Skip to main content
Select Source:

District of Columbia

District of Columbia

District of Columbia

ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: From "Columbia," a name commonly applied to the United States in the late 18th century, ultimately derived from Christopher Columbus.

BECAME US CAPITAL: 1 December 1800, when Congress first assembled in the city.

MOTTO: Justitia omnibus (Justice for all).

FLAG: The flag, based on George Washington's coat of arms, consists of three red stars above two horizontal red stripes on a white field.

OFFICIAL SEAL: In the background, the Potomac River separates the District of Columbia from the Virginia shore, over which the sun is rising. In the foreground, Justice, holding a wreath and a tablet with the word "Constitution," stands beside a statue of George Washington. At the left of Justice is the Capitol; to her right, an eagle and various agricultural products. Below is the District motto and the date 1871; above are the words "District of Columbia."

BIRD: Wood thrush.

FLOWER: American beauty rose.

TREE: Scarlet oak.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., 3rd Monday in January; Washington's Birthday, 3rd Monday in February; Memorial Day, last Monday in May; Independence Day, 4 July; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Columbus Day, 2nd Monday in October; Veterans' Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: 7 AM EST = noon GMT.


Located in the South Atlantic region of the United States, the District of Columbia has a total area of 69 sq mi (179 sq km), of which land takes up 63 sq mi (163 sq km) and inland water 6 sq mi (16 sq km). The District is bounded on the n, e, and s by Maryland and on the w by the Virginia shore of the Potomac River. The total boundary length is 37 mi (60 km).

For statistical purposes, the District of Columbia (coextensive since 1890 with the city of Washington, DC) is considered part of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, which since 1985 has embraced Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George's counties in Maryland and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford counties in Virginia, along with a number of other Virginia jurisdictions, most notably the city of Alexandria.


The District of Columbia, an enclave of western Maryland, lies wholly within the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The major topographical features are the Potomac River and its adjacent marshlands; the Anacostia River, edged by reclaimed flatlands to the south and east; Rock Creek, wending its way from the northwestern plateau to the Potomac; and the gentle hills of the north. The district's average elevation is about 150 ft (46 m). The highest point, 410 ft (125 m), is in the northwest, at Tenleytown; the low point is the Potomac, only 1 ft (30 cm) above sea level.


The climate of the nation's capital is characterized by chilly, damp winters and hot, humid summers. The normal daily average temperature is 58°f (14°c), ranging from 36°f (2°c) in January to 79°f (26°c) in July. The record low, 15°f (26°c), was set on 11 February 1899; the all-time high, 106°f (41°c), on 20 July 1930. Precipitation averaged 39.4 in (100 cm) yearly during 19712000; snowfall, 17 in (43 cm). The average annual relative humidity is 75% at 7 am and 53% at 1 pm.


Although most of its original flora has been obliterated by urbanization, the District has long been known for its beautiful parks, where about 1,800 varieties of flowering plants and 250 shrubs grow. Boulevards are shaded by stately sycamores, pin and red oaks, American lindens, and black walnut trees. Famous among the introduced species are the Japanese cherry trees around the Tidal Basin. Magnolia, dogwood, and gingko are also characteristic. The District's fauna is less exotic, with squirrels, cottontails, English sparrows, and starlings predominating. Two species (Hay's Spring amphipod and the puma) were listed as endangered and one (the bald eagle) as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as of April 2006.


The Environmental Regulation Administration (ERA) administers district and federal laws, regulations and mayoral initiatives governing the environment and natural resources of the District of Columbia and the surrounding metropolitan area. The main duty is the protection of human health and the environment as they relate to pesticides, hazardous waste, underground storage tanks, water, air, soils, and fisheries programs. The ERA is responsible for administrating over 30 statutes and regulations.

In 1996, the District had about 250 acres of wetlands, all palustrine (marsh) or riverine, mostly along the tidal reaches of the Potomac and the Anacostia Rivers. The Potomac is an important tributary of the Chesapeake Bay Estuarine Complex, which was designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 1987.

In 2003, the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database listed 29 hazardous waste sites in the District. Only one site, the Washington Naval Yard, was on the National Priorities List as of 2006. In 2004, the District received a federal EPA grant of $1.2 million for water pollution control projects.


In 2005, the District of Columbia ranked 50th in the nation with a larger population than the last-ranked state of Wyoming, at an estimated 550,521 residents, a decrease of 3.8% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, the District's population declined from 606,900 to 572,059, a decrease of 5.7%. The population is projected to decrease to 506,323 by 2015 and 455,108 by 2025.

In 2004, the median age was 35.8. Persons under 18 years old accounted for 19.8% of the population while 12.1% was age 65 or older.

In 1990, the District of Columbia outranked three states in population, with a census total of 606,900, a decline of almost 5% from 1980. As a city, the District ranked 27th in the United States in 2004. The population density in 2004 was 9,057.00 persons per sq mi.

Even as the capital's population has declined, the number of Washington, DC, metropolitan area residents has been increasing, from 3,040,000 in 1970 to 3,251,000 in 1980, to 3,924,000 in 1990, and to an estimated 5,139,549 in 2004. The District's population is 100% urban and extremely mobile.


Black Americans have long been the largest ethnic or racial group in the District of Columbia, accounting for 60% of the population in 2000 (when they numbered 343,312), among the highest percentages of any major US city. In 2004, that percentage had dropped to 57.7% of the population.

Between 1970 and 1980, the population of groups other than white and black almost quadrupled within the Washington metropolitan area, reaching 134,209 in 1980. Southeast Asians made up a significant proportion of the immigrants, as did Mexicans and Central and South Americans. The District's racial and ethnic minorities in 2000 included 44,953 Hispanics and Latinos (up from 33,000 in 1990) and 15,189 Asians (including 3,734 Chinese and 2,845 Asian Indians). There also were 1,713 American Indians living in the District. In 2004, 3% of the population was Asian, 0.3% was American Indian or Alaska native, 0.1% was Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 8.5% of the total population was or Hispanic or Latino origin. In 2004, 1.5% of the population reported origin of two or more races.

There were 73,561 foreign-born residents, accounting for 12.9% of the District's total population, in 2000. In addition, the many foreign-born residents attached to foreign embassies and missions contribute to Washington's ethnic diversity.


Dialectically, the Washington, DC, area is extremely heterogeneous. In 2000, 83.2% of all District of Columbia residents five years of age or older spoke only English at home, down from 87% in 1990.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "African languages" includes Amharic, Ibo, Twi, Yoruba, Bantu, Swahili, and Somali.

Population 5 years and over 539,658 100,0
  Speak only English 449,241 83.2
  Speak a language other than English 90,417 16.8
Speak a language other than English 90,417 16.8
  Spanish or Spanish Creole 49,461 9.2
  French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 9,085 1.7
  African languages 5,181 1.0
  Chinese 2,913 0.5
  German 2,695 0.5
  Arabic 2,097 0.4
  Italian 1,723 0.3
  Vietnamese 1,610 0.3
  Tagalog 1,356 0.3
  Russian 1,110 0.2
  Portuguese or Portuguese Creole 1,013 0.2


As of 2000, the largest number of religious adherents in Washington, DC, were Roman Catholic, with about 160,048 adherents in 42 congregations. Mainline Protestants were next in numbers with the American Baptist Churches in the USA claiming 51,836 adherents in 62 congregations and the Episcopal Church claiming 19,698 adherents in 34 congregations. The Southern Baptist Convention had 38,852 adherents in about 49 congregations; the church reported 1,160 newly baptized members in the district in 2002. The Jewish population was estimated at 25,500 in 2000. About 26.8% of the population did not report affiliation with any religious organization.

The Washington National Cathedral was established by Congress through an 1893 charter with the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation. The charter was signed by President Benjamin Harrison. The building was completed in 1912.

The international headquarters of B'nai B'rith International is located in Washington, DC, as is the headquarters for Hillel, an organization of Jewish college students groups. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is also based in the District.


Union Station, located north of the Capitol, is the District's one rail terminal, from which Amtrak provides passenger service to the northeast corridor and southern points. As of 2006 Amtrak provided daily north south and east-west service from Union Station. In all, four railroads operated 45 rail mi (72 km) of track within the District. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro, operates bus and subway transportation within the city and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs. About 40% of working District residents commute by public transportation. In 199495, the US Transit Authority awarded grants of $199 million for the Metro.

Within the District, as of 2004, were 1,500 mi (2,415 km) of public streets and roads. In that same year, some 228,000 motor vehicles were registered, and there were 349,122 driver's licenses in force. In 2005, a total of three major airports handled the District's commercial air traffic: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, just south of the city in Virginia; Dulles International Airport in Virginia; and Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland. Enplanements for the three airports in 2004 totaled 7,661,532 for Reagan Washington National; 10,961,614 for Dulles; and 10,103,563 for Baltimore-Washington. The three airports were the 30th-, the 21st-, and the 23rd-busiest airports, respectively, in the United States that same year. The District also had 14 heliports in 2005.

Although Washington, DC, is not generally thought of as a traditional port, in 2004 the District did have 7 mi (11 km) of navigable inland waterways, and in 2003, it had waterborne shipments totaling 770,000 tons.


Algonkian-speakers were living in what is now the District of Columbia when Englishmen founded the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement in 1607. The first white person known to have set foot in the Washington area was the English fur trader Henry Fleete, who in 1622 was captured by the Indians and held there for several years. Originally part of Maryland Colony, the region had been carved up into plantations by the latter half of the 17th century.

After the US Constitution (1787) provided that a tract of land be reserved for the seat of the federal government, both Maryland and Virginia offered parcels for that purpose; on 16 July 1790, Congress authorized George Washington to choose a site not more than 10 mi (16 km) square along the Potomac River. President Washington made his selection in January 1791. He then appointed Andrew Ellicott to survey the area and employed Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French military engineer who had served in the Continental Army, to draw up plans for the federal city. L'Enfant's masterful design called for a wide roadway (now called Pennsylvania Avenue) to connect the Capitol with the President's House (Executive Mansion, now commonly called the White House) a mile away, and for other widely separated public buildings with spacious vistas. However, L'Enfant was late in completing the engraved plan of his design, and he also had difficulty in working with the three commissioners who had been appointed to direct a territorial survey; for these and other reasons, L'Enfant was dismissed and Ellicott carried out the plans. Construction was delayed by lack of adequate financing. Only one wing of the Capitol was completed, and the President's House was still under construction when President John Adams and some 125 government officials moved into the District in 1800. Congress met there for the first time on 17 November, and the District officially became the nation's capital on 1 December. On 3 May 1802, the city of Washington was incorporated (the District also included other local entities), with an elected council and a mayor appointed by the president.

Construction proceeded slowly, while the city's population grew to about 24,000 by 1810. In August 1814, during the War of 1812, British forces invaded and burned the Capitol, the President's House, and other public buildings. These were rebuilt within five years, but for a long time, Washington remained a rude, rough city. In 1842, English author Charles Dickens described it as a "monument raised to a deceased project," consisting of "spacious avenues that begin in nothing and lead nowhere." At the request of its residents, the Virginia portion was retroceded in 1846, thus confining the federal district to the eastern shore of the Potomac. The Civil War brought a large influx of Union soldiers, workers, and escaped slaves, and the District's population rose sharply from 75,080 in 1860 to 131,700 by the end of the decade, spurring the development of modern Washington.

In 1871, Congress created a territorial form of government; this territorial government was abolished three years later because of alleged local extravagances, and in 1878, a new form of government was established, headed by three commissioners appointed by the president. During the same decade, Congress barred District residents from voting in national elections or even for their own local officials. In the 1890s, Rock Creek Park and Potomac Park were established, and during the early 1900s, city planners began to rebuild the monumental core of Washington in harmony with L'Enfant's original design. The New Deal period brought a rise in public employment, substantial growth of federal facilities, and the beginnings of large-scale public housing construction and slum clearance. After World War II, redevelopment efforts concentrated on demolishing slums in the city's southwest section. The White House was completely renovated in the late 1940s, and a huge building program coincided with the expansion of the federal bureaucracy during the 1960s.

Because it is the residence of the president, Washington, DC, has always been noted for its public events, in particular the Presidential Inauguration and Inaugural Ball. The District has also been the site of many historic demonstrations: the appearance in 1894 of Coxey's Army (some 300 unemployed workers); the demonstrations in 1932 of the Bonus Marchers (17,000 Army veterans demanding that the government cash their bonus certificates); the massive March on Washington by civil rights demonstrators in 1963; the march on the Pentagon in 1967 by antiwar activists and later Vietnam-era protests; and, in 1995, the Million Man March organized by the controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

The District's form of government has undergone significant changes. The 23rd Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified on 3 April 1961, permits residents to vote in presidential elections, and beginning in 1971, the District was allowed to send a nonvoting delegate to the US House of Representatives. Local self-rule began in 1975, when an elected mayor and council took office. The District both prospered and suffered in the 1980s and 1990s. In spite of an expanding economy, the city was wracked by poverty, drug-bred crime, and even gang warfare. In 1989, the federal government mandated $80 million for a program to combat drug abuse in the nation's capital. Crime in Washington has included corruption in high places. In the mid-1980s, the federal government launched an investigation into allegations of bribery, fraud, and racketeering in the award of millions of dollars in municipal and federal contracts. The investigation produced the conviction of 11 city officials. In 1990, the District's mayor of twelve years, Marion Barry, was videotaped smoking crack and was convicted of possessing cocaine. Barry was succeeded that year by Sharon Pratt Dixon, a black lawyer and former power company executive, but reelected in 1994. In 1998, he announced he would not run for reelection, completing four terms of office.

Since the 1970s, many of Washington's residents have supported statehood for the District of Columbia. A proposal for statehood won the majority of votes in a 1980 election, and the name "New Columbia" was approved by voters two years later. In 1992, the US House of Representatives passed a measure approving statehood for the capital, but the Senate refused to consider it.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams was reelected to a second term in November 2002. He pledged to target education, expand opportunities for all district residents, and to keep neighborhoods safe.

In 2004, the National World War II Memorial was completed and opened to the public. The Memorial lies between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.


The District of Columbia is the seat of the federal government and is home to the principal organs of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Both the US Senate and House have subcommittees (of the Appropriations Committees) to oversee federal spending within the District. The District's residents have only limited representation in the House, where an elected delegate may participate in discussions and votes on bills within the District of Columbia subcommittees but may not vote on measures on the floor of the House. The District has no representation in the Senate. In 1978, Congress approved an amendment to the US Constitution granting the District two US senators and at least one representative; however, the amendment failed to become law when it was not ratified by the necessary 38 state legislatures by August 1985 (by that time only 16 states had approved the amendment).

In 1982, elected delegates to a District of Columbia statehood convention drafted a constitution for the proposed State of New Columbia. The petition for statehood was approved by voters within the District and sent to Congress. But in 1993 Congress voted on and rejected District statehood by 63 votes (277 against, 153 for, and 4 not voting). The bill, which polls have shown has wide public support within the District, can be reintroduced.

The Council of the District of Columbia, the unicameral legislative body for the district, is comprised of 13 representatives who serve four-year terms. Council members must be at least 18 years old, district residents and qualified voters. Prior to 1973, the mayor and council members were appointed by the US president; since 1973, they have been elected by the District's voters. The body was given full legislative powers in 1974. The council meets every year, beginning in January. In 2004, the legislative salary was $92,500 per year.

Voters must be US citizens, at least 18 years old, residents of Washington, DC for at least 30 days prior to election day, and not able to claim the right to vote elsewhere. Restrictions apply to convicted felons and those declared mentally incompetent by the court.


Washington, DC, is the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican parties, the nation's major political organizations. The District itself is overwhelmingly Democratic: in 1992 and again in 1996, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton garnered an impressive 85% of the District's voters. Democrat Al Gore repeated this performance in 2000, capturing 85% of the vote to Republican candidate George W. Bush's 9% and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader's 5%. In fact, since 1964, when they were first permitted to vote for president, DC voters have unfailingly cast their ballots for the Democratic nominee. In 2002, there were 363,211 registered voters. As of 2003, the district had three electoral votes.

The first mayor, Walter Washington, was defeated for reelection in 1978 by Marion S. Barry Jr., who was reelected in 1982 and

District Presidential Vote by Major Parties, 19642004
*Won US presidential election
1964 3 *Johnson (D) 169,796 28,801
1968 3 Humphrey (D) 139,566 31,012
1972 3 McGovern (D) 127,627 35,226
1976 3 *Carter (D) 137,818 27,873
1980 3 Carter (D) 124,376 21,765
1984 3 Mondale (D) 180,408 29,009
1988 3 Dukakis (D) 159,407 27,590
1992 3 *Clinton (D) 192,619 20,698
1996 3 *Clinton (D) 158,220 17,339
2000 3 Gore (D) 171,923 18,073
2004 3 Kerry (D) 202,970 21,256

again in 1986. Sharon Pratt Dixon was elected mayor in 1990. In 1994, Marion S. Barry Jr., returning to political life after serving a six-month jail term for a 1990 drug conviction, defeated Republican Carol Schwartz in the mayoral contest. Schwartz previously lost to Barry in the mayoral election of 1986. Anthony Williams was elected mayor in 1998 and reelected in 2002.

Eleanor Holmes Norton serves as the District's delegate to the House of Representatives.


Local government in the District of Columbia operates under authority delegated by Congress. In 1973, for the first time in more than a century, Congress provided the District with a home-rule charter, allowing Washington, DC, residents to elect their own mayor and city council. Residents of the District approved the charter on 7 May 1974, and a new elected government took office on 1 January 1975.

The mayor has traditionally been the District's chief executive, and the council is the legislative branch; however, under constitutional authority, Congress can enact laws on any subject affecting the District, and all legislation enacted by the District is subject to congressional veto. In response to both a managerial and budgetary crisis, Congress passed the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act of 1995. This law established a Control Board that has broad powers to review all actions of the DC government and must approve the financial plans and budget for the city before submission to Congress. Home rule was further eroded when in 1997 Congress took responsibility for most major agencies away from the mayor and gave them to the Control Board.

