The American capital of Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC

Far from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean sits the capital of the United States – Washington, DC, a city that has become a symbol of one of the most influential countries in the world and simply a very popular tourist destination. Washington is famous for iconic landmarks such as the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial Column and others. A particular feature of Washington is its neoclassical and gothic architecture such as the famous White House and Capitol.

History of Washington

Construction of the Capitol.

These places first began to be settled by European colonists in the early 17th century. Before that, the territories were home to the Conoy tribes, which they were forced to leave because of conflicts with the settlers.

The first conversations about creating a new capital with a special, independent status from the other states began in 1788. This was followed by the events of 1783, when a group of soldiers seized the congressional building while its members were meeting in Philadelphia. Eventually it was decided to establish the District of Columbia (the unofficial name of the United States in literature at the time) and the city of Washington (in honor of the founding father). The site was chosen by George Washington himself. The land now owned by the District of Columbia was donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia, but in 1846 the land given by Virginia was given back to it because of local concerns about the potential abolition of slavery in the district.

1812 WASHINGTON fire

The Washington Fire of 1812

During the British invasion of 1812, Washington, D.C. suffered heavy losses due to fires that struck including the White House and Capitol building.

By 1870, the capital’s population had grown to 132,000. Despite its high status and population numbers, the city still had poor infrastructure, so there was even a proposal to move the capital, but it was rejected.

Attractions

Washington can be called a very rich in sights: it is here that you can visit many different famous places and museums at once, without leaving one another because of the high concentration. Here is a list of many of them, arranged in order of importance of visiting them.

1. The White House

South facade of the White House

North façade of the white house

The first thing to see is the residence and at the same time the workplace of the president of the United States, the White House.

White House after the 1814 fire

The White House after the fire of 1814

This building was built in 1800, under the leadership of George Washington (but he never lived there himself because the construction was completed after his death) and was designed by the Irish architect James Hoban. The building has undergone many changes over its long history: a fire in 1814 during the War with the British in 1812, renovations and restorations under Truman and Jacqueline Kennedy, and additions to the east and west wings.

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One of the White House bedrooms

One of the White House bedrooms

The White House has a large and extensive structure. It even has its own bomb shelter and movie theater.

Also, you can come here with a tour, but it is quite difficult to do this, especially for foreigners because you must make a request to their country’s embassy so that they in turn made a request to the White House for a tour, and many embassies may not be at all interested in conducting such an operation. However, you could try making a request through the office of one of the country’s congressmen, as the locals do.

2. The Capitol

West Facade

An equally important symbol of Washington and simply a famous landmark is the U.S. Congress building, the Capitol. This structure serves not only as a meeting place for important government dignitaries, but also as a museum.

The construction of the Capitol began in 1793 and in 1800 Congress met for the first time in the north wing of the still unfinished building.

Today, the doors of the Capitol are open to the public, but key areas, such as Congress or the House of Representatives, are entered using the same procedure as the White House. 3. Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Not straying far from the Capitol is a must for the largest library in the world. It contains a variety of materials in 450 languages.

The library was established in 1800 at the behest of the second president of the United States, John Adams. When the British invaded in 1814, the library was destroyed by fire, so most of its books were burned. One of the only things that survived was a government ledger of income and expenditures, which was taken by British Admiral George Cockburn as a souvenir and only in 1940 his heirs returned it to the American government. In 1815 the library began to be gradually restored, a huge contribution to which was President Thomas Jefferson’s offer to sell his collection of 6,487 books. Another detriment to the institution was the fire of 1851, which resulted in the loss of some 35,000 books, some of which were replaced by copies. In 1894, four were built. Washington Monument.

