. Private institutions of higher education in the District include Georgetown University (the oldest Catholic university in the nation), George Washington University, Howard University, Gallaudet University, the Catholic University of America, American University, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and the Corcoran College of Art and Design.
The District is well-known for medical research institutions, especially at the Washington Hospital Center and Children’s National Medical Center.
Transportation in Washington D.C.
The District has 1,500 miles of roads, streets and parkways. There are no interstate highways that pass through the middle of Washington D.C. Interstate 95 bends around the city and I-66 and I-395 terminate practically as soon as they enter the city.
The rapid transit system in D.C., consisting of Metrobus and Washington Metro, is operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Union Station in Washington D.C. is the Amtrak’s second-busiest station in the USA.
Three major airports serve the District: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington handles mostly domestic traffic while Washington Dulles International Airport (26 miles west of D.C., in Virginia) and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshal Airport (31 miles northeast of D.C., in Maryland), handle most of the District’s major international flights.