The council consists of 13 members: the council chairman and 4 members elected at large, and 8 elected by wards. The 12-member Board of Education consists of eight officials elected by ward and four elected at-large, including one at-large member elected by students. They serve for four years. As of 2005, there were two public school systems in the District. The charter also provides for 36 neighborhood advisory commissions, whose seats are filled through nonpartisan elections.

In 2005, local government accounted for about 45,951 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.


To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in the District of Columbia operates under executive authority; the deputy mayor for public safety is designated as the state homeland security advisor for the District.

Public education in the District is the responsibility of a chief executive officer and board of trustees appointed by the Control Board and the University of the District of Columbia Board of Trustees. The elected Board of Education is left with very little authority. Transportation services are provided through the Department of Transportation and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, while health and welfare services fall within the jurisdiction of the Department of Human Services. The Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Corrections, District of Columbia National Guard, and Metropolitan Police Department provide public protection services, and the Department of Housing and Community Development is the main housing agency. Employment and job-training programs are offered through the Department of Employment Services.


All judges in Washington, DC, are nominated by the president of the United States from a list of persons recommended by the District of Columbia Nomination Commission, and appointed upon the advice and consent of the Senate. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia functions in a manner similar to that of a state supreme court; it also has original jurisdiction over federal crimes. The court consists of a chief judge and eight associate judges, all serving 15-year terms. The Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the trial court, consisted in 1999 of five divisions and 16 judges, also serving for 15 years. Washington, DC, is the site of the US Supreme Court and the US Department of Justice. The District of Columbia is the only US jurisdiction where the US Attorney's Office, an arm of the Justice Department, and not the local government, prosecutes criminal offenders for non-federal crimes.

Prisoners sentenced to more than one year come under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Prisons.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the District of Columbia in 2004 had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault) of 1,371.2 reported incidents per 100,000 population, or a total of 7,590 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary; larceny/theft; and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 26,896 reported incidents, or 4,859.1 reported incidents per 100,000 people. The District of Columbia has no death penalty. The last execution took place in 1957. District residents voted 2-1 against the death penalty in 1992. There is a provision for life without parole.

In 2003, Washington, DC, spent $1,891,475,962 on homeland security, an average of $2,364 per district resident.


In 2004, there were 24,328 active-duty military personnel stationed in the District of Columbia, with the vast majority, 10,109, at the Pentagon as the Washington Headquarters Services (WHS). The WHS maintains and operates the Pentagon Reservation, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, which covers 34 acres (14 hectares) of Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac. In addition there were 21,549 civilian employees, of which 6,427 were at the Pentagon. An Air Force installation (Bolling Air Force Base) and the Army's Fort McNair are within the District. In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended that Walter Reed Medical Center be realigned with the National Naval Medical Center to create a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Firms in the District received $3.5 billion in federal defense contract awards in 2004, and defense payroll, including retired military pay, amounted to $1.9 billion.

There were 37,377 veterans of US military service in the District as of 2003, of whom 5,807 served in World War II; 4,384 in the Korean conflict; 10,474 during the Vietnam era; and 5,410 in the Gulf War. The federal government expenditures for veterans in Washington totaled $1.2 billion during 2004.

Because Washington is often the scene of political demonstrations and because high federal officials and the District's foreign embassy personnel pose special police-protection problems, the ratio of police personnel to residents is higher than in any state. In 2003, 3,963 police employees were employed in the District.


The principal migratory movements have been an influx of southern blacks after the Civil War and, more recently, the rapid growth of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, coupled with shrinkage in the population of the District itself. Between 1950 and 1970, the District suffered a net loss from migration of as much as 260,000, much of it to Maryland and Virginia; there was, however, an estimated net inflow of 87,000 blacks in this period. Net emigration totaled between 150,000 and 190,000 during the 1970s, and roughly 23,000 more during 198183.

From 1985 to 1990, the District had a net loss from migration of over 30,000. Between 1990 and 1998, there was a net loss of 139,000 in domestic migration and a net gain of 28,000 in international migration. In 1998, 2,377 foreign immigrants arrived in Washington, DC. The District's overall population decreased 13.8% between 1990 and 1998. In the period 200005, net international migration was 20,618 and net internal migration was 53,550, for a net loss of 32,932 people.


The District of Columbia, a member of the Council of State Governments and its allied organizations, also participates in such interstate regional bodies as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Commission, and Potomac Valley Commission. Counties and incorporated cities in the Washington area are represented on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, established in 1957. The District relies heavily on federal grants, which came to over $4 billion in fiscal year 2001. Following a national trend, by fiscal year 2005, that amount had dropped significantly, to $1.91 billion. In fiscal year 2006, federal grants amounted to an estimated $1.787 billion, and for fiscal year 2007 were estimated at $1.934 billion.


During the 1990s, the number of jobs in the service sector grew by about 50%. Other sectors, however, declined in that decade. Not surprisingly, the public sector has a greater weight in DC's economy than is found in any of the 50 states, where the average contribution from the public sector in 2001 was 12% compared to 35.2% in DC. Also distinct from most of the states, the District's economy was not adversely affected by the national recession of 2001, as the strong annual growth rates at the end of the 20th century6.2% in 1999 and 8.2% in 2000continued into the 21st, averaging 7.5% for 2001. In 2002, the military build-up for the war in Iraq was one of the major growth points in an otherwise slowed national economy reeling from a precipitous drops in both domestic and foreign private investment. The recession and slowed economy also meant more work for government agencies.

In 2004, District's gross state product (GSP) totaled $76.685 billion, of which professional and technical services accounted for the largest portion, at $15.264 billion or nearly 20%, with real estate coming in a distant second at $6.068 billion or nearly 8%. In that same year, there were a total of 59,775 small businesses in DC. Of that total, 27,424 firms had employees, of which an estimated 25,600 or 93.4% were small businesses. An estimated 4,393 new businesses were established in DC in 2004, up 8.4% from the previous year. Business terminations that same year came to 3,440. Business bankruptcies totaled 41 in 2004, down 25.5% from 2003. In 2005, the personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 395 filings per 100,000 people, ranking the District of Columbia 38th in the nation.


In 2005 District of Columbia had a gross state product (GSP) of $83 billion which accounted for 0.7% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number 35 in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 District of Columbia had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $51,155. This ranked first in the United States and was 155% of the national average of $33,050. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 5.2%. District of Columbia had a total personal income (TPI) of $28,352,299,000, which ranked 45th in the United States and reflected an increase of 6.5% from 2003. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 4.6%. Earnings of persons employed in District of Columbia increased from $57,332,497,000 in 2003 to $61,911,331,000 in 2004, an increase of 8.0%. The 200304 national change was 6.3%.

The US Census Bureau reports that the three-year average median household income for 200204 in 2004 dollars was $43,003, compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 16.8% of the population was below the poverty line, as compared to 12.4% nationwide.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006, the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in the District of Columbia numbered 288,500, with approximately 16,000 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 5.5%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 690,500. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in the District of Columbia was 11.4%, in March 1983. The historical low was 4.8% in December 1988. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that approximately 1.8% of the labor force was employed in construction; 21.8% in professional and business services; 8% in leisure and hospitality services; and 33.4% in government.

The US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2005, a total of 29,000 of the District of Columbia's 259,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 11.3% of those so employed, down from 12.7% in 2004, and below the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 33,000 workers (12.8%) in the District were covered by a union or employee association contract, which included those workers who reported no union affiliation. The District of Columbia does not have a right-to-work law.

As of 1 March 2006, the District had a locally mandated minimum wage rate of $7.00 per hour. In 2004, women in the District accounted for 50.1% of the employed civilian labor force. The District of Columbia also serves as the headquarters of many labor organizations.


There is no commercial farming in the District of Columbia.


The District of Columbia has no livestock industry.


There is no commercial fishing in the District of Columbia. Recreational fishing is accessible via a boat-launching facility on the Anacostia River. The Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery in Arkansas distributed 1,200 channel catfish within the district in 1995/96.


There is no forestland or forest products industry in the District of Columbia.


There is no mining in the District of Columbia, although a few mining firms have offices there.


As of 2003, the District of Columbia had five electrical power service providers, of which three were energy-only providers, one was a delivery-only provider and one was investor owned. As of that same year there were 225,500 retail customers. Of that total, 198,926 received their power from the sole investor-owned service provider. The energy-only provider had 26,574 customers. There was no data on the delivery-only power supplier.

Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 806,000 kW, with total production that same year at 74.144 million kWh. Of the total amount generated, 100% came from independent producers and com-bined heat and power service providers. Petroleum fired plants accounted for all the power produced.

The District of Columbia has no proven reserves or production of crude oil or natural gas. Nor is there any refining capacity. The states of Maryland and Virginia provide the District with its fossil fuel needs.


Although the District of Columbia is best known as the nation's capital and a center of political administration, the District does have a small manufacturing sector. According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, the District's shipment value of all manufactured products totaled $271.285 million.

In 2004, a total of 1,876 people in the District earned their livelihood in the manufacturing sector, of which 1,155 were actual production workers. ASM data for 2004 showed that the District's manufacturing sector paid $70.970 million in wages.

Within the District is the Government Printing Office (established by Congress in 1860), which operates one of the largest printing plants in the United States. Also in the District is the Washington Post Co., publisher of the newspaper of that name and of Newsweek magazine; the company also owns television stations.


According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, the District of Columbia's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $2.9 billion from 381 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 176 establishments, while the number of nondurable goods wholesalers stood at 186, with electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 19 establishments. Sales data for durable goods wholesalers, nondurable goods wholesalers and those for electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry in 2002 was not available.

In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, the District of Columbia was listed as having 1,877 retail establishments with sales of $3.06 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: food and beverage stores (506); clothing and clothing accessories stores (355); miscellaneous store retailers (258); and health and personal care stores (185). In terms of sales, food and beverage stores accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $952.5 million, followed by health and personal care stores at $460.4 million; and clothing and clothing accessories stores at $416.2 million. A total of 18,513 people were employed by the retail sector in the District of Columbia that year.

Washington, DC, exported $825 million in merchandise in 2005.


The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has primary responsibility for consumer protection in the District. The Department regulates businesses; land and building use; occupational and professional standards; rental housing and condominiums; health and social service care facilities; and the natural environment.

When dealing with consumer protection issues, the District's Attorney General's Office can initiate civil but not criminal proceedings. It can also: represent the District before regulatory agencies; administer consumer protection and education programs; handle formal consumer complaints; and exercise broad subpoena powers. In antitrust actions, the Attorney General's Office can act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own; initiate damage actions on behalf of the District in court; initiate criminal proceedings; and represent other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under District or federal law.


Banking in the District of Columbia began with the chartering of the Bank of Alexandria in 1792 and the Bank of Columbia in 1793; both banks terminated in the early 19th century. The oldest surviving bank in the District is the National Bank of Washington, founded as the Bank of Washington in 1809.

As of June 2005, there were 7 banks/savings and loans/savings banks plus 65 credit unions (CUs) within the District of Columbia. As of that same date, CUs accounted for the vast majority of the assets held by financial institutions in the District, accounting for 85.4% of all assets held or $5.560 billion. Banks/savings and loans/savings banks accounted for the remaining 14.6% or $950 million in assets held. In addition, CUs had 470,150 members or 84.9% of the District's population. Financial institutions are regulated by the DC Department of Banking and Financial Institutions.


In 2004, District of Columbia policyholders held 363,000 individual life insurance policies worth over $26.6 billion; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was over $104.5 billion. The average coverage amount is $73,400 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled $148.5 million.

As of 2003, there were 10 property and casualty and 1 life and health insurance company incorporated or organized in the District of Columbia. In 2004, direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled over $1.4 billion. That year, there were 1,115 flood insurance policies in force in the District of Columbia, with a total value of over $118 million.

In 2004, 51% of residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 5% held individual policies, and 29% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 14% of residents were uninsured. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged at 19% for single coverage and 23% for family coverage. The District does not offer an expansion program in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.

In 2003, there were 210,515 auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. Required minimum coverage includes bodily injury liability of up to $25,000 per individual and $50,000 for all persons injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability of $10,000. Uninsured motorist coverage is also required. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $1,129.31, which ranked as the third-highest average in the nation (after New Jersey and New York).


There are no securities exchanges in the District of Columbia. In 2005, there were 740 personal financial advisers employed in the District and 890 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. In 2004, there were over 34 publicly traded companies within the District, with 11 NASDAQ companies, 11 NYSE listings, and 2 AMEX listings. In 2006, the District had two Fortune 500 companies; Pepco Holdings (Potomac Electric Power Company) ranked first in the District and 283rd in the nation, with revenues of over $8 billion, followed by Danaher. Washington Post, Harman International Industries, and WGL Holdings made the Fortune 1,000 listing. All five companies are traded on the NYSE.

The headquarters of the US Securities and Exchange Commission is located in Washington, DC.


The budget for the District of Columbia is prepared in conjunction with the mayor's office and reviewed by the city council, but is subject to review and approval by the Congress. The fiscal year (FY) runs from 1 October through 30 September.

The local tax base is limited by a shortage of taxable real estate, much of the District being occupied by government buildings and federal reservations. Moreover, Congress has not allowed the District to tax the incomes of people who work in Washington but live in the suburbs, an objective the District government has urgently sought.

In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to the District of Columbia were nearly $4.2 billion.

In the fiscal year 2007 federal budget, the District of Columbia was slated to receive: $214 million for the DC Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a $15 million increase over 2006; $35 million for the DC Resident Tuition Assistance program, an increase of $2 million over 2006. This program allows DC residents to attend public colleges nationwide at in-state tuition rates; $30 million to construct a new central library and renovate neighborhood branches for the District; $26 million to improve school facilities in the District; $20 million to expand the Navy Yard Metro station; $15 million for DC School Choice, a program that provides parents more options for obtaining a quality education for their children who are trapped in low-performing schools.


As of 1 January 2006, the District of Columbia had three individual income tax brackets ranging from 4.5% to 9.0%. The District of Columbia taxes corporations at a flat rate of 9.975%.

In 2004, the District collected $1,027,976,000 in property taxes, or $1,856 per capita. Only New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Hampshire have higher per capita property taxes.

The District of Columbia taxes retail sales at a rate of 5.75%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is tax exempt. The tax on cigarettes is 100 cents per pack, which ranks 19th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia taxes gasoline at 22.5 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.

According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to the federal government in 2004, DC citizens received $6.64 in federal spending, which ranks the District highest nationally by a wide margin.


The Business Resource Center offers information on doing business in the District. There is an Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and other community-based organizations work to revitalize distressed neighborhoods throughout the District. The Department for Housing and Community Development (DHCD) facilitates the production and preservation of housing, community, and economic development opportunities. DHCD fosters partnerships with for-profit and nonprofit organizations to create and maintain stable neighborhoods; retain and expand the city's tax base; promote economic opportunities through community empowerment; and retain and create job and business opportunities for the benefit of DC residents. Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are commercial areas of the District that collect a "self tax" from property owners to provide services and programs to the entire BID. These programs address cleanliness, maintenance, safety, promotion, economic development, among other issues. The Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) works with the Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP) to match small, disadvantaged businesses with contracting opportunities with the DC government and elsewhere. DSLBD also fosters economic development of DC's small business community through technical assistance, business seminars, conferences, exhibits, and outreach forums, among other programs.


Health conditions in the nation's capital are no source of national pride. The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 10.6 per 1,000 live births, the highest in the nation. The birth rate in 2003 was 13.5 per 1,000 population. In 2000, the District had the highest abortion rate in the country at 68.1 per 1,000 women (the national average was 21.3 per 1,000 that year); however, this figure represented a fairly substantial decrease from the 1992 rate of 133.1 per 1,000. In 2003, about 76.1% of pregnant woman received prenatal care beginning in the first trimester. In 2004, approximately 83% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three.

The crude death rate in 2003 was 9.8 deaths per 1,000 population. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 291.8; cancer, 227.4; cerebrovascular diseases, 48.9; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 23.3; and diabetes, 33.5. The mortality rate from HIV infection in 2002 was the highest in the nation at 40.8 per 100,000 population. In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was at about 179.2 per 100,000 population, the highest in the nation and well above the national average of 15 per 100,000. In 2002, the District had the lowest rate of suicides in the nation, at about 5.4 per 100,000, but also had the distinction of having the highest rate of homicides at 40.1 per 100,000; the national average rate of homicides that year was 6.1 per 100,000. In 2002, about 50.2% of the population was considered overweight or obese, one of the lowest rates in the nation. As of 2004, about 20.8% of state residents were smokers.

In 2003, the District had 10 community hospitals with about 3,400 beds. There were about 135,000 patient admissions that year and 1.6 million outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 2,500 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $1,824. Also in 2003, there were about 21 certified nursing facilities in the state with 3,114 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 91.9%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 72,2% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year. The District had 752 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 1,515 nurses per 100,000 in 2001; these represents the highest health care worker-population rates in the nation. In 2004, there was a total of 575 dentists in the District.

About 28% of District residents were enrolled in Medicaid programs in 2003, with this percentage, the District was tied with California and Tennessee as having the second-highest percentage of Medicaid recipients in the country (after Maine). Approximately 14% were uninsured in 2004.


In 2004, about 17,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $257. In fiscal year 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 88,799 persons (44,362 households); the average monthly benefit was about $96.94 per person. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $103.2 million.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. In 2004, the District program had 44,000 recipients; District and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $68 million in fiscal year 2003.

In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 71,670 District of Columbia residents. This number included 46,910 retired workers, 6,770 widows and widowers, 9,270 disabled workers, 2,460 spouses, and 6,260 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 13% of the District's total population and 77.3% of the District's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $782; widows and widowers, $755; disabled workers, $824; and spouses, $415. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $431 per month; children of deceased workers, $488; and children of disabled workers, $268. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 20,856 District of Columbia residents, averaging $430 a month.