Washington Monument

5. Lincoln Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial

6. Supreme Court Building

7. U.S. National Archives building

8. Vietnam War Veterans Memorial

9. Pentagon

10. Jefferson Memorial

11. Martin Luther King Memorial

12. World War II Memorial

13. Watergate Complex

14. Korean War Veterans Memorial

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Museums

There are plenty of museums and exhibits to choose from in Washington, DC. Here is a list of the most famous of them:

1. National Museum of Natural History

2. National Air and Space Museum

Scout sr-71 in a museum in Washington

3. the National Museum of American History

Natural History Museum

4. National Museum of African Art

Museum of African Art

5. National Gallery

National Gallery

5. Museum of espionage

Washington D.C. Espionage Museum

Parks

National Mall

Rock Creek Park

Meridian Hill Park

Presidential Park

West Potomac Park

Lincoln Park

Travel tips

  1. When you arrive in town, purchase a SmarTrip card that allows you to use almost all modes of transportation. You can use it to save money, thereby purchasing a subscription rather than single tickets. A one-day unlimited pass will cost you $15, but you can also buy a 3-day pass for $30.
  2. Remember that D.C. can be very hot during the summer months, so when you go out on the town, bring your own bottle of water. When it runs out you can fill it up for free from taps located all over the capital instead of having to pay $3-$4 to buy it at the store.
  3. If you plan to rent a car, ask beforehand if your hotel has free parking. However, it is still not recommended to take a car at all, as the city is not very convenient for this: difficult navigation, heavy traffic and sometimes narrow streets.
  4. Washington is quite an expensive city, but there are many places that are absolutely free to enter, such as all the Smithsonian museums, the zoo, and even the National Gallery.
  5. When you come here for the first time, you may be a little confused and not know where to start. Therefore, take a tour with a guide who will help you navigate through so many places of interest. And if that’s not to your liking, there is the Hop-On Hop-Off sightseeing bus system that many travelers know.

Public Transportation

Washington Underground

One of Washington’s Metro Stations

With the nation’s second busiest subway system, it’s easy to get around the city and the suburbs in no time. There’s also an extensive bus network (5th busiest in the country) that serves the city and the county as a whole.

You can find the appropriate route and schedule on the Moovit website. Also, all the details are on the official website of the city and the transportation company.

There is a bike rental system in Washington, D.C., which at last count has about 400 stations and 4,500 bikes. All information about prices and rental conditions can be found on this website.

Airports

Dulles International Airport

Dulles International airport

There are 3 airports in the area: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Therefore, it’s worth checking which airport the plane will be flying from before you leave the city, so you don’t lose money and mess up your plans.

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Dangerous neighborhoods

You can feel safe in the central areas of the city because of the location of government buildings and embassies, and therefore a large number of guards, police and special services. The eastern parts of the city are the most dangerous to visit at night, because of the high level of poverty, respectively, and crime.

Economy

Because of its special and unique status, Washington has a very advanced economy. Many of the world’s largest companies have their headquarters here so that they are always close to the federal government. About 200 representative offices of foreign countries and international organizations are located in Washington, which invest about half a billion dollars a year in the city’s economy, employing about 10 thousand people. Also, the 19 million tourists who come here spend an average of $5 billion each year, making tourism the second most important source of revenue for the capital’s budget.

Washington, DC

Washington, DC. Archive photo

Washington, D.C., a major political, cultural, and scientific center on the Atlantic coast, sits on the lower reaches of the Potomac River at the confluence of the Anacostia River.

Since the end of the War of Independence (1775-1783), there has been debate in North America over which city should be the capital of the Union. Philadelphia, Carlyle, Princeton, Annapolis, Trenton, and New York were alternately the seats of Congress.

At the same time, since 1783, the U.S. Senate had been debating the question of building a capital. By 1790 congressmen had reached a compromise and decided that the capital would be on the Potomac River, between the South and North of the then 13 states. The state of Maryland designated an area for the capital that included the cities of Alexandria and Georgetown and the settlement of Hamburg.

The new territory was called the District of Columbia. It is a special administrative-territorial entity outside the boundaries of one state or another. The District is located on the left bank of the Potomac River, between Virginia and Maryland.

On July 16, 1790, congressmen passed an act creating a temporary and permanent seat of government of the United States, designating Philadelphia as the temporary capital for the next 10 years. The law stated that the new capital should be built on the Potomac River and should be ready to receive the federal government in 1800.