In 2004, the District of Columbia had an estimated 276,600 housing units, of which 248,563 were occupied. Only 43.6% were owner occupied, ranking the District as having the least number of homeowners in the nation. About 38% of all units dated from 1939 or earlier. Only about 13% of all units were single-family, detached homes; the lowest percentage in the country. About 30% of all housing units were in buildings of 20 units or more; which is the highest percentage in the country for this category of housing. It was estimated that about 9.625 units were without telephone service, 985 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 961 lacked complete kitchen facilities. Most households relied on gas and electricity for heating. The average household had 2.08 members. In 2004, 1,900 new privately owned housing units were authorized for construction. The median home value was $334,702, placing the District as third in the nation for highest home values. The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $1,612 while renters paid a median of $799 per month. In 2006, the district was awarded over $19.2 million in community development block grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


The District of Columbia's first public schools were opened in 1805. Until 1954, public schools for whites and blacks were operated separately. Although legally integrated, the public school system remains virtually segregated. Most white and many black students attend private schools. In 2004, 86.4% of all residents 25 years of age or older were high school graduates. Some 45.7%, compared to the national average of 26%, obtained a bachelor's degree or higher.

The total enrollment for fall 2002 in the District of Columbia's public schools stood at 76,000. Of these, 59,000 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 17,000 attended high school. In 2001/02, approximately 86.6% of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools were minorities. Total enrollment was estimated at 75,000 in fall 2003 and was expected to be 74,000 by fall 2014, a decrease of 2.8% during the period 2002 to 2014. There were 16,376 students enrolled in 82 private schools in fall 2003. Expenditures for public education in 2003/04 were estimated at $1,077,584 or $12,801 per student, the third-highest among the 50 states. Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested public school students nationwide. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005 eighth graders in the District of Columbia scored 245 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.

As of fall 2002, there were 91,014 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 42.5% of total postsecondary enrollment. As of 2005, the District of Columbia had 16 degree-granting institutions, 14 private and 2 public. Some of the best-known private universities are American, Georgetown, George Washington, and Howard. The University of the District of Columbia, created in 1976 from the merger of three institutions, has an open admissions policy for District freshman undergraduate students. It has five academic colleges. The US Department of Agriculture Graduate School also operates within the District.


The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities was founded in 1968 and is a partner with the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. In 2005, District arts organizations received 57 grants totaling $3,028,225 from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Humanities Council of Washington, DC, was established in 1980 and as of 2004, awarded approximately $125,000 annually to support local programming. In 2005, the National En-dowment for the Humanities contributed $5,003,912 for 43 programs within the District.

The National Endowment for the Humanities contributed $400,000 to the Historical Society of Washington, DC, for community educational programs and exhibits, humanities fellowships of $149,565 to the American Councils for International Education in 2002, and $378,000 to the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2003.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, officially opened on 8 September 1971, is the District's principal performing arts center. Its five main hallsthe Opera House, Concert Hall, Eisenhower Theater, Terrace Theatre, and American Film Institute Theaterdisplay gifts from at least 30 foreign governments, ranging from stage curtains and tapestries to sculptures and crystal chandeliers. Major theatrical productions are also presented at the Arena Stage-Kreeger Theater, National Theatre, Folger Theatre, and Ford's Theatre. Rep, Inc., is one of the few professional black theaters in the United States; the New Playwrights' Theatre of Washington is a nonprofit group presenting new plays by American dramatists.

The District's leading symphony is the National Symphony Orchestra, which performs from October through April at the Concert Hall of the Kennedy Center. On a smaller scale, the Phillips Collection, National Gallery of Art, and Library of Congress offer concerts and recitals. The Washington Opera performs at the Kennedy Center's Opera House.

During the summer months, the Carter Barron Amphitheater presents popular music and jazz. Concerts featuring the US Army, US Navy, and US Marine Corps bands, and the Air Force Symphony Orchestra are held throughout the District.


Although Washington, DC, is best known as the site of the world's largest library, the Library of Congress, the District, or the city proper, had its own public library system, which for the fiscal year ending in September 2001, consisted of a central or main library and 26 branch libraries. In that same year the system had 2,472,000 volumes of books and serial publications, with a circulation of 1,191,000. The system also had 298,000 audio and 17,000 video items, and one bookmobile. Operating income for fiscal year 2001 totaled $27,223,000, of which $550,000 came from federal sources and $26,412,000 came from local sources. In that same year, operating expenditures totaled $27,223,000, of which 72.4% was spent on the staff and 9.6% on the collection.

The Library of Congress, as of 1998, had a collection of more than 80 million items, including 26 million books and pamphlets. The Library, which is also the cataloging and bibliographic center for libraries throughout the United States, has on permanent display a 1455 Gutenberg Bible, Thomas Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence, and Abraham Lincoln's first two drafts of the Gettysburg Address. Also in its permanent collection are the oldest known existing film (Thomas Edison's The Sneeze, lasting all of three seconds), maps believed to date from the Lewis and Clark expedition, original musical scores by Charles Ives, and huge libraries of Russian and Chinese texts. The Folger Shakespeare Library contains not only rare Renaissance manuscripts but also a full-size re-creation of an Elizabethan theater. The District's own public library system has a main library and 26 branchesincluding the Martin Luther King Memorial Librarywith 2,863,296 volumes in 1998.

The District of Columbia was home to at least 93 museums in 2000. The Smithsonian Institutionendowed in 1826 by an Englishman, James Smithson, who had never visited the United Statesoperates a vast museum and research complex that includes the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of History and Technology, many of the District's art museums, and the National Zoological Park. Among the art museums operated by the Smithsonian are the National Gallery of Art, housing one of the world's outstanding collections of Western art from the 13th century to the present; the Freer Gallery of Art, housing a renowned collection of Near and Far Eastern treasures, along with one of the largest collections of the works of James McNeill Whistler, whose Peacock Room is one of the museum's highlights; the National Collection of Fine Arts; the National Portrait Gallery; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Among the capital's other distinguished art collections are the Phillips Collection, the oldest museum of modern art in the United States; the Museum of African Art, located in the Frederick Douglass Memorial Home; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, devoted primarily to American paintings, sculpture, and drawings of the last 300 years. Washington is also the site of such historic house-museums as Octagon House, Decatur House, Dumbarton Oaks, and the Woodrow Wilson House. Many national associations maintain exhibitions relevant to their areas of interest. The US National Arboretum, US Botanic Garden, and National Aquarium are in the city. In 1999, lawmakers debated plans to build a memorial for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials.


Washington, DC, is the headquarters of the US Postal Service. As of 2004, about 91.9% of households had telephones. In addition, by June of that same year there were 555,958 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 64.3% of the District households had a computer and 56.8% had Internet access. By June 2005, there were 126,609 high-speed lines in the District, 94,320 residential and 32,289 for business.

In 2005, the District had 4 AM and 13 FM radio stations and 7 television stations. The District had 1,999,870 television households, 70% of which ordered cable in 1999. A total of 47,433 Internet domain names were registered in the District in 2000.


Because the District of Columbia is the center of US government activity, hundreds of US and foreign newspapers maintain permanent news bureaus there. The District's major newspaper is the Washington Post. In 2005, the Post, a morning paper, had an average daily circulation of 707,690 and a Sunday circulation of 1,007,487. In 2004, the Washington Post had the sixth-largest daily circulation and the third-largest Sunday circulation in the country. The Washington Times, also published on weekday mornings, had a circulation of 100,603 (43,660 on Sunday).

Press clubs active within the District include the National Press Club, Gridiron Club, American Newspaper Women's Club, Washington Press Club, and White House Correspondents Association.

There are more than 30 major Washington-based periodicals. Among the best known are the National Geographic, U.S. News & World Report, Smithsonian, and New Republic. Important periodicals covering the workings of the federal government are the Congressional Quarterly and its companion, CQ Weekly Report.


In 2006, there were over 4,000 nonprofit organizations registered within the District, of which about 2,849 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations. Service and patriotic organizations with headquarters in the District include the Air Force Association, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the 4-H Program. Among the cultural, scientific, and educational groups are the American Film Institute, American Theatre Association, Federation of American Scientists, American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Academy of Sciences, National Geographic Society, Association of American Colleges, American Council on Education, National Education Association, American Association of University Professors, American Association of University Women, and US Student Association. District cultural and educational organizations include the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, the United States Capitol Historical Society, and the Historical Society of Washington, DC.

Among the environmental and animal protection organizations in the District are the Animal Welfare Institute and the Humane Society of the United States. Medical, health, and charitable organizations include the American Red Cross. Groups dealing with the elderly include the National Association of Retired Federal Employees and the American Association of Retired Persons. Among ethnic and religious bodies with headquarters in the District are the National Association of Arab Americans, B'nai B'rith International, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Trade, professional, and commercial organizations include the American Advertising Federation, American Federation of Police, Air Line Pilots Association, American Bankers Association, National Cable Television Association, Chamber of Commerce of the United States, American Chemical Society, and National Press Club.

Virtually every major public interest group maintains an office in Washington, DC. Notable examples are the Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League, National Abortion Rights Action League, National League of Cities, Common Cause, US Conference of Mayors, National Organization for Women, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Among the important world organizations with headquarters in the District are the Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.


As the nation's capital, the District of Columbia is one of the world's leading tourist centers. Tourism in Washington, DC, generates over $10 billion in direct spending each year and sustains some 260,000 full and part-time jobs. In 2004, there were over 17.7 million domestic visitors and over 1 million international visitors. In 2003, the District of Columbia employed 56, 200 people directly in the tourism industry.

The most popular sites are The National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, National Gallery of Art, Museum of American History, the National Zoo (featuring pandas), the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Smithsonian Castle, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Library of Congress, White House, and US Capitol tours. Besides the many museums, there are federal buildings and landmarks, parks and gardens, cemeteries, and war memorials.

Across the Potomac, in Virginia, are Arlington National Cemetery, site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the grave of John F. Kennedy, and George Washington's home at Mt. Vernon.


There are six major professional sports teams in Washington, DC: the Redskins of the National Football League, the Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos) of Major League Baseball, the Wizards (formerly the Bullets), of the National Basketball Association, the Mystics of the Women's National Basketball Association, the Capitals of the National Hockey League, and DC United of Major League Soccer. Hockey and basketball are played in downtown Washington at the MCI Arena, which was opened for the 199798 season. In 2005, the Nationals opened their first season in Washington, DC, at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. The Redskins began the 1997 season in the new Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins have reached football's Super Bowl five times, winning in 1983, 1988, and 1992. The Bullets won the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in 1978.

In collegiate sports the Georgetown University Hoyas were a dominant force in basketball during the 1980s, reaching the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game in 1982, 1984, and 1985, and winning the title in 1984.


Although no US president has been born in the District of Columbia, all but George Washington (b.Virginia, 173299) lived there while serving as chief executive. Seven presidents died in Washington, DC, including three during their term of office: William Henry Harrison (b.Virginia, 17731841), Zachary Taylor (b.Virginia, 17841850), and Abraham Lincoln (b.Kentucky, 180965). In addition, John Quincy Adams (b.Massachusetts, 17671848), who served as a congressman for 17 years after he left the White House, died at his desk in the House of Representatives; and William Howard Taft (b.Ohio, 18571930) passed away while serving as US chief justice. Retired presidents Woodrow Wilson (b.Virginia, 18561924) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (b.Texas, 18901969) also died in the capital. Federal officials born in Washington, DC, include John Foster Dulles (18881959), secretary of state; J(ohn) Edgar Hoover (18951972), director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and Robert C. Weaver (190797), who as secretary of housing and urban development during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first black American to hold cabinet rank. Walter E. Fauntroy (b.1933) was the District's first delegate to Congress in the 20th century, appointed when that office was reestablished in 1971.

Among the outstanding scientists and other professionals associated with the District were Cleveland Abbe (b.New York, 18381916), a meteorologist who helped develop the US Weather Service; inventor Alexander Graham Bell (b.Scotland, 18421922), president of the National Geographic Society (NGS) in his later years; Henry Gannett (b.Maryland, 18461914), chief geographer with the US Geological Survey, president of the NGS and a pioneer in American cartography; Charles D. Walcott (b.New York, 18501927), director of the Geological Survey and secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; Emile Berliner (b.Germany, 18511929), a pioneer in the development of the phonograph; Gilbert H. Grosvenor (b.Turkey, 18751966), editor in chief of National Geographic magazine; and Charles R. Drew (190450), developer of the blood bank concept. Leading business executives who have lived or worked in the District include William W. Corcoran (17981888), banker and philanthropist, and Katharine Graham (b.New York, 19172001), publisher of the Washington Post and chairman of its parent company; the two Post reporters who received much of the credit for uncovering the Watergate scandal are Carl Bernstein (b.1944), a native Washingtonian, and Robert "Bob" Woodward (b.Illinois, 1943). Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Gore (b.1948), wife of Vice President Al Gore, was born in Washington, DC. Washingtonians who achieved military fame include Benjamin O. Davis (18771970), the first black to become an Army general, and his son, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. (19122002), who was the first black to become a general in the Air Force. John Shalikashvili (b.Poland, 1936) was the first foreign-born commander in chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The designer of the nation's capital was Pierre Charles L'Enfant (b.France, 17541825), whose grave is in Arlington National Cemetery; also involved in laying out the capital were surveyor Andrew Ellicott (b.Pennsylvania, 17541820) and mathematician-astronomer Benjamin Banneker (b.Maryland, 17311806), a black who was an early champion of equal rights. Among Washingtonians to achieve distinction in the creative arts were John Philip Sousa (18541932), bandmaster and composer; Herblock (Herbert L. Block, b. Illinois, 1909), political cartoonist; and playwright Edward Albee (b.1928), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1967 and 1975. Famous performers born in the District of Columbia include composer-pianist-bandleader Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (18991974) and actress Helen Hayes (Helen Hayes Brown, 190092). Alice Roosevelt Longworth (b.New York, 18841980) dominated the Washington social scene for much of this century.


Aikman, Lonnelle. The Living White House. 11th ed. Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association, 2003.

Allen, Thomas B. The Washington Monument: It Stands for All. New York: Discovery Books, 2000.

Caroli, Betty Boyd. Inside the White House: America's Most Famous Home. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association, 1999.

Cary, Francine Curro (ed.). Urban Odyssey: A Multicultural History of Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1996.

Council of State Governments. The Book of the States, 2006 Edition. Lexington, Ky.: Council of State Governments, 2006.

Detzer, David. Dissonance: The Turbulent Days between Fort Sumter and Bull Run. Orlando: Harcourt, 2006.

Furgurson, Ernest B. Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

Luria, Sarah. Capital Speculations: Writing and Building Washington, D.C. Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2006.

Lüsted, Marcia Amidon. The National Mall. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2006.

Moore, John L. Speaking of Washington: Facts, Firsts, and Folklore. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1993.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"District of Columbia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"District of Columbia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States. . (December 16, 2017).

"District of Columbia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C

Washington, D.C.

Getting There
Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, North America

Founded: 1790; Incorporated: 1790
Location: Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, United States, North America
Motto: Justitia omnibus ("Justice for all")
Flower: American Beauty rose
Time Zone: 7 am Eastern Standard Time (EST) = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: White, 32.2%; Black, 65.8%; Asian/Pacific Islander, 1.8%
Elevation: 7128 m (25420 ft) above sea level
Latitude and Longitude: 38°89'N, 77°03'W
Climate: Mild winters; hot, muggy summers with high humidity; pleasant fall and spring weather
Annual Mean Temperature: 12.2°C (54.0°F); January 2.0°C (35.6°F); July 25.9°C (78.7°F)
Seasonal Average Snowfall: 5 cm (2 in)
Average Annual Precipitation (total rainfall and melted snow): 99 cm (39 in)
Government: Mayor-council
Weights and Measures: Standard U.S.
Monetary Units: Standard U.S.
Telephone Area Codes: 202
Postal Codes: 2000199; 2010104; 2020199; 2030134; 20336; 2050199

1. Introduction

Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, is located on the bank of the Potomac River, between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay. Although it has been the seat of the United States government since 1800, it took over a century until the dream of the city's late-eighteenth-century plannersa sophisticated capital with gracious avenues and classic architecturewas realized. In the twentieth century, Washington became a major nexus of national power and influence. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, it is also a cosmopolitan cultural center that draws millions of visitors annually to such sites as the Smithsonian museums, the Library of Congress, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as well as to its historic monuments and government buildings.

2. Getting There

Washington, D.C., is situated along the Potomac River, on the Atlantic coastal plain between the Chesapeake Bay and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is bordered by Maryland on three sides and by Virginia on the fourth.


Major interstate routes that access Washington, D.C., include Routes 540 and 50/301 from the east; Routes 7, 50, I-66, and 29/211 from the west; I-270 and I-295 from the north; and Routes 301 and 1 from the south. All other highways reach the city through the Beltway (I-459 and I-95). This heavily traveled and often congested 106-kilometer (66-mile) highway encircling Washington has led to the popular practice of describing events or trends in the capital as "inside the Beltway."

Bus and Railroad Service

With its terminal at First Street N.E. and L Street, Greyhound offers bus service to Washington from almost any point in the nation. Amtrak trains arrive in Washington daily from New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles (via Chicago). The capital's train depot, the historic and stately Union Station on Massachusetts Avenue, underwent an elaborate restoration in the 1980s and is the site of a three-level mall featuring a variety of shops and restaurants.


Three airports serve the Washington areaWashington Dulles International Airport, Washington National Airport, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Washington National and Baltimore-Washington have recently been renovated, and Dulles airport is in the midst of a major long-term expansion project that will add an underground "people mover" system to transport passengers to and from terminals. All of the major domestic carriers and international carriers, including Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthanse, Swissair, and Virgin Atlantic, serve the Washington, D.C., airports. Both Delta Airlines and US Airways operate shuttle flights between Washington and New York City. Frequent weekday service is also available to Boston and Chicago.

Washington D.C. Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 567,000
Area: 159 sq km (61.4 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: 32.2% white; 65.8% black; 1.8% Asian/Pacific Islander
Nicknames: The Capital; The Beltway; The City of Trees

Metropolitan Area

Population: 3,927,000
Description: The District of Columbia and surrounding communities
Area: 16,861 sq km (6,510 sq mi)
World population rank 1: 61
Percentage of national population 2: 1.4%
Average yearly growth rate: 1.3%
Ethnic composition: 68.1% white; 25.4% black; 6.2% Asian/Pacific Islander

  1. The Washington D.C. metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of the United States' total population living in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.


All three of Washington's airports handle air freight, and the city has a shipping port on the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. Most of its shipping is done, however, through ports in the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia, in the cities of Baltimore, Norfolk, and Alexandria.

3. Getting Around

Laid out by engineer Pierre L'Enfant (17541825), Washington, D.C., was planned as a network of east-west and north-south streets intersected diagonally by wide avenues named for the states. The east-west streets are designated by letters of the alphabet; north-south streets by numbers. The Capitol Building is the central point from which the city is divided into quadrants (Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest). The 1.6-kilometer-(one-mile-) long National Mall runs westward from the Capitol, bounded by Constitution Avenue on the north and Independence Avenue on the south. Traffic circles, graced by monuments, fountains, and statues, are located at various intersections, with streets radiating outward diagonally from each one.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Regional rail and bus service in the Washington area is operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), created in 1967. Ridership in 199899 averaged 383,000 rail, 214,000 bus, and 156,000 combined rail-bus trips. The Metrorail commuter rail service operates on 149 kilometers (92.4) miles of rail line and has 78 stations. The bus system operates a fleet 1,314 buses, with 12,000 bus stops and 1,000 bus shelters.


Organized sightseeing tours of Washington are available on every conceivable mode of transportationincluding bus, trolley, helicopter, boat, and even "duck" tours on amphibious vehiclesand including a variety of specific theme tours, such as historic houses and even a popular "Scandal Tour." Some tours include sights somewhat further afield, such as Mount Vernon, Alexandria, and Arlington National Cemetery. A number of boat companies offer cruises of the Potomac River that include narrated tours of the famous sights visible on shore. In addition, many of the capital's historic sights can be toured on foot.

4. People

In 1990, the population of Washington, D.C., was 697,000, with the following racial composition: 65.8 percent black, 32.2 percent white, and 1.8 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, with other groups accounting for percentages of less than one percent. Hispanics (an ethnic rather than a racial designation) accounted for 5.4 percent of the population. The 1994 population estimate was 567,000. The population of the Washington, D.C., Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area was estimated at 4,603,030 as of 1997. The region's racial composition was listed by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1996 as 68.1 percent white, 25.4 percent black, and 6.2 percent Asian/Pacific Islander. Hispanics accounted for 6.8 percent of the metropolitan area population.

5. Neighborhoods

The Adams-Morgan neighborhood, clustered around Eighteenth Street and Columbia Road N.W., is a colorful multi-ethnic community, one of the first in the country to integrate its public schools. With its distinctly Latin atmosphere, it is known for its ethnic grocery stores, street vendors, galleries, shops, and boutiques, and its restaurants feature a wide variety of ethnic cuisine.

Capitol Hill, or "the Hill," includes not just the Capitol itself but also the Library of Congress, the Senate and House Office Buildings, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Union Station, and the Supreme Court Building. Surrounding these buildings is a quiet residential neighborhood of Federal and Civil Warperiod homes, as well as many art galleries, shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as a farmer's market. Washington's "downtown" is its business district. In addition to the White House and Lafayette Park, it includes government office buildings, shops, restaurants, theaters, hotels, and Washington's Chinatown.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Atlanta Cairo Rome Beijing
(United States) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 3,927,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 1790 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $118 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $44 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $2 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $164 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 2 13 20 11
Largest newspaper The Washington Post Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 759,122 1,159,450 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1877 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

DuPont Circle, located at the intersection of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire avenues, is a popular cultural hot spot that is home to museums, galleries, bookstores (including some open 24 hours a day), and movie theaters, in an atmosphere of aristocratic rowhouses. Historic Georgetownsettled c. 1665, during the Colonial era, before the city of Washington itselfhas long been one of the Capital's most upscale neighborhoods and the residence of many leading government figures and other prominent Washingtonians.

The Foggy Bottom area, between the White House and Georgetown, gets its name from the marshlands that were formerly located there. Today it is the site of the State Department, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and George Washington University.

The historic Brookland and Shaw communities have been home to many prominent African Americans, including jazz musician Edward "Duke" Ellington (18991974), singer Pearl Bailey (19181990), and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche (19041971).

Embassy Row, on Massachusetts Avenue, is home to most of the capital's 150 foreign embassies, many housed in palatial mansions that are former homes of the Washington social elite.

6. History

In the early years of the Republic, Congress met in more than half a dozen cities before arrangements were made for a permanent capital. The nation's lawmakers eventually proposed the construction of an entirely new city, to be built expressly for the purpose of serving as capital of the fledgling country. The choice of a location necessitated compromises between the different regions of the new country. The Potomac River was settled on as the general region, and George Washington was appointed to select the exact site, to be no larger than 26 square kilometers (ten square miles) in area.

French military engineer Pierre Charles L'Enfant was hired to design the city, and in 1791 he laid out the capital's pattern of broad avenues radiating outward from central circles and squares graced by monuments and fountains. Unfortunately, L'Enfant proved difficult to work with; the Frenchman was fired after one year, and his plans were completed by surveyor Andrew Ellicott, with the aid of Benjamin Banneker, an African-American mathematician and astronomer. By 1800 one wing of the Capitol building had been completed. Abandoning the previous capital site in Philadelphia, the Congress moved into its new quarters, and President John Adams moved into the Executive Mansion.

The city was incorporated in 1802, and a local governmentwhose structure and operations were to change many times over the yearswas formed. However, it took many years until the muddy swampland on the shores of the Potomac conformed to the dreams of the city's founders. The city received a major setback soon after its founding when many of its buildingsincluding the Capitol building and the executive mansionwere burned down by the British in the War of 1812. Citizens were determined to rebuild, however, and the charred walls of the executive residence were painted white, giving the building its present name, the White House.

Development of the region remained slow in the first half of the nineteenth century, and foreign diplomats and other visitors regularly chided the Americans for the provincial nature of their capital city. During the Civil War (186165), the capital became an important supply center for the Union army, as well as a medical base and a refuge for former slaves. Wartime traffic doubled the city's population, from 60,000 to 120,000. At the war's end, Washington was also the scene of one of our great national tragedies, as President Abraham Lincoln (18091865; president 186065) was assassinated while attending a performance at Ford's Theatre in April 1865.

Washington underwent significant improvement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, thanks largely to the efforts of two men. Alexander "Boss" Shepherd, an influential political figure during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (18221885; president 186877), and governor of the District of Columbia from 1873, was the driving force behind major infrastructure improvements, including street paving and lighting, sewer construction, and the creation of city parks. In the early 1900s, Michigan Senator James McMillan was instrumental in establishing a commission charged with completing the great monuments and public spaces envisioned a century earlier by the city's original planners. The McMillan Commission (which included noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted [18221903] and architect Charles McKim [18471909], among otherswas responsible for numerous improvements. The city's park system was expanded; the Lincoln Memorial and other buildings were designed; the Mall was improved; and Union Station was designed and built. In 1910 President William Howard Taft (18571930; president 190913) appointed a Commission of Fine Arts to design the monuments and fountains called for in the initial plans drawn up by L'Enfant. The construction of public buildings in the capital received a further boost from the creation of the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s.

World War II (193945) brought further expansion to the capital, and as the postwar decades unfolded, Washington, now a major urban center, began to experience some of the same problems as its counterpartscrime, budget problems, and flight to the surrounding suburbs. The capital also became a focal point for major public controversies. Thousands marched on Washington to protest racial inequality in 1963 when the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (192968) delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial; race riots erupted after the assassination of King in 1968; and the city became the scene of massive public demonstrations against the Vietnam War (19541975).

Washington's local government has been attended by scandal and controversy with the mayoral terms of Marion Barry, Jr., who was returned to office in 1994 after serving time in prison for drug possession. The city's financial woes, which have brought it to the brink of bankruptcy, have resulted in federal control of its finances since 1995. However, in spite of its problems, Washington remains a vital and much-visited city. It added the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Korean War Veterans Memorial to its roster of major public commemorative sites in the 1990s.

7. Government

The District of Columbia is unique in that it is governed as a city, county, and state all at the same time. Since 1790 the government of the district has alternated between federal and local control. Under the terms of a 1973 charter, the capital is currently governed by a mayor and a 13-member council, both popularly elected. Eight council members are elected from specific wards and the rest at large. However, Congress must still approve all laws passed by the local government, as well as its budget. Residents of Washington, D.C., won the right to vote in presidential elections in 1961 and the right to a single non-voting Congressional delegate in 1970.

8. Public Safety

In 1995, violent crimes reported to police (per 100,000 population) totaled 2,662 and included 65 murders, 53 rapes, 1,239 robberies, and 1,305 aggravated assaults. Property crimes totaled 9,505 and included 1,838 burglaries, 5,827 cases of larceny/theft, and 1,840 motor vehicle thefts.

The District of Columbia Fire Department is composed of 32 engine companies, 16 truck companies, and three heavy-duty rescue squads. The department also operates a hazardous materials unit, an air unit, and two fireboats. Its six battalions protect an area of 179 square kilometers (69 square miles) and a daytime population of more than one million.

9. Economy

In recent decades the private sector has played a growing role in Washington's economy. In the 1990s less than 20 percent of the capital's work force was employed by the federal government. Important contributors to the District's economy include the service sector (which employs one out of every three workers), high-technology companies (for whom the federal government provides the world's largest market), financial institutions, printing and publishing, and telecommunications. The largest non-government employers are George Washington University, the Potomac Electric Power Company, Georgetown University, Howard University, The Washington Post, Bell Atlantic Washington, and the Federal National Mortgage Association. In addition, a substantial segment of the capital's business is conducted by the 1,000-plus special-interest groups and national associations who maintain headquarters there.

10. Environment

The Chesapeake Bay, which dominates the ecology of the Washington, D.C., area, is an estuary (a meeting place for freshwater and saltwater). It occupies a delta composed of some 48 navigable rivers and numerous streams known collectively as the Tidewater. Pollution of the bay has long posed a threat to the regional environment. Historically, the major contaminant was raw sewage; today agricultural runoff and industrial pollutants are causes for concern. Since the 1970s environmental groups, notably Save the Bay and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, have led the fight to preserve the quality of the Bay's water and the ecological balance of the region.

11. Shopping

The Washington area has a wide variety of stores. The city's major shopping venue is the refurbished Union Station, whose three-level arcade abounds in stores of all kinds, as well as numerous restaurants. During the week, Connecticut Avenue N.W. is also a bustling retail center featuring many major chain stores, from Brooks Brothers and Talbot's to Filene's Basement. Other areas popular with shoppers are Adams-Morgan, with its multicultural atmosphere, fashionable Georgetown, and the shopping district on Upper Wisconsin Avenue N.W., in the residential district known as Friendship Heights (and Chevy Chase on the Maryland side), which features upscale stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Neiman-Marcus, Tiffany's, and Gianni Versace.

12. Education

Washington, D.C., has a well-educated populationmore than 25 percent of the population 25-years-old and over have at least an undergraduate college education. In the fall of 1996 the District of Columbia Public School System enrolled 78,648 students in grades K through 12; 3.9 percent were white, and 96.1 percent belonged to minorities. The school system operated 184 schools with 5,288 teachers; pupil-teacher ratio stood at 14.9 to one, and staff totaled 9,318.

Washington, D.C., is home to a number of well-known colleges and universities, including Georgetown University, the country's oldest Roman Catholic university, renowned for its school of international affairs and other departments; Howard University, which has a distinguished tradition as an educational institution for African Americans; Gallaudet, the world's only liberal arts college for the deaf and hearing impaired; and Johns Hopkins University, known for academic excellence in medicine and other fields.

Other well-known colleges and universities in the Washington, D.C., area include American University, George Washington University, Catholic University, Mount Vernon and Trinity colleges, and the University of the District of Columbia. The capital is also home to a number of licensed technical and trade schools. Nearby Maryland is home to the U.S. Naval Academy and the unique St. John's College, the "Great Books School," which offers a rigorous and unorthodox curriculum of Greek and Latin classics studied in their original languages, as well as great works from later eras.

13. Health Care

The major health-care institution in the Washington, D.C., area is Georgetown University Medical Center, which encompasses a hospital, a physician practice, research facilities, a nursing school, a cancer center, and an institute for neuroscience research. In its centenary year, the university hospital, founded in 1898, had 335 staffed beds and recorded 14,603 admissions and 175,322 outpatient visits. More than 2,000 persons were employed at the facility. Altogether, the healthcare system affiliated with the university offers services by 1,500 providers at 18 facilities in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Children's National Medical Center, an integrated health-care system dedicated solely to treating children, is recognized internationally as a leader in pediatric care. Its medical staff of more than 200 consists of faculty members at the George Washington University School of Medicine.

Washington, D.C., is also home to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the U.S. army's largest health-care facility.

In 1995, the Washington, D.C., metropolitan statistical area was served by 9,627 office-based physicians and 42 community hospitals, with a total of 9,836 beds.

14. Media

The capital's major newspaper is the nationally influential Pulitzer Prizewinning Washington Post, which combines local articles with coverage of federal government activities and national issues. In 1998 it had a circulation of 709,578 daily and 1,080,082 on Sunday. Also published daily is the smaller and more conservative Washington Times. The national daily newspaper USA Today is published in nearby Arlington, Virginia. Hundreds of specialized periodicals are published in the Washington, D.C., area. The major regional-interest monthly publication is Washingtonian Magazine.

The capital has six television stations and more than a dozen AM and FM stations. Washington is also the site of National Public Radio's headquarters, from which major news programs, such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered, are broadcast.

15. Sports

The popular Washington Redskins of the National Football League played at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium until 1997 when they moved to the newly completed 78,600-seat Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in suburban Maryland. Washington, D.C., has not had its own major league baseball team since the Senators left for Texas two decades ago, so the area's baseball fans have transferred their allegiance to the Baltimore Orioles of the American League, who play at the historic Camden Yards ball park. In basketball, the Washington Wizards (formerly the Washington Bullets) play at the modern MCI Center in downtown Washington, which is also home to the Washington Capitals hockey team of the NHL.

Georgetown University's basketball team, the Hoyas, has a loyal following among Washingtonians. Washington also has a major league soccer team, DC United, which won the first U.S. national soccer championship in 1996.

16. Parks and Recreation

The Washington, D.C., area has thousands of acres of parkland. East and West Potomac Parks, located on either side of the Tidal Basin, are famous for their cherry trees, which bloom in early spring every year. Altogether, the two parks have more than 3,000 of these trees. The parks also offer facilities for hiking, bicycling, tennis, golf, swimming, and picnicking. Located in West Potomac Park are the Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Korean, and Vietnam memorials, a reflecting pool, and a small island inhabited by ducks.

The 708-hectare (1,750-acre) Rock Creek Park, also located within the District of Columbia, stretches from the Potomac River to the Maryland border. The park offers hiking trails, a variety of sports facilities, playgrounds, an amphitheater, and a nature center. Another outdoor venue popular with Washington's residents and visitors is Theodore Roosevelt Island, a wilderness preserve covering 36 hectares (88 acres). The C&O Canal features a 296-kilometer (184-mile) towpath and is used by walkers, joggers, cyclists, picnickers, and boaters.

In addition to its parks, Washington's scenic attractions include several exceptional gardens that are open to the public. The Enid A. Haupt Garden has two underground museums and features elaborate plantings of trees and flowers. The historic United States Botanic Garden, planned by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison and opened in 1820, offers greenhouses, a conservatory, and other buildings. The 180-hectare (444-acre) United States National Arboretum, geared primarily toward education and research, includes the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum featuring miniature trees from Japan; the nation's largest planting of azaleas; a Japanese garden; and an herbarium and herb garden.

17. Performing Arts

The Washington Symphony Orchestra, declared the official symphony orchestra of Washington, D.C., in 1993, has a history dating back to 1934, when the ensemble was formed under the name Washington Civic Symphony. In the past decade, under music director Martin Piecuch, the orchestra has attracted increasing audiences and performed with a number of internationally known soloists, including Robert Merrill and Victor Borge. The group has also continued to evolve its mission of community outreach, with both philanthropic and audience support. The orchestra performs in the concert hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Kennedy Center's opera house is the home of the Washington Opera, which stages its smaller-scale productions in the center's Eisenhower Theater.

The capital has a lively and varied theater scene, which includes previews of many Broadway productions, as well as performances by local repertory companies. The Arena State, the area's oldest theater ensemble, gives eight subscription performances a year on two stages. In addition to performing classic dramas, the troupe is committed to the advancement of multicultural and contemporary theater. The Shakespeare Theatre, which formerly performed at the Folger Shakespeare Library, performs Shakespeare and modern theater classics and offers free summer productions at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Rock Creek Park. The Source Theatre Company performs both standard and new plays, with a special focus on new plays. Two more groups that specialize in contemporary theater are the Studio Theatre and the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

After being closed for more than a century, Ford's Theatrewhere President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865was reopened in 1868, refurbished in a style intended to duplicate its original nineteenth-century furnishings, down to the presidential box in which the president was shot. Original productions are presented most of the year, and there is a performance of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at Christmas time.

18. Libraries and Museums

Founded in 1896, the District of Columbia Public Library System serves 543,000 people, with an annual circulation of 1,476,935. Its book holdings total approximately 2,863,296 volumes. The library system also operates 25 neighborhood branches. The areas in which it holds special collections include Illustrators of Early English and American Children's Books, Local History and Local Authors, and the Washington Star Newspaper Collection.

The Library of Congress, which celebrated the bicentennial of its founding in 2000, is the world's largest library, with approximately 17 million books, 12 million photographs, two million recordings, and a multitude of other items housed on some 853 kilometers (530 miles) of shelves. Early in its history, the museum purchased the contents of Thomas Jefferson's personal library; much of this great treasure was lost, however, in 1851, when two-thirds of the collection was destroyed by fire (the museum's second major fire; most of its original holdings had been incinerated in an 1814 conflagration). Today the library owns books and periodicals published in some 460 different languages. Included within its collections are the world's largest law library; the largest rare book collection in North America; the papers of 23 presidents; the largest comic book collection in existence; the world's largest collection of American music; and the world's most extensive collection of films and television broadcasts produced both in the United States and abroad.