The site for the city was chosen by the first president of the United States, George Washington, who believed that once the Potomac Canal was built, the Potomac River would become an important waterway linking Ohio and the interior of the United States to its capital.

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On September 9, 1791, the city was officially named for George Washington, and a year later, on October 13, 1792, the presidential residence was laid.

Pierre Lanfant, a Frenchman and Washington’s military associate, was the creator of the first building plan. According to his idea, the city was a rectangular grid of streets, which were complemented by diagonal avenues leading to the city’s main attractions. This plan of development allowed the Capitol and the presidential mansion to be highlighted and a large number of squares and places where monuments and fountains were to be placed.

As a result of poor funding for construction, the city’s building plan was largely unrealized by 1800. It was not fully implemented until after World War II (1939-1945).

By 1800, the president’s White House residence and the Senate wing of the Capitol were built.

At that time, the city consisted of fewer than 400 houses with a population of about three thousand people. Roads were few, housing was scarce, and entertainment was almost non-existent.

On June 11, 1800, Philadelphia was no longer the seat of national government; the new city of Washington, D.C., became the official capital. In November 1800, the U.S. Congress met for the first time in the Capitol Building.

On February 27, 1801, the federal District of Columbia, along with the city of Washington, came under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress.

The first president whose inauguration took place in Washington (March 4, 1801) was Thomas Jefferson.

In 1814 the city was captured by the British in the Anglo-American War of 1812-1814 and burned, but was soon rebuilt. Until the mid-nineteenth century, Washington was effectively a village. After the Civil War (1861-1865), the city’s prestige grew considerably, and some 40,000 freed black African Americans settled here. Since 1878, the administrative boundaries of the city have coincided completely with the boundaries of the federal District of Columbia.

In 1901-1902 a second plan for the development of the capital, known as the McMillan Plan, was drawn up. It returned the disturbed development of the center over time to the strict geometric proportions of the Lanfang Plan.

The city has a de facto ban on skyscrapers. The height of buildings in Washington is limited by the Building Height Act, which was passed in 1899 and amended in 1910. It depends on the width of the street or avenue on which the house is located plus 20 feet (about 6.1 meters), but cannot exceed 130 feet (39.6 meters). Residential buildings cannot exceed 90 feet (up to 27.5 meters) in height. By law, houses up to 160 feet (48.8 meters) can be built on Main Street, Pennsylvania Avenue.

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In the last decades of the 20th century, and in the early 21st century, the U.S. capital continued to build new residential neighborhoods in the northwestern and southwestern parts of the city. Government and business buildings grew rapidly. Villas and cottages of wealthy residents of Washington are built in the suburban area, poorer neighborhoods are located in northeast and southeast Washington.

Modern Washington and its suburbs are a metropolis of nearly seven million residents.

The population within the city limits is about 650,000 residents.

The area of Washington is 177 square kilometers.

The city of Washington and the District of Columbia are governed by a mayor and city council. However, the U.S. Congress has the right to override any decision of the local Washington authorities. The residents of Washington have their own delegate to the House of Representatives of Congress, but without the right to vote. The District of Columbia is not represented in the Senate.

As the capital of the country, Washington is the center of American political life. Here is the residence of the President of the United States – the White House, here in the Capitol meets the highest legislative body of the United States – Congress, here is the Supreme Court of the United States, the federal ministries and other divisions of the U.S. government.

In addition, the headquarters of many public and international organizations, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, are located in Washington.

The city is a major transportation hub, the printing industry is developed, as well as industries that directly serve the population of Washington (baking, confectionery, dairy, etc.); in the suburbs is developed radioelectronic industry, associated mainly with scientific research.

There is the National Academy of Sciences, Botanical Gardens, Smithsonian Institution, several universities, many museums, historical monuments, memorials. Among the most famous are the National Mall (a complex of various monuments and museums); the Washington Monument; memorials to Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, veterans of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War; National Museums of American History, Natural History, American Indian, Aviation and Astronautics, African Art.

Almost one-fifth of Washington is covered by parks, the city ranking second (after New York) among major U.S. cities.

The Arlington Cemetery and the military shipyard on the Anacostia River are near Washington.

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