The Folger Shakespeare Library, a privately funded institution established in 1932, is home to the world's largest collection of the printed works of English playwright-poet William Shakespeare (15641616). Its 280,000 books and manuscripts also include thousands of other Renaissance books and manuscripts, and the library functions as a major academic research center for scholars and graduate students throughout the world. Every year the museum is opened to the public in April when Shakespeare's birthday is commemorated. The Folger also serves as a performing arts venue, with concerts and plays presented in its Great Hall and Elizabethan Theatre.

The Smithsonian Institution, established by the federal government in 1846, operates 14 museums in the nation's capital, nine of them located on the Mall, including the National Air and Space Museum; the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which is dedicated to modern and contemporary art; the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, a museum of Asian art; and the National Museum of African Art. Among the museums located off the Mall are the National Portrait Gallery, which features portraits of persons who have made significant contributions to the country; the Renwick Gallery, which displays American crafts; the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum; and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a memorial to the millions of Jews and non-Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II, and an international center for study and documentation of the Holocaust.

The privately operated Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington's oldest art museum, features American paintings but also includes European artworks dating as far back as the Middle Ages. Other private museums in the capital include the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Building Museum, and the Textile Museum.

19. Tourism

Washington, D.C., is one of the nation's most popular tourist destinations, attracting nearly 20 million visitors annually. The busiest tourist season runs from April (when the cherry blossoms bloom) to September, and April is the single most popular month to visit the capital.

In 1995 approximately 1,589,000 foreign travelers visited the city, ranking it eighth nationally in this category.

20. Holidays and Festivals

Martin Luther King, Jr., birthday observance

Chinese New Year Parade

Washington Boat Show
Washington International Flower & Garden Show

D.C. Spring Antiques Fair
Harambee Carnival
Patuxent Wildlife Art Show & Sale
Smithsonian Kite Festival
St. Patrick's Day Parade
Washington Flower & Garden Show

National Cherry Blossom Festival
Spring Flower Show

Dulles International Antiques Show & Sale
National Cherry Blossom Parade
Smithsonian's Craft Show
White House Easter Egg Roll
White House Spring Garden Tours

Washington International Filmfest

Candlelight Vigil
Goodwill Embassy Tour
International Gem & Jewelry Show
Memorial Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery
Washington National Cathedral Flower Mart

Festival of American Folklife

Jazz Art Festival

Founder's Day Water Lily Festival
Independence Day Parade

Washington Theatre Festival

Adams-Morgan Day

Marine Corps Marathon
Taste of D.C.

D.C. Winter Antiques Fair
National Christmas Tree Lighting/Pageant of Peace
Washington Craft Show
White House Christmas Tours

Capital Area Auto Show
Christmas on "S" Street
Victorian Holiday Festival in Historic Georgetown

21. Famous Citizens

Humor columnist Art Buchwald (b. 1925).

Escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (18181895).

Jazz legend Edward "Duke" Ellington (18991974).

Newspaper publisher Katharine Graham (b. 1917).

Actress Helen Hayes (190093).

French-born architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant (17541825), who de signed the plan for the nation's capital.

First Lady Dolley Madison (17691849).

Socialite Perle Mesta (18911975).

Englishman James Smithson (17651829), who donated the funds for the founding of the Smithsonian Institution.

Composer John Philip Sousa (18541932).

Poet Walt Whitman (18191892).

22. For Further Study


District of Columbia. [Online] Available (accessed October 14, 1999).

Washington DC City Pages. [Online] Available (accessed October 14, 1999).

Washington DC Home Page. [Online] Available (accessed October 14, 1999).

Washington Web. [Online] Available October 14, 1999).

Government Offices

Mayor's Office
441 4th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 727-2980

Washington City Council
441 4th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 724-8000

Washington Economic Development Dept.
441 4th St. NW, Rm. 1140 N
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 727-6365

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Washington Convention Center
900 9th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 789-1600

Washington D.C. Convention &
Visitors Association
1212 New York Ave. NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20005
(202) 789-7000


Washington Post
1150 15th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20071

Washington Times
3600 New York Ave. NE
Washington, D.C. 20002


Abbott, Carl. Political Terrain: Washington, D.C., from Tidewater Town to Global Metropolis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Alsop, Stewart. The Center: People and Power in Political Washington. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.

Bernstein, Carl, and Bob Woodward. All the President's Men. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974.

Brinkley, David. Washington Goes to War. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1988.

Butler, J. George. Simpler Times: Stories of Early Twentieth Century City Life. Arlington, VA: Vandamere Press, 1997.

Caroli, Betty Boyd. Inside the White House: America's Most Famous Home. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1999.

Cary, Francine Curro, ed . Urban Odyssey: A Multi-cultural History of Washington, DC. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

Cutler, David. Literary Washington: A Complete Guide to the Literary Life in the Nation's Capital. Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1992.

Evelyn, Douglas E., and Paul A. Dickson. On This Spot:Pinpointing the Past in Washington, D.C. Washington, DC: Farragut Pub. Co, 1992.

Fitzpatrick, Sandra, and Maria R. Goodwin. The Guide to Black Washington: Places and Events of Historical and Cultural Significance in the Nation's Capital. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1999.

Graham, Katharine. Personal History. New York: Knopf, 1997.

Lewis, Roger K. Shaping the City. Washington, DC: AIA Press, 1987.

Seidenberg, Robert. Discover the Sidewalks of Washington, D.C. Photography by Kevin Vandiver and Joe Viesti. New York: Gallery Books, 1989.

Styron, William. The Confessions of Nat Turner. New York: Random House, 1967.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cities. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cities. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cities. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C


WASHINGTON, D.C. Most Americans think of Washington, D.C., their national capital, as either a marble-columned theme park for visiting high-school civics classes or a cluster of government palaces housing activities so corrupt that aspirants to federal office regularly seek advantage over their incumbent rivals by accusing them of having spent too much time in Washington. To a degree, Washington is both of these things, yet

it is also a real city, home to more Americans than is Wyoming, and(with Baltimore) a nucleus of the nation's fourth-largest metropolitan area. For Washingtonians, the presence of the federal government is both a blessing and a curse, for the city's status as capital provides steady employment and unparalleled cultural institutions but strips its people of basic rights of citizenship taken for granted by the residents of the fifty states.

Founding and Early History

For most of the War of Independence, Congress met in Philadelphia, the largest city in the thirteen colonies. Fearing urban mobs and not trusting the Pennsylvania government to control them, in 1783 Congress decided to create a new capital apart from any state, and in 1787 the framers of the Constitution provided for a capital district of up to 100 square miles in which Congress would "exercise exclusive legislation." For the next three years, Congress considered promising river ports up and down the Atlantic Coast, with northerners favoring a site on the Delaware or Susquehanna while southerners heldout for the Potomac. Finally, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison brokered a deal by which the South would agree to federal assumption of state war debts in return for a southern capital. President George Washington, himself a Potomac man, chose the exact spot for the square, straddling the river and embracing the towns of George town, Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia.

Rather than seating the federal government in either town, Washington called for a brand-new city to be built on the low land between the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. To plan it, he turned to the thirty-six-year-old Pierre-Charles L'Enfant, a French artist and veteran of the Continental Army. L'Enfant, deeply influenced by the baroque plan of Versailles, began by emphasizing the site's topography. He reserved the most prominent hills for the Capitol and President's House (later nicknamed the White House), then gave each building a spectacular vista over an open, green Mall. To connect these and lesser nodes he drew a grand design of wide, diagonal avenues, superimposedon a practical American grid. Though L'Enfant was fired after a tiff with a local landowner, his plan provided the basic layout for Washington City (its name chosen by three presidentially appointed commissioners) within the larger territory of Columbia. In December 1800, the government arrived.

Washington and L'Enfant had hoped that the capital would grow into a major commercial city, a point of transshipment between the inland, Potomac trade, and seagoing vessels moored in an Anacostia harbor. But congressional neglect, rivalry among Georgetown, Alexandria, and Washington City, and the difficulty of opening the Potomac to navigation stifled the city's growth. When, in 1814, British troops raided the city, they found little worth torching except the White House and the Capitol. Congress did subscribe funds for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, designed to make Washington the Atlantic port for the Ohio River valley, but the city had bet on the wrong technology. Baltimore put its money into Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, outpacing the canal and making that city the dominant port of the Chesapeake. L'Enfant's enormous avenues remained unpaved and undeveloped.

Politically, the capital did not fare much better. Congress did grant elected municipal governments to Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria, but to a large degree the District remained a congressional pawn to be pushed back and forth across the board. This was particularly true in the matter of the slave trade. In the 1830s, northern abolitionists flooded Congress with petitions to abolish slavery in the District, and southern congressmen responded by ruling that such petitions would be automatically tabled. Finally, in 1846, Congress returned the portion of the District on the right bank of the Potomac to Virginia. Since this included the city of Alexandria, the District's major slave market, retrocession helped make possible the Compromise of 1850, which banned the slave trade in the remaining portion of the District, now only sixty-seven square miles.

Ten years later, as the Compromise collapsed into secession, Washington turned into an armed camp, surrounded by slave states. Northern troops rushed into the city, both to secure it for the Union and to use it as a base of operations against the Confederate capital of Richmond, only 100 miles away. The Capitol, Patent Office, and other government buildings were pressed into service, first as emergency barracks, then as emergency hospitals as wounded soldiers staggered back from Bull Run and points south. The Army of Northern Virginia threatened the city during its 1862 and 1863 invasions of the North, and in 1864 General Jubal Early actually entered the District before being repulsed at Fort Stevens.

Following the war, triumphant Midwesterners spoke of relocating the capital to the interior of the country, perhaps to St. Louis. Instead, in 1871, Congress decided to remain in Washington and modernize the city, merging the jurisdictions of Washington City, Washington County, and Georgetown, and giving the newly unified District a territorial government—the same form used by aspiring states. In just three years as vice president of the Board of Public Works and later as territorial governor, "Boss" Alexander Shepherd rebuilt the city's public spaces, paving streets, installing sewers, and planting tens of thousands of trees. But he also massively overdrew the city's Treasury account. In 1874 an appalled Congress abolished territorial government, and in 1878 it passed the Organic Act, which provided for government by three presidentially appointed commissioners, one of them an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers. To compensate District residents for their lost franchise, Congress promised to pay half of the District's budget, a promise that gradually eroded in subsequent decades.

Reinventing Washington

With the approach of the capital's centennial in 1900, a group of architects, eager to promote their profession, saw a chance to revive L'Enfant's baroque vision for the Mall, which had been cluttered with winding carriage roads and a dangerously sited train station. At the request of Senator James McMillan, the architects Daniel Burnham and Charles McKim, the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., and the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens proposed a City Beautiful plan of green, open spaces and white neoclassical buildings. The railroad station on the Mall was demolished and its trains rerouted to Burnham's monumental Union Station north of the Capitol. The plan was capped in 1922, with the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial on land reclaimed from the Potomac.

Ironically, Lincoln's temple overlooked a racially segregated city. Woodrow Wilson, the first southern-born president since Andrew Johnson, encouraged racial discrimination within the civil service. Though libraries and public transit were integrated, the city's schools, restaurants, theaters, and hotels remained rigidly segregated. Despite these restrictions, Washington was home to a thriving black community. Howard University, founded during Reconstruction, and some of the nation's top black high schools attracted African American intellectuals from across the country. Blacks built their own theaters, clubs, and hotels along U Street, north of downtown. The author Jean Toomer and the musician Duke Ellington were born and raised in the neighborhood, and the many other artists, scholars, and activists who spent time in the area made Washington second only to Harlem as a center for black culture.

The expansion of the federal government during the New Deal and World War II made Washington a boomtown. In 1942 alone, more than 70,000 new comers arrived to work in temporary buildings on the Mall, in the newly built Pentagon, or wherever they could find space for a typewriter. Thanks to the cold war, the federal government did not contract after victory, but it did disperse. Concerned about atomic attack and traffic congestion, federal planners scattered the new agencies—the Atomic Energy Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the like—to suburban campuses miles from downtown. Private employers, particularly high-tech defense contractors, followed them, as did many families. These were good jobs, and by 1949 the region had the highest mean salary per family of any major metropolitan area.

Though the cold war boom turned metropolitan Washington into the nation's fastest-growing metropolitan area, the District's population, which had peaked in the 1950 census at over 800,000, fell to 764,000 by 1960. For the first time the District housedless than half of the metropolitan region's residents. The bulk of Washingtonians moving to the suburbs were white, while most new comers were black, so in 1957 Washington became the nation's first major city to be majority African American.

Home Rule

With an almost all-white Congress and a southern-dominated House District of Columbia Committee ruling over a mostly black city, the civil rights element of home rule for the District became more pressing than ever. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon each took up the cause. Kennedy appointed the first African American district commissioner, as well as the first White House advisor on national capital affairs, while Congress approved the Twenty-third Amendment, allowing District residents to vote for presidential electors. Johnson, unable to get a home rule bill through Congress, nevertheless replaced the three commissioners with an appointed mayor, deputy mayor, and city council, a training ground for District leaders. Meanwhile, the District gained the right to send a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives. Finally, with Nixon's support, in 1973 Congress passed a home rule act. In 1974, the city—by now three-fourths black—held its first elections for top municipal office in a century.

The 1970s were rough on the city. Crime rates rose, downtown streets were torn up for subway construction, and the city lost its major-league baseball team. Escaping congressionally imposed height limits in Washington itself, developers took their skyscrapers, and jobs, to Virginia. In contrast, the 1980s were boom years. Metro, the flashy new regional rapid transit system, brought commuters and investors back to the center, and Mayor Marion Barry gained a reputation as a business-friendly leader. There was even talk of granting the city full representation in Congress, either through statehood or a constitutional amendment. But Republicans had no desire to let the majority-black, and overwhelmingly liberal, city send two new Democrats to the Senate. Moreover, the city's image—and its claim to political maturity—suffered when federal agents videotaped Mayor Barry smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room, amplifying criticism that he had bloated the city's bureaucracy with patronage jobs. Combined with unfinished business from home rule, Barry's misadministration left the District essentially bankrupt. In 1995, Congress established an appointed Control Board to oversee the government until the city could balance its own budget.

At the start of the twenty-first century, the city had climbed out of insolvency. Though the year 2000 census count of 572,059 was lower than the 1990 figure, it was significantly higher than projected, suggesting that the population had bottomed out in the early 1990s and was climbing again. With a respectable mayor, a healthier economy, and encouraging demographics, local activists were ready to try again to gain voting representation in Congress and an end to congressional meddling with the city's laws and budget. They even persuaded the city council to replace tourist-friendly slogans on the District license plates with the defiant motto: "Taxation without Representation." But as the newly elected president George W. Bush shrugged off their demands, it seemed unlikely that Washingtonians would become full American citizens anytime soon.


Abbott, Carl. Political Terrain: Washington, D.C., from Tidewater Town to Global Metropolis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Bowling, Kenneth R. The Creation of Washington, D.C.: The Idea and Location of the American Capital. Fairfax, Va.: George Mason University Press, 1991.

Cary, Francine, ed. Urban Odyssey: A Multicultural History of Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.

Gillette, Howard, Jr. Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Green, Constance McLaughlin. Washington. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1962–1963.

Lessoff, Alan. The Nation and its City: Politics, "Corruption," and Progress in Washington, D.C., 1861–1902. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Reps, John William. Washington on View: The Nation's Capital Since 1790. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

United States National Capital Planning Commission. Worthy of the Nation: The History of Planning for the National Capital. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1977.

Zachary M.Schrag

See alsoCapitol at Washington .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C." Dictionary of American History. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C." Dictionary of American History. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Recreation

Washington, D.C.: Recreation


As a city with tremendous history as a worldwide capital, and also a place where news and historic events take place nearly every day, Washington, D.C. is one of America's most popular tourist destinations for American families, serious researchers, and foreign travelers. Visitors to Washington can choose from 40 museums and more than 150 historical sitesmost of them free of charge. Any tour of Washington starts on the Mall, the long strip of open park land between Capitol Hill and the Lincoln Memorial. Tours of the U.S. Capitol building are given daily and visitors can receive admittance cards from their elected representatives to visit the House or Senate chambers, when in session. In the middle of the Mall, surrounded by American flags, stands the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument, completed in 1888. An elevator ride to the top provides the bestand highestview of the District of Columbia. The Washington Monument was closed temporarily in 2004 due to construction that would enhance security, but was scheduled to reopen in spring 2005. The president's residence, the White House, is the oldest public building in Washington and is open for tours Tuesdays through Saturdays. The majestic Lincoln Memorial, on the west end of the Mall, was finished in 1922. Here the 19-foot-high statue of Lincoln looks out over the Reflecting Pool, which mirrors the Washington Monument dramatically at dusk.

Just outside the Mall, the Jefferson Memorial, at the foot of the Tidal Basin, is a popular spot to view the city's famous cherry blossoms in the spring. The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial provides a moving experience for the millions of people who observe the names of the war dead with which it is inscribed. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the J. Edgar Hoover Building offers tours that include a videotape history of the agency, photos of notorious crimes and criminals, and a firearm demonstration. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing shows how it provides the nation with currency and stamps. The National Archives displays copies of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, plus other key documents in U.S. history. The Library of Congress, besides being one of the nation's premier research facilities, also hosts concerts and literary programs. Sessions at the Supreme Court Building, near the U.S. Capitol, are always open to the public. Lafayette Park, across from the White House, is notable for frequent civil demonstrations on current issues, in addition to its statue honoring Andrew Jackson.

Elsewhere in central Washington, costumed guides at the Frederick Douglass Home explain the life of the former slave, statesman, and civil rights activist. Ford Theater, where Lincoln was shot, and the Peterson House, where he died, retain their 1860s style and are open to the public. The National Arboretum and Dumbarton Oaks on the edge of Georgetown display a breathtaking variety of plant life.

Sixteen miles outside the city, in Mount Vernon, Virginia, George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens sits on 500 acres overlooking the Potomac River. Another of America's most revered monuments is the Arlington National Cemetary in nearby Arlington, Virginia. The 600 acre site bears thousands of simple white crosses to honor the nation's war dead, as well as the gravesites of other prominent citizens that include President John F. Kennedy, boxer Joe Louis, and the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Arts and Culture

Washington, D.C. is a cultural as well as governmental center. It boasts a higher concentration of museums and art galleries than any other city in the nation. The District of Columbia regularly attracts performers as diverse as touring Broadway shows and major rock and jazz acts to its opulent theaters and concert halls.

Much of Washington's cultural life is based in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, home of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington Opera, and host to almost-daily performances by world-famous artists. The Kennedy Center presents more than 3,300 performances a year before more than 2 million guests. Each December the Kennedy Center Honors is a national celebration of the arts that recognizes the talents and achievements of the world's greatest performing artists. The Arena Stage and the National Theater all offer major stage shows, including dramas and musicals. Other local theater groups include the Avalon, Shakespeare Theater, Theater J, Old Vat Theater, Source Theater, Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, GALA Hispanic Theater, and scores more around the Washington, D.C. area. The Washington Ballet presents a varied repertoire and the District of Columbia's African Heritage Dancers and Drummers present special children's programs. Young audiences enjoy special performances presented at the Kennedy Center Lab. Children's theater is also offered by Picture Book Players, Summer Theatre Camp and special events for young people at the Washington, D.C. Armory. Many college-affiliated groups offer theatrical performances.

Washington, D.C.'s many museums and galleries provide a feast of viewing variety. The museums operated by the Smithsonian Institution, often called "America's Attic," contain everything from a 50-foot section of the legendary American highway Route 66 to the original Kermit the Frog hand puppet, from Charles Lindbergh's historic transAtlantic solo plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, to Archie Bunker's armchair from the television series "All in the Family." Smithsonian museums, which would take weeks to fully navigate, are mostly located on or just off the Mall and include the National Air and Space Museum (the most visited museum on earth), the Arts and Industries Building, the Freer Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (modern and contemporary art), the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of American Art, the National Museum of American History, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Asian Art, and the National Museum of African Art. In 2003 President George W. Bush signed legislation that will create the National Museum of African American History and Culture within the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian's National Zoological Park is set on 160 acres in Rock Creek Park.

Other museums in the city include the Pope John Paul II Cultural Museum, the International Spy Museum, the U.S. Marine Corps Museum, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art (specializing in American art), the Museum of Modern Art of Latin America, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the National Building Museum.

Festivals and Holidays

Washington, D.C.'s biggest and best-known celebration is the Cherry Blossom Festival, held in early April to coincide with the blooming of the trees. Started in 1927 to mark the first planting of 3,000 Japanese cherry trees as a gift from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912, the festival now runs two weeks. Special events include a major parade, a Japanese lantern lighting ceremony and street festival with more than 80 exhibitors, and a Smithsonian Kite Festival held near the Washington Monument.

Other exciting annual events include the Washington Antiques Show in January; the Chinese New Year's celebration in February; the St. Patrick's Day Parade along Constitution Avenue in March; the White House Easter Egg Roll and the White House Spring Garden Tour in April, as well as the off-beat Gross National Product Parade on April Fool's Day; the Goodwill Embassy Tourallowing the public into several foreign embassies in townin May; the Potomac Riverfest and a National Barbecue Battle in June; the Smith-sonian's Festival of American Folklife in late June through early July; a massive July Fourth celebration; the Kennedy Center Prelude Festival in September; the Marine Corps Marathon in October, the November Washington Craft Show; and the lighting of the national Christmas tree outside the White House in December.

Sports for the Spectator

Plagued by controversy that almost squashed the deal, Washington D.C. was finally able to convince taxpayers and Major League Baseball that it was the right place for the new home of Major League Baseball's struggling Montreal Expos franchise. The Washington Nationals began play in 2005 and brought big-league baseball back to the city for the first time since the old Washington Senators left town some 30 years prior. Until a new $400 million ballpark can be constructed (estimated completion 2008), the team will play its games at the existing Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Washington is home to four other major league professional sports teams. The Washington Redskins are the true sporting passion of Washingtonians and face National Football League opponents at the FedEx Stadium in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League, the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association, and the Washington Mystics of the Women's National Basketball Association play at the MCI Center. The basketball team of Georgetown University has earned a national reputation for outstanding performance.

Sports for the Participant

Washington, D.C. offers a wide selection of participant sports. The city's close approximation to rivers, bays, and the Atlantic Ocean make a variety of water sports within reach, particularly boating, sailing, fishing, canoeing, SCUBA diving, and windsurfing. A true oasis in the city and one of its most treasured resources is Rock Creek Park, operated by the National Park Service and featuring more than 25 miles of trails for hiking among 1,755 acres. In all the city maintains more than 800 acres of parkland, 300 parks, 75 playgrounds, 71 community recreation centers, 33 public swimming pools, and more than 150 basketball and tennis courts.

Shopping and Dining

Avid shoppers can lose themselves in the proliferation of urban malls in downtown Washington, D.C. Perhaps the most legendary is Union Station, an historic urban shopping center with marble floors, upscale shopping at more than 130 shops, a full schedule of events and exhibitions, and more than 25 million visitors a year. At The Shops at National Place, 60 shops and a food hall serving all palates is convenient to the Metro Center subway stop. The glass-roofed Pavilion at the Old Post Office, once a working post office, is now home to retail concerns, restaurants, and offices and has been ranked as the 8th most popular destination in D.C. A different kind of shopping experience is found in Georgetown, where unique boutiques and specialty stores are housed in historic townhouses, mostly along Wisconsin Avenue and M Street; elegant shops abound at Georgetown Park Mall. Mazza Gallerie is a three-storied enclosed mall filled with elite shops, stylish boutiques, and a new state-ofthe-art movie theater. Washington's Eastern Market, in the southeast section of the city, has been a farmer's market since 1873 with fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry, and sausage for sale Tuesday through Saturday.

Restaurants in Washington reflect the influence of the many foreign cultures present in the capital, and the last decade has seen an explosion of culinary creativity on the local restaurant scene. Many of the most interesting establishments are clustered in the Georgetown and Dupont Circle areas and in the urban malls downtown. In a 2005 online poll travelers to Washington, D.C. ranked the Italian restaurant Obelisk (Dupont Circle) as the city's best restaurant, followed by Sequoia (American contemporary; Georgetown), Café Atlantico (Caribbean and South American; downtown), Georgia Brown's (American; downtown), and Jaleo (Spanish; Seventh Street). Ann Cashion, chef at Cashion's Eat Place, was named one of James Beard's best chefs in America in 2004. Capital Grille, located between the White House and the Capitol Building, is one of the best places to spot high-powered politicos gathered for lunch, drinks, or dinner.

Visitor Information: Washington, D.C. Convention and Visitors Association, 1212 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20005; telephone (202)789-7099; fax (202)789-7037

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Recreation." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Recreation." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Recreation." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

District of Columbia


"To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such 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" (U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8). The U.S. Constitution, with this proclamation, left the legal formation of a national capital up to the U.S. Congress. To this day, the District of Columbia is neither a state nor a territory and remains under congressional jurisdiction.


The location of the national capital was born out of a political compromise between the northern and southern states after the United States had achieved its independence. The South feared that the North would have too much influence if the capital were placed in a northern city. The North demanded federal assistance in paying its Revolutionary War debt, something the South was strongly against. alexander hamilton initiated a compromise whereby the federal government would pay off the war debt in return for locating the capital between the states of Maryland and Virginia on the Potomac River.

In 1800, Virginia and Maryland ceded portions of land to the federal government. The citizens living in the new capital were required to give up all the political rights they had enjoyed as inhabitants of Maryland and Virginia. In return, Congress, which had exclusive power over the district, would allow them some form of self-government. In 1802, Congress called for an appointed mayor and an elected council in the district. By 1820, the election of the mayor was also permitted.

This form of representative government lasted in the district until 1874, when Congress abolished the citizens' right to vote for their local officials and established a three-person board of commissioners appointed by the president. For over one hundred years, the residents of the District of Columbia were denied the democratic right to elected local representation.

Although residents of the district had always been required to pay federal income tax and serve in the military, their right to vote in presidential elections was denied until the 1961 passage of the twenty-third amendment to the Constitution. This amendment granted the district a number of votes in the electoral college, not to exceed the number given to the least populous state.

Home Rule

In 1967, through an executive order (Exec. Order No. 11379, 32 FR 15625, 1967 WL 7776 [Pres.]), President lyndon b. johnson

did away with the three-member board of commissioners and appointed a mayor and a council for the district. In 1970, the district was given back its nonvoting delegate in Congress. But this still did not satisfy residents who demanded full self-determination. Congress then passed the District Home Rule Act of 1973 (Pub. L. 93-198, Dec. 24, 1973, 87 Stat. 774), and restored to the citizens their right to vote for a local government. For the first time in exactly a hundred years, the residents of the District of Columbia were able to vote for a mayor and a 13-member council.

The Constitution granted Congress complete legislative authority over the District of Columbia. Congress alone has the jurisdiction to expand the district's powers over local government affairs. It also has the jurisdiction to contract those same powers. Congress, through the Home Rule Act, dictated the legislative powers to the district council and the executive powers to the mayor. Advisory neighborhood commissions, which are groups elected by the residents, advise the council on matters of public policy. Congress still retains ultimate legislative authority through its power to veto any of the district's legislation.


Besides the citizens of U.S. territories, district residents are the only U.S. citizens without full representation in Congress and with federal limitations on their own local government. Advocates of statehood rebel against such restrictions. They argue that because the district's congressional delegate is not allowed to vote, residents are subject to a fundamental democratic wrong, taxation without representation. They add that because Congress retains control over the city's purse strings, city officials are powerless in raising more revenue. Federal restrictions on taxation have prevented the district from taxing commuters as have some other U.S. cities, which could have given the district a huge tax windfall.

Opponents of statehood argue that the District of Columbia belongs to all U.S. citizens, and therefore all citizens should have a say in how it is managed. Constitutionally, Congress has complete authority over the district, and to have it otherwise would require a constitutional amendment (supporters dismiss this argument, pointing out that 37 states were allowed into the Union through only a simple majority vote in Congress). If the district were to become an independent state, some opponents argue, the federal government would have to abide by the laws of this new state. Opponents of statehood also maintain that the district's power needs to be checked by Congress because of the district's financial difficulties.

The push toward statehood has become a partisan issue, with the democratic party generally in favor of it and the republican party generally opposed. One reason for this division is the political makeup of the city, which is predominantly Democratic. Statehood would add more Democratic members to the House and the Senate. When the Democrats won the White House in 1992, the stage was set for the statehood issue to move forward through the 103d Congress.

On November 21, 1993, the House considered Bill 51, calling for the creation of New Columbia, the nation's fifty-first state. Democrats spoke in favor of statehood, saying it would give D.C. residents the same benefits of citizenship that are enjoyed by other U.S. citizens. Republicans spoke out against it, saying the city was unable to govern itself. Republican sentiments carried the day, defeating the bill by a vote of 277–153.

Legal Challenge to Voting Rights

After Congress rejected the idea of statehood for the district, D.C. residents felt they had exhausted their legislative options for change. They explored other ways of increasing their influence in Congress, but again the fact that their representative could not vote in Congress posed a major roadblock. A group of residents sought to overcome this limitation by filing a federal lawsuit that challenged the status quo.

Lois Adams and 75 other D.C. residents filed the lawsuit against the president and Congress, arguing that it was unjust that they pay taxes and defend the country in times of war, yet they could not send elected representatives to vote on taxes and war. They claimed that this deprived them of equal protection of the law and denied them a republican form of government. They also argued that this deprivation violated their due process rights and abridged their privileges and immunities as citizens of the United States.

A special three-judge panel heard the case but in the end rejected these arguments. In Adams v. Clinton, 90 F.Supp.2d 35 (D.C. 2000), the court addressed both jurisdictional and constitutional issues. Regarding jurisdiction, the executive and legislative branches contended that the court had no right to even hear the case because the plaintiffs raised issues that were not subject to review by the judicial branch. However, the court rejected the idea that the issues were political questions beyond its reach and reviewed the merits of the case.

The court looked at the language of the Constitution, as well as history and legal precedent, in making is decisions. It first held that Article I of the Constitution repeatedly refers to "each state," thereby demonstrating that the term did not refer generally to all the people of the United States but to citizens of individual states. Tying the right to Congressional representation to statehood was reinforced by the fact that residents of U.S. territories cannot elect voting representatives to Congress. In addition, history and precedent revealed that the District of Columbia had never been considered a "state" for constitutional purposes. Therefore, the direct constitutional challenge had no merit.

The court rejected an even more novel theory advanced by the plaintiffs that they were entitled to vote in Maryland elections because of their "residual citizenship." This theory relies on the fact that residents of the land ceded by Maryland to form the district continued to vote in Maryland elections between 1790 and 1801, when Congress assumed jurisdiction and provided for the district's government. The court dismissed this claim, noting that a 1964 court decision had rejected the concept of residual citizenship based on the fact that former residents of Maryland lost their state citizenship when the District of Columbia separated from it.

Finally, the court concluded that the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment could not be used to strike down another constitutional provision. Though the court found that Congress and the executive branch had failed to give a compelling reason for denying D.C. residents voting representatives, the denial was based on a provision of Article I. Unlike a statute that contains illegal classifications, the constitution cannot be ruled unconstitutional. Therefore, D.C. residents had to convince Congress to either grant it statehood or pass a constitutional amendment that would allow voting representatives from the district.

The Courts

The courts of the District of Columbia were established by an act of Congress. Originally, federal courts heard controversies that arose in the District of Columbia. Disputes over federal or district law came under the jurisdiction of the federal district courts. Appeals went from the district courts to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Just as the legislative branch of the district government became less dependent on the federal system in the 1970s, so too did the courts. The district court system was completely reorganized under the District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970 (Pub. L. 91-358, July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 473; Pub. L. 99-573, § 17, Oct. 28, 1973, 100 Stat. 3234, 3235). The U.S. District court no longer has jurisdiction over criminal or civil actions occurring under D.C. law. These cases are now heard by the district's new trial court, the Superior Court. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to review decisions of the Superior Court.

further readings

Harris, Charles Wesley. 1995. The Conflict of Federal and Local Interests. Washington D.C.: Georgetown Univ. Press.

Kofie, Nelson. 1999. Race, Class, and the Struggle for Neighborhood in Washington, D.C. New York: Garland Press.

Markham, Steven. 1998. Statehood for the District of Columbia. Washington, D.C.: National Legal Center for the Public Interest.

Schrag, Philip G. 1985. Behind the Scenes: The Politics of a Constitutional Convention. Washington D.C.: Georgetown Univ. Press.


States' Rights.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"District of Columbia." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"District of Columbia." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . (December 16, 2017).

"District of Columbia." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Economy

Washington, D.C.: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

A 2004 report by the D.C. Chamber of Commerce characterized the local economy as diversifying and growing, though still narrowly specialized and externally driven. The Washington area ranks first among all national metropolitan areas in federal procurement dollars. Taking advantage of that influx of capital, as well as the city's advantage as the center of all national capital functions, will be key to the D.C. area's future economic vitality and job growth. The Washington area is expected to achieve a 58 percent increase (inflation adjusted) in its economic activity between 2000 and 2015, with the job base growing 29 percent and the resident population increasing 21 percent. Key sectors driving the economy will continue to be the federal government, technology, construction, international business, and hospitality. Manufacturing has never been a strong suit; only 3.9 percent of area jobs were in manufacturing, and that figure is expected to fall to 2.8 percent by 2015.

Indeed, people often think of Washington, D.C. as a "company town" where most people work for the federal government. However, in the early twenty-first century, only one of six workers in the area was on the government payroll. That figure is down from one in four in 1977. By contrast, there has been a great deal of growth in the private service sector, which now accounts for one of every three jobs. Still, many of these employees work for companies who rely on government contracts. As the largest consumer of technological equipment and service in the world, the federal government stimulates business through purchases, research and development funding, and grant and loan programs. As a result, Washington is a magnet for growth industries, such as paper products, telecommunications, information and computer firms, and many service industries, especially tourism and hospitality firms. Nearly 50 of the major Fortune 500 companies have offices in the district, which is also the location of leading world, national, and regional financial institutions.

There are more than 500 publishing and printing companies in the district to produce the vast array of documents generated by the federal government. In addition, the city houses more than 1,000 national associations' headquarters and lobby groups who need a presence in the district to attempt to shape and influence the legislation process on their own behalf.

The Capital City has an inventory of nearly 100 million square feet of office space. A key to office development has been the growth of the Metrorail subway stations. Commercial projects have typically followed the opening of new subway stops. Many of the new buildings are connected directly to the stations through underground tunnels that also serve retail stores and restaurants. Major residential projects on Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. and at Market Square include residential housing units mixed with other types of retail, office, and commercial uses.

Items and goods produced: printed and published documents; telecommunications equipment

Incentive ProgramsNew and Existing Companies

Local programs

Because of its recent economic resurgence, Washington, D.C. can offer numerous financial incentives to attract and retain businesses and associations. The New E-conomy Transformation Act of 2000 (NET 2000), effective January 1, 2001, provides certain credits, exemptions and other benefits for a Qualified High Technology Company. These incentives include resources to develop their workforce, secure affordable facilities for their business and benefit from reduced real estate, personal property, sales and income taxes.

State programs

Federal incentives designed to tap the investment and employment potential of the Enterprise Zone include three types of wage credits, an additional expensing allowance, a zero federal capital gains tax rate on certain investments and tax-exempt bond financing. The District's Revenue Bond Program offers below market interest rate loans to qualified private enterprises that are located in the Enterprise Zone as well as non-profit and manufacturing organizations citywide.

Job training programs

The D.C. Department of Employment Services contracts with private companies to provide customized training programs through the D.C. Private Industry Council, the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) (formerly Job Training Partnership Act), the Youth Employment Act, the Training and Retraining for Employment Program, the On-The-Job Training program, and through the One-Stop Career Center approach now in effect in several states and supported in part by the Department of Labor. Contracts have encompassed such areas as shop training, technical training, basic education areas, office skills, legal research, food service, tourism, art-related occupations, industrial maintenance, mail handling, bank tellering, health care, child care, truck driving, construction industry retraining, and brick and masonry training.

Development Projects

The $650 million Washington Convention Center opened in 2004 to rave reviews for its design and state-of-the-art facilities. With more than 700,000 square feet of convention space, the Center had more than one million visitors in its first year and generated $426 million in local delegate spending. It was also named Best New Convention Center by Meetings East magazine. The new center also made way for further downtown development by making the older facility redundantit was imploded in 2004. In Dec. 2004, D.C. and Major League Baseball agreed to a financing package for a $400 million publicly financed baseball stadium to allow the former Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) to move to D.C. Play at the new stadium, to be located at South Capitol and N Streets, SE, is projected to begin in 2008. Until that time, the Nationals will play at existing RFK Stadium, former home of the Washington Redskins.

Economic Development Information: Director, Washington, D.C. Marketing Center, D.C. Chamber of Commerce, 1710 H. Street, NW, 11th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006; telephone (202)638-7333; fax (202)833-2693; email

Commercial Shipping

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Dulles International Airport, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport handle the bulk of air freight in the area. For shipping, Washington, D.C. has its own port at the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers but mainly utilizes larger port facilities in Baltimore, Maryland, and in both Alexandria and Norfolk, Virginia.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

The D.C. Department of Labor Services issued a report identifying high demand and emerging occupations for the years 2000-2010. Key white collar sectors included business management and financial services, lawyers, computer and technical specialists, and public relations. Blue collar and non-skilled growth areas include office clerks, secretaries, legal secretaries, laborers and movers, janitors and food service workers, and police officers. While government employment continues to shrink due to downsizing and streamlining, private-sector jobs have increased dramatically in the last decade, especially in the services sector. All sectors of the hospitality industry, the city's second strongest industry after the federal government, have reported strong growth due to the city's high number of tourists and travelers on government business. The new Convention Center, opened in 2004, will likely attract a vigorous convention business and stimulate new hotels, restaurants, and spending downtown.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area labor force for December 2004 (annual average figures unavailable).

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 673,800

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 12,000

manufacturing: 2,500

trade, transportation, and utilities: 28,800

information: 23,100

financial activities: 30,400

professional and business services: 143,800

educational and health services: 93,700

leisure and hospitality: 51,800

other services: 59,200

government: 230,900

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.73

Unemployment rate: 8.8% (December 2004)

Largest employers ranked by number of employees (2002):

George Washington University, Howard University, Washington Hospital Center, Georgetown University, Georgetown University Hospital, Children's National Medical Center, Fannie Mae, Howard University Hospital, American University.

Cost of Living

A 2004 ACCRA study cited Washington, D.C. as the third highest metropolitan area in terms of cost of living in the United States, behind only New York and Los Angeles. Housing costs in Washington, D.C. are higher than U.S. averages due primarily to the fact that approximately two-thirds of all land is either owned or controlled by the federal government, foreign embassies, and other non-profit organizations, which renders that land and property tax-exempt. Housing prices range from $90,000 to well over $1 million. The cost of living for food and other essentials is more in line with nationwide standards. The city levies a 10 percent sales tax on restaurant meals, 14.5 percent tax on hotel rooms, and a 12 percent tax on motor vehicle parking in private garages.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Washington, D.C. area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $505,428

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 140.0 (U.S. average = 100.0)

Local income tax rate: Ranges from 5.0% to 9.5%

Local sales tax rate: 5.75%

Property tax rate: $0.96 per $100 of assessed valuation; assessed at 100% (2005)

Economic Information: Washington, D.C. Marketing Center, D.C. Chamber of Commerce, 1710 H. Street, NW, 11th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006; telephone (202)638-7333; fax (202)833-2693; email

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Economy." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Economy." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Economy." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.

D.C. Washington, capital of the United States, coextensive (since 1878, when Georgetown became a part of Washington) with the District of Columbia (2000 pop. 572,059), on the Potomac River; inc. 1802. The city is the center of a metropolitan area (1990 pop. 3,923,574) extending into Maryland and Virginia. With the city of Baltimore to its north in Maryland, it forms a consolidated metropolitan area of some 6.7 million people. Washington is the legislative, administrative, and judicial center of the United States but has little industry; its business is government, and hundreds of thousands are so employed in the metropolitan area. The city is also a major tourist attraction and a cultural center.

Washington has long been a gateway for African Americans emigrating from the South, and since the 1960s has had a (now diminishing) black majority. Many citizens live in poverty, and social problems have been exacerbated by the transient nature of the governmental workforce and the District's lack of political power.

Transportation facilities include a subway system that connects the city with many suburbs. The main rail and air hubs are Union Station and Ronald Reagan Washington National and Dulles International airports (both in Virginia). Nearby military installations include Fort McNair, Fort Myer, Andrews Air Force Base, and Bolling Air Force Base.


The city spreads out over 69 sq mi (179 sq km), including 8 sq mi (20.7 sq km) of water surface, with tree-shaded thoroughfares and many open vistas. Numerous impressive government buildings near the city's center are built of white or gray stone in the classical style, and there are many fine homes. Among other attractive buildings are the embassies and legations of many foreign countries, many of them lining "Embassy Row" on Massachusetts Ave. The larger of the city's fine parks are West Potomac Park, which extends S from the Lincoln Memorial and includes the Tidal Basin, flanked by the famous Japanese cherry trees; East Potomac Park, an area of reclaimed land jutting S from the Jefferson Memorial; Rock Creek Park, with almost 1,800 acres (728 hectares) of natural woodlands and extensive recreation facilities, and the adjoining National Zoological Park; and Anacostia Park, adjacent to the National Arboretum.

Besides the Capitol and the White House, other important government buildings and places of historic interest include the Senate and House of Representatives office buildings, the Supreme Court Building, the Pentagon (in Virginia), the Federal Bureau of Investigation building, the Library of Congress, the National Archives Building, Constitution Hall, the Ronald Reagan Building, the Watergate apartment complex, the State Department ( "Foggy Bottom" ), and the headquarters of the World Bank. Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln was shot, has been restored. In 1974 the Admiral's House at the U.S. Naval Observatory became the official residence of the vice president. Of historic interest is Fort Washington (built 1809, destroyed 1814, rebuilt by 1824).

Best known of the city's many statues and monuments are the Washington Monument, at the western end of the long grass-covered National Mall; the Lincoln Memorial, with its reflecting pool; the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial flanking the pool and the World War II Memorial at the pool's far end; and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, all overlooking the Tidal Basin. Among Washington's famous churches are Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal), which was completed in 1990; and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States. The city also contains Nationals Park, the home to major-league baseball's Nationals, and the Capitals (hockey) and Wizards (basketball) play in the Verizon Center. The Washington Redskins play in nearby Landover, Md.

The Arlington Memorial Bridge across the Potomac connects the capital with Arlington National Cemetery. Also in Arlington is the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, one of the largest statues ever cast in bronze, and the U.S. Air Force Memorial. In the Potomac itself lies Theodore Roosevelt Island, thickly wooded and with many foot trails.

Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Institutions

The city's many institutions of higher education include American Univ., the National Defense College, the Catholic Univ. of America, Georgetown Univ., George Washington Univ., Howard Univ., and the Univ. of the District of Columbia. Among many cultural attractions are the National Gallery of Art, the Freer Gallery of Art, and the other centers under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the Corcoran Gallery of Art; the Phillips Collection; the Folger Shakespeare Library; and the Newseum. Major visitor draws on the Mall include the National Air and Space Museum, the Holocaust Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

The U.S. Naval Observatory, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the Smithsonian Institution, the Brookings Institution, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington are among the institutions dedicated to scientific research and education. Also in Washington is the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home (1851). Nearby are the National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Bethesda, Md.) and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture research center (Beltsville, Md.)


The present system of government (in operation since 1975) provides for an elected mayor and city council but reserves for Congress veto power over the budget and legislation and direct control over an enclave containing most of the federal buildings and monuments.

The Twenty-third Amendment (1961) to the Constitution gave inhabitants the right to vote in presidential elections; the District of Columbia was accorded three electoral votes, the minimum number. In 1970 legislation authorized election of a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives. There have been several unsuccessful attempts by the District of Columbia to gain statehood and achieve full representation in Congress.

With the city facing insolvency in 1995, Congress created a financial control board with a mandate to supervise municipal finances. Granted virtual authority over the city, the board concentrated on reducing the municipal workforce, paring services and programs, stimulating the economy, retaining a middle-class presence, and transferring prison and other costly operations to the federal government; it continued its oversight until the District had four successive balanced budgets (2001).


In 1790 the rivalry of Northern and Southern states for the capital's location ended when Jefferson's followers supported Hamilton's program for federal assumption of state debts in return for an agreement to situate the national capital on the banks of the Potomac River. George Washington selected the exact spot. The "Federal City" was designed by Pierre L'Enfant and laid out by Andrew Ellicott. Construction began on the White House in 1792 and on the Capitol the following year.

John Adams was the first president to occupy the White House. Congress held its first session in Washington in 1800, and Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in the new capital. In the War of 1812 the British sacked (1814) Washington, burning most of the public buildings, including the Capitol and the White House.

The city grew slowly. Even after 1850 it was still "a sea of mud," and not until the 20th cent. did it cease to be an unkempt rural city and assume its present urban aspect. Though strongly manned during the Civil War, it was several times threatened by the Confederates, notably by Gen. Jubal A. Early in 1864. In 1871, Washington lost its charter as a city and a territorial government was inaugurated to govern the entire District of Columbia. Congress took direct control of the District's government in 1874, providing for a mayor appointed by the President and a commission chosen by Congress; the residents were disfranchised. After 1901, Washington was developed on the basis of the resurrected L'Enfant plan—a gridiron arrangement of streets cut by diagonal avenues radiating from the Capitol and White House, with an elaborate system of parks.

Through the years the city has been a focus for national political activity. In 1932 Bonus Marchers lived in its parks until they were evicted by the army. In the 1960s and early 70s hundreds of thousands demonstrated for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, and massive rallies have become a recurrent part of Washington life.

Washington's population has declined steadily since the 1950s; much of the outmigration has been to affluent suburbs in Virginia and Maryland. In Apr., 1968, the assassination in Memphis, Tenn., of Martin Luther King, Jr., touched off riots in Washington, and population loss accelerated. The long mayoralties (1980–91, 1995–98) of Marion Barry were fraught with corruption and controversy, which retarded attempts by the city and by federal authorities to resolve economic and social issues. The Washington metropolitan area was shaken in Sept., 2001, by a terrorist attack on the Pentagon and reports that the White House had been among the terrorists' possible targets.


See C. M. Green, Washington: A History of the Capital (1976) and Washington: Capital City, 1879–1950 (1976); S. Smith, Captive Capital (1974): D. Duncan, Washington: The First One Hundred Years, 1889–1989 (1989); J. W. Reps, Washington on View: The Nation's Capital since 1790 (1991); C. Sten, ed., Literary Capital: A Washington Reader (2011).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: History

Washington, D.C.: History

George Washington Chooses Capital's Site

When the U.S. Congress sought a new capital for the young United States in the late eighteenth century, it chose an obscure piece of undeveloped swampland on the Potomac River. This unlikely location was a compromise. Southern politicians resisted placement of the capital too far north in New York or New England. For all representativesnorthern and southern alikePhiladelphia, the capital in 1783, was deemed too close to potentially volatile constituents, especially one band of angry soldiers who had disrupted a Congressional session earlier that year to demand back pay. Determining the new capital's exact location was left to President George Washington, who had known the area since boyhood. The diamond-shaped district he carved out included parts of Maryland and Virginia. President Washington modestly referred to the city that came to bear his name as the Federal City.

Early Days of Future Capital

In 1571 Pedro Menendez, a Spanish admiral who founded St. Augustine and was governor of Spain's Florida territories, was the first European to explore the future capital region. The area became a trading center for British settlers who dealt with regional Native American tribes. The Potomac River, one of the few native place names to survive colonialization, means "trading place" in the Algonquin language. Later, white landowners in the region made huge profits growing tobacco.

When the area was selected as the new capital site in 1790, Congress had almost no money to spend on its future home. Virginia and Maryland contributed small sums to erect public buildings, but President Washington was left to try to barter with the tobacco-growing landowners in the area for property. Meanwhile, the task of creating the look of a capital city worthy of the new nation fell to Pierre L'Enfant, a French architect and engineer also selected by President Washington, who eventually persuaded tobacco planters to sell their land cheaply. At the time, L'Enfant's vision of boulevards 400 feet wide and a mile long lined by great buildings seemed like a waste of real estate to the property owners. Nonetheless, the first temporary buildings of the new capital were ready in 1800 and in May of that year the government left Philadelphia. One year later, Thomas Jefferson was the first U.S. president to be inaugurated in Washington. But L'Enfant's vision of what Washington should be remained for decades just a vision. Today's grand Pennsylvania Avenue was an unpaved road from the U.S. Capitol to the White House and a muddy path on the other side of the White House during the first half of the nineteenth century. Americans and foreign diplomats assigned to the city dreaded its dull cultural life and oppressive summers. Few houses and plenty of open space separated official buildings.

Wars Impact on the City

The War of 1812 made life in Washington even more unpleasant, as British forces stormed the city in 1814, burning the President's Houselater rebuilt, painted white, and forever after known as the White Houseas well as the partially completed U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings. By the 1860s Washington's population had grown to 75,000 people. As the geographic border between the North and South, the District of Columbia acutely felt the mounting tension between factions at the approach of the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln's 1861 inauguration was completed under a heavily armed phalanx of soldiers ready to repel an attack by the South. Washington was the headquarters for Northern troops during the four-year war, and several times during the bloody conflict Confederate troops nearly took the capital, defeated only by bad luck or faulty military intelligence.

Government Buildings Proliferate

Gradually, Washington architects filled in the blanks left by L'Enfant. The Malla vast tree-lined park stretching out from the U.S. Capitolsprouted other government buildings and the Smithsonian museums. Tributes to some of the nation's great men were built: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. The population of the city jumped during World War I as the civil service rapidly expanded, and again during the Great Depression of the 1930s when working for the government was the most secure kind of employment. Many of the current government buildings date from the 1930s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration erected offices for the Internal Revenue, Commerce, and other federal departments.

Washington during the 1960s reflected the social upheaval and turbulence experienced throughout the nation. The 1963 "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" showed America at its best and most righteous. It was there that Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his inspirational "I have a dream" speech to 200,000 citizens. But when King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, violent riots rocked the capital. Recovering from the damage during the last half of the 1970s and into the 1980s, the capital enjoyed an economic rebirth with major commercial projects downtown and in some neighborhoods.

Behind the glitter and glamour attendant upon conducting one of the world's most powerful governments, though, lies a district plagued by many problems. Washington, D.C. suffered from virtual insolvency in the 1990s, a crumbling infrastructure, and significant population loss. Since 1995 Washington, D.C. has operated under a federal control board to control spending. The board stripped the local school board of most of its powers and eliminated thousands of jobs. Anthony Williams, who was appointed the city's first independent chief financial officer, managed to reverse years of fiscal mismanagement and turned a runaway budget deficit into a steadily growing surplus. He also hired highly qualified people and held them accountable and streamlined the agencies under his control. In 1999 Williams was elected mayor; by that time Washington, D.C. had come a long way toward reversing its decline. Williams continued to place emphasis on the city's economy, housing, health care, education, and public safety. Citizens came together in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacked that rocked the country and especially Washington, D.C. and New York City. In 2004 Washington, D.C. was selected as the second best city to live in for African Americans by Black Enterprise magazine.

Historical Information: Historical Society of Washington, D.C., City Museum of Washington, D.C., 801 K Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001; telephone (202)383-1850

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: History." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: History." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: History." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Education and Research

Washington, D.C.: Education and Research

Elementary and Secondary Schools

The District of Columbia's public school system is among the largest in the country, serving approximately 68,000 students at 167 schools. A 2003 Newsweek study ranked three D.C. high schoolsBanneker, Wilson, and School Without Wallsamong the nation's finest. Besides Head Start, Magnet Schools, and Alternative Education programs, the district offers a range of special programs to meet the needs of a diverse student body, including a youth orchestra, boys choir, substance abuse prevention education, and English-as-a-Second-Language program.

The following is a summary of data regarding Washington D.C.'s public schools as of the 20022003 school year.

Total enrollment: 67,522

Number of facilities elementary schools: 101

junior high/middle schools: 9

senior high schools: 20

other: 6 educational centers; 20 special schools

Student/teacher ratio: 13.5: 1

Teacher salaries average: $53,194

Funding per pupil: $6,903

Dozens of private and parochial schools also operate in the district with varied curriculums. More than 60 major private schools, including several of national renown, operate as traditional, parochial, and alternative/arts schools.

Public Schools Information: Washington-District of Columbia Schools District, 415 Twelfth Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20004

Colleges and Universities

Washington, D.C. is home to 12 universities and colleges. Georgetown University has the largest school of international affairs in the world and the second largest law school in the United States. Howard University, the alma mater of many prominent African Americans, enrolls the most foreign students in the country. Nearby in Baltimore, the Johns Hopkins University is the nation's oldest research university. Other major institutions are American, Catholic, Gallaudet, George Washington, Corcoran College of Art and Design, Mount Vernon and Trinity colleges, and University of the District of Columbia. More than 20 licensed trade and technical schools also operate in the district, including the American College of Computer and Information Sciences, the ITT Technical Institute, Kennedy-Western University, and the Harrison Center for Career Education.

Libraries and Research Centers

The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with nearly 128 million items on approximately 530 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 29 million books and other printed materials, 2.7 million recordings, 12 million photographs, 4.8 million maps, and 57 million manuscripts. In December 2002, the U.S. Congress approved the Library's plan for a national digital information infrastructure and a program to preserve digital archives, a long-term project that will be a model for national programs seeking to organize the massive amounts of digital publishing taking place on the internet.

The District of Columbia Public Library system has 27 branches, the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 1 kiosk, and a total of more than 2.4 million volumes. In 2004 four branch libraries were closed for major renovations. Among the several special collections is Washingtoniana, which specializes in local history and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005. In addition to public libraries, there are nearly 600 special libraries in the district, including those maintained by foreign embassies, colleges and universities, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Public Library Information: District of Columbia Public Library, Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001; telephone (202)727-0321; Library of Congress, telephone (202)707-5000

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Education and Research." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Education and Research." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Education and Research." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Communications

Washington, D.C.: Communications

Newspapers and Magazines

The capital's major daily newspaper, and one of the most influential newspapers in the country, is the Pulitzer Prizewinning Washington Post, which is published in the morning. The Washington Post Company also publishes The Washington Post Magazine, a weekly covering Washington personalities and issues affecting the city, Virginia and Maryland suburbs, and the nation. A smaller newspaper, The Washington Times is the more conservative voice in the city. The national daily, USA Today, is another of the 40-plus newspapers published in the capital. The monthly Washingtonian Magazine, one of nearly 700 periodicals published in D.C., looks at local politics, lifestyles, culture, and dining.

Television and Radio

Washington has 7 television stations broadcasting in the city; two cable systems are available. The capital is also served by 12 FM and AM radio stations in the city and many more in surrounding areas, including several public radio outlets.

Media Information: Washington Post, 1150 Fifteenth Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20071; telephone (202)334-6000; Washington Times, 3600 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; telephone (202)6236 3028

Washington, D.C. Online

City of Washington, D.C. Home Page. Available

Cultural Tourism D.C. Available

D.C. Chamber of Commerce. Available

D.C. Marketing Center Available

District of Columbia Public Library. Available

Downtown D.C. Available

InTowner. Available

Library of Congress. Available at

Washington Business Journal. Available

Washington City Paper. Available

Washington, D.C. Convention and Visitors Association. Available

Washington, D.C. Historical Society. Available

Washington D.C. top sites. Available

Washington Post. Available

Washington Times. Available

Washingtonian Magazine. Available

Selected Bibliography

Baldacci, David, Saving Faith (New York: Warner Books, 1999)

Fink, Michael, Never Forget: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 (Regan Books, 2002)

Gottlieb, Steve Washington, DC: Portrait of a City (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004)

Vidal, Gore, Washington, D.C., (Boston: Little Brown, 1967)

Wright, Jim, Balance of Power: Presidents and Congress From the Era of McCarthy to the Age of Gingrich (Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1996)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Communications." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Communications." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Communications." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Introduction

Washington, D.C.: Introduction

During the nineteenth century, Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, was considered so unbearably warm and humid during the summer months that foreign diplomats received hardship pay for serving there. Now, the district holds a worldwide reputation as a cosmopolitan city rich in museums, monuments, and cultureand crackling with political power. From the hill where the U.S. Capitol sits, to Embassy Row, home to much of the foreign diplomatic corps in Washington, the wide avenues hum with the business of America. With more than 2,000 foreign diplomats posted to Washington, the city exudes an international flavor.

But heavy industry never took hold in the region and outside the downtown government district and the upscale northwest quarter of the city, poverty grips many residents. City officials have worked hard to change that. Downtown, once-seedy sections of Pennsylvania Avenue, embarrassingly close to the White House, were renovated in the early 1980s. The city's standing as the nation's capital has always attracted conventioneers, and in March 2003 the new granite and limestone Washington Convention Center further revitalized the downtown area with more than 700,000 square feet of prime exhibit space. Residents from the District and surrounding suburbs commute on a clean and efficient subway system that is still expanding. And in spite of all that growth, Washingtonians pride themselves on showing an almost southern-style hospitality. In the words of Frederick Douglass, "Wherever the American citizen may be a stranger, he is at home here."

Never was the nation's reverence for its capital city more reaffirmed than in the wake of the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks that shook New York and Washington D.C. One of several hijacked planes was crashed into the massive, fortress-like Pentagon Building, claiming the lives of more than 120 people. It is widely believed that another hijacked aircraft, which eventually was forced down by heroic passengers in Pennsylvania, was bound to crash into the Capitol Building. In the months following, an Anthrax scare ripped through the city when traces of the deadly agent were discovered in packages sent to various political offices around town. All these events served to remind the city's residents of its link to historic events and its prominence as the greatest seat of political power on the planet, all somewhat sobering even as the city was on the upsurge to begin a new century.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Introduction." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Introduction." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Introduction." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Population Profile

Washington, D.C.: Population Profile

Metropolitan Area Residents

1980: 3,478,000

1990: 4,223,000

2000: 4,923,153

Percent change, 19902000: 16.5%

U.S. rank in 1980: 8th (MSA)

U.S. rank in 1990: 8th (MSA)

U.S. rank in 2000: 8th (MSA)

City Residents

1980: 638,333

1990: 607,000

2000: 572,059

2003 estimate: 563,384

Percent change, 19902000: -5.7%

U.S. rank in 1980: 15th

U.S. rank in 1990: 19th

U.S. rank in 2000: 21st

Density: 9,316.4 people per square mile (based on 2000 land area)

Racial and ethnic characteristics (2000)

White: 176,101

Black or African American: 343,312

American Indian and Alaska Native: 1,713

Asian: 15,189

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 348

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 44,953

Other: 21,950

Percent of residents born in state: 39.2% (2000)

Age characteristics (2000)

Poplation under 5 years old: 32,536

Poplation 5 to 9 years old: 35,385

Poplation 10 to 14 years old: 30,018

Poplation 15 to 19 years old: 37,867

Poplation 20 to 24 years old: 51,823

Poplation 25 to 34 years old: 101,762

Poplation 35 to 44 years old: 87,677

Poplation 45 to 54 years old: 75,310

Poplation 55 to 59 years old: 27,803

Poplation 60 to 64 years old: 21,980

Poplation 65 to 74 years old: 35,919

Poplation 75 to 84 years old: 25,004

Poplation 85 years and older: 8,975

Median age: 34.6 years (2000)

Births (2002)

Total number: 7,494

Deaths (2002)

Total number: 5,779 (of which, 86 were infants under the age of 1 year)

Money income (1999)

Per capita income: $28,659

Median household income: $40,127

Total households: 248,590

Number of households with income of . . .

less than $10,000: 36,939

$10,000 to $14,999: 14,954

$15,000 to $24,999: 28,443

$25,000 to $34,999: 30,592

$35,000 to $49,999: 35,311

$50,000 to $74,999: 39,533

$75,000 to $99,999: 22,437

$100,000 to $149,999: 20,790

$150,000 to $199,999: 8,292

$200,000 or more: 11,639

Percent of families below poverty level: 16.7% (47.7% of which were female householder families with related children under 5 years)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 44,349

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Population Profile." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Population Profile." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Population Profile." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Transportation

Washington, D.C.: Transportation

Approaching the City

Washington is served by three major international airports. The closest, Ronald Reagan Washington Nationalacross the Potomac in Virginiais minutes from downtown Washington by car or the Metro subway system. Dulles International is about 20 miles west of the District of Columbia in Virginia. Baltimore-Washington International is 20 miles northeast of the city in Maryland.

Travelers driving to Washington by car have to cross the Capital Beltway, also known as Interstate 495, which circles the city and connects it with Maryland and Virginia. Inter-states 395 and 66 also run between the District of Columbia and surrounding areas.

Continuous daily trains connect New York's Pennsylvania Station to Washington's Union Station, which is in sight of the Capitol, and 50 daily trains connect Washington, D.C. with more than 500 cities around the U.S. Taxi fares are based on a zone system and cabs do not carry meters.

Traveling in the City

Travel in the District of Columbia, second most congested area in the nation after Los Angeles, is made easier by the mass transportation system operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the second largest rail transit system and fifth largest bus network in the United States. The award-winning Metrorail system includes 103 miles of track and 86 operating stations, including three new stations opened in 2004 extending the Blue and Red lines. The system has stations at Union Station and National Airport. In 2004 the Metrorail moved 190 million riders. The 1,460 vehicle Metrobus system has bus routes on all major streets in D.C. and nearly all primary roads in the region and carried 140 million riders in 2004.

More than 10,000 taxis cruise city streets charging inexpensive fares based on a simple zone system.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Transportation." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Transportation." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Transportation." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.: Introduction
Washington, D.C.: Geography and Climate
Washington, D.C.: History
Washington, D.C.: Population Profile
Washington, D.C.: Municipal Government
Washington, D.C.: Economy
Washington, D.C.: Education and Research
Washington, D.C.: Health Care
Washington, D.C.: Recreation
Washington, D.C.: Convention Facilities
Washington, D.C.: Transportation
Washington, D.C.: Communications

The City in Brief

Founded: 1790 (authorized by Congressional act)

Head Official: Mayor Anthony Williams (D) (since 1999)

City Population

1980: 638,333

1990: 607,000

2000: 572,059

2003 estimate: 563,384

Percent change, 19902000: -5.7%

U.S. rank in 1980: 15th

U.S. rank in 1990: 19th

U.S. rank in 2000: 21st

Metropolitan Area Population

1980: 3,478,000

1990: 4,223,000

2000: 4,923,153

Percent change, 19902000: 16.5%

U.S. rank in 1980: 8th

U.S. rank in 1990: 8th

U.S. rank in 2000: 8th

Area: 68.3 square miles (2000)

Elevation: Ranges from 40 to 410 feet above sea level

Average Annual Temperature: 54.0° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 39.73 inches

Major Economic Sectors: services, government, wholesale and retail trade

Unemployment rate: 2.9% (December 2004)

Per Capita Income: $28,659 (1999)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 44,349

Major Colleges and Universities: Georgetown University,

Howard University, American University, Catholic University of America, George Washington University

Daily Newspaper: The Washington Post; The Washington Times

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Convention Facilities

Washington, D.C.: Convention Facilities

In 2004 the city opened its all-new Washington Convention Center in the heart of downtown, with 2.3 million square feet total and 700,000 square feet of exhibit space covering 6 city blocks. With the addition of this state-of-the-art facility, along with the city's proximity to the nation's government, powerbase, and riches of cultural and tourist destinations, Washington D.C. should continue to be one of the great magnets for America's lucrative convention business well into the 21st century.

While the old convention center was razed in 2004 to make way for new development, The D.C. Armory Starplex, with 124,471 square feet of exhibit space, offers alternative space for smaller gatherings. The Washington area also provides more than 70,000 hotel rooms; and many hotels offer meeting space, such as the Sheraton Washington Hotel (115,000 square feet), the Shoreham Omni Hotel (85,134 square feet), the Capital Hilton (space for up 1,200 people), and the Grand Hyatt Washington (40,000 square feet of meeting space).

Convention Information: Washington, D.C. Convention and Visitors Association, 1212 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20005; telephone (202)789-7000; fax (202)789-7037

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Convention Facilities." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Convention Facilities." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Convention Facilities." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

District of Columbia

District of Columbia, federal district (2010 pop. 601,723, a 5.2% increase in population since the 2000 census), 69 sq mi (179 sq km), on the east bank of the Potomac River, coextensive with the city of Washington, D.C. (the capital of the United States). The District was established by congressional acts of 1790 and 1791 and selected by George Washington. It was originally a 10-mi (16.1-km) square (100 sq mi/259 sq km), with Maryland and Virginia granting land on each side of the river, including Georgetown, Md., and Alexandria, Va. The "Federal City" was laid out at its center. Alexandria was returned to Virginia in 1847. The city continued to grow on the east bank of the river and in 1878, when Georgetown became a part of Washington (although it continued to operate as a separate city until 1895), the city of Washington and the District of Columbia became one and the same. Although "Washington" is the name known throughout the world, the city is more commonly called "the District" by its own residents.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"District of Columbia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"District of Columbia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 16, 2017).

"District of Columbia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the USA, on the e bank of the Potomac River, covering the District of Columbia and extending into the neighbouring states of Maryland and Virginia. The site was chosen as the seat of government in 1790, and French engineer Pierre Charles L'Enfant planned the city. Construction of the White House began in 1793, and the building of the Capitol the following year. In 1800, Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington. During the War of 1812, the British occupied the city and many public buildings were burned (1814), including the White House and the Capitol. Washington is the legislative, judicial, and administrative centre of the USA. The main governmental buildings are the Library of Congress, the Pentagon, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and Constitution Hall. Despite its role, Washington has severe social problems; many of its large African-American population live in slum housing. Pop. (2000) 572,059.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.." World Encyclopedia. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.." World Encyclopedia. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Health Care

Washington, D.C.: Health Care

The District of Columbia boasts one of the finest health care systems in the country. Its 14 hospitals, many of which are affiliated with major medical schools and research centers, include hospitals at Georgetown, Howard, and George Washington universities. The city offers state-of-the-art specialty hospitals for women, children, and veterans; world-renowned centers for neuroscientific research and the study of fertility, pregnancy, and development; and nationally recognized services for trauma, cancer, heart disease, and organ transplants. Also nearby is the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health Systems, supported by the university's School of Medicine and one of the most renowned medical care and research facilities in the world. In 2003 the institution was named the nation's best hospital, second best medical college, and was the largest recipient of National Institutes of Health funding in America.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Health Care." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Health Care." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Health Care." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Geography and Climate

Washington, D.C.: Geography and Climate

Located on the Potomac River between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, Washington is known for its hot, humid summers, pleasant springs and autumns, and mild winters with seasonal snowfall averaging just over 17 inches. Carved from south-central Maryland, Washington is bordered on three sides by that state and sits across the Potomac River from Virginia on its fourth side. The District is also divided by the Anacostia River and Rock Creek. One fourth of the District is park land. The city is divided artificially into four quadrants: northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest.

Area: 68.3 square miles (2000)

Elevation: Ranges from 40 to 410 feet above sea level

Average Temperatures: January, 36.0° F; August, 77.0° F; annual average, 54.0° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 39.73 inches (including 17.3 inches of snow)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Geography and Climate." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Geography and Climate." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Geography and Climate." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Washington, D.C.: Municipal Government

Washington, D.C.: Municipal Government

Washington won the right to govern itself in 1975. Until then, Congress had complete jurisdiction over the District. Now Washington is led by a mayor and thirteen city council members, all of whom serve four-year terms. Eight city council members represent separate wards, while five are elected at large. District voters also elect a non-voting delegate to the U.S. Congress.

Head Official: Mayor Anthony Williams (D) (since 1999; current term expires January 1, 2007)

Total Number of City Employees: 34,000 (2005)

City Information: Council of the District of Columbia, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20004; telephone (202)727-1000

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington, D.C.: Municipal Government." Cities of the United States. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington, D.C.: Municipal Government." Cities of the United States. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington, D.C.: Municipal Government." Cities of the United States. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

District of Columbia

District of Columbia US federal district, coextensive (since 1890) with the capital, Washington, D.C.. It was created in 1790–91, from land taken from the states of Maryland and Virginia. The Virginia portion was returned in 1846. Area: 179sqkm (69sq mi)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"District of Columbia." World Encyclopedia. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"District of Columbia." World Encyclopedia. . (December 16, 2017).

"District of Columbia." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

District of Columbia



Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"District of Columbia." Dictionary of American History. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"District of Columbia." Dictionary of American History. . (December 16, 2017).

"District of Columbia." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Columbia, District of

District of Columbia: see Washington, D.C.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Columbia, District of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Columbia, District of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 16, 2017).

"Columbia, District of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from

Columbia, District of

Columbia, District of See Washington, D.C.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Columbia, District of." World Encyclopedia. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Columbia, District of." World Encyclopedia. . (December 16, 2017).

"Columbia, District of." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from


Washingtonbaton, batten, fatten, flatten, harmattan, Manhattan, Mountbatten, paten, patten, pattern, platen, Saturn, slattern •Shackleton • Appleton •Hampton, Northampton, Rockhampton, Southampton, Wolverhampton •Canton, lantern, Scranton •Langton, plankton •Clapton •Aston, pastern •Gladstone •Caxton, Paxton •capstan • Ashton • phytoplankton •Akhenaten, Akhetaten, Aten, Barton, carton, Dumbarton, hearten, Parton, smarten, spartan, tartan •Grafton •Carlton, Charlton •Charleston • kindergarten •Aldermaston •Breton, jetton, Sowetan, threaten, Tibetan •lectern •Elton, melton, Skelton •Denton, Fenton, Kenton, Lenten, Trenton •Repton •Avestan, Midwestern, northwestern, Preston, southwestern, western •sexton •Clayton, Deighton, Leighton, Paton, phaeton, Satan, straighten, straiten •Paignton • Maidstone •beaten, Beaton, Beeton, Cretan, Keaton, neaten, Nuneaton, overeaten, sweeten, uneaten, wheaten •chieftain •eastern, northeastern, southeastern •browbeaten • weatherbeaten •bitten, bittern, Britain, Briton, Britten, handwritten, hardbitten, kitten, Lytton, mitten, smitten, underwritten, witan, written •Clifton •Milton, Shilton, Stilton, Wilton •Middleton • singleton • simpleton •Clinton, Linton, Minton, Quinton, Winton •cistern, Liston, piston, Wystan •brimstone • Winston • Kingston •Addington • Eddington •Workington •Arlington, Darlington •skeleton •Ellington, wellington •exoskeleton •cosmopolitan, megalopolitan, metropolitan, Neapolitan •Burlington • Hamilton • badminton •lamington • Germiston • Penistone •Bonington • Orpington • Samaritan •Carrington, Harrington •sacristan • Festschriften •Sherrington • typewritten •Warrington • puritan • Fredericton •Lexington • Occitan • Washington •Whittington • Huntington •Galveston • Livingstone •Kensington •Blyton, brighten, Brighton, Crichton, enlighten, frighten, heighten, lighten, righten, tighten, titan, triton, whiten •begotten, cotton, forgotten, ill-gotten, misbegotten, rotten •Compton, Crompton •wanton • Longton •Boston, postern •boughten, chorten, foreshorten, Laughton, Morton, Naughton, Orton, quartan, quartern, shorten, tauten, torten, Wharton •Alton, Dalton, Galton, saltern, Walton •Taunton • Allston • Launceston •croton, Dakotan, Minnesotan, oaten, verboten •Bolton, Doulton, molten •Folkestone • Royston •Luton, newton, rambutan, Teuton •Houston • Fulton •button, glutton, Hutton, mutton •sultan •doubleton, subaltern •fronton • Augustan • Dunstan •tungsten • quieten • Pinkerton •charlatan • Wollaston • Palmerston •Edmonton • automaton • Sheraton •Geraldton • Chatterton • Betterton •Chesterton • Athelstan •burton, curtain, uncertain •Hurston

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Washington." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 16 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Washington." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (December 16, 2017).

"Washington." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from