Washington DC Facts

Washington DC Facts

Federal capital city of the USA (5,206,593 inhabitants in 2017), the administrative limits of which coincide with those of the District of Columbia. It stands on the left bank of the Potomac, near the confluence of Anacostia. The urbanization plan of Washington, extended over the entire area of ​​the District of Columbia, was characterized by the overlapping of the checkerboard road network, typical of some of the oldest American cities, such as Philadelphia and Annapolis, of a star system, clearly inspired by the Baroque, of large diagonal arteries connecting the main squares, 15, symbols of the States of the Union. Public buildings, first of all the White House (White House), presidential residence, and the Capitol (Capitol), seat of Congress, connected by Pennsylvania Avenue and Washington Mall, have a neoclassical architecture that gives a particular and homogeneous face to the city. Washington thus presents itself with a particular physiognomy: it is a residential city, a political and administrative city and a very notable cultural center, home to numerous universities, prestigious research institutes, international institutions, libraries and museums. Characteristic of Washington is the high percentage, since its foundation, of African Americans, who now make up over 55% of the city’s population. From an economic point of view, the tertiary activities linked to the gigantic political-administrative-military apparatus clearly prevail, which absorb almost all of the active population. The second economic resource of the capital, after the political-administrative functions, is tourism. The industry, on the other hand, is scarcely present, except in the high-tech and publishing sectors. Washington is an important railway junction and home to two airports (Dulles International and Ronald Reagan national). The city is served by a capillary underground network that connects the urban area with the neighboring counties of Maryland and Virginia, where many commuters reside who converge during the week for work and study purposes on the city.

According to abbreviationfinder, Washington DC arose on the site chosen for the capital by a commission appointed by Congress in July 1790 to avoid rivalry between the States of the Union. In 1800 the offices of the presidency (White House) and Parliament (Campidoglio) were ready, then as the other buildings were completed the various administrations moved there. J. Adams was the first president to officially settle in Washington (1824-28). In 1814 the English made a foray into the city and set fire to its most important buildings; even during the civil war the city, which always remained the capital of the Union, was at the center of military operations. In 1871-74 it was established that the district government should be governed by three commissioners appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate.

The city plan was designed in 1791 by the French architect P.-C. L’Enfant, who had fought for American independence, and modified the following year by T. Jefferson. The White House and Capitol were built in the neoclassical style. The political-administrative changes of the years 1871-74 led to the so-called Renaissance of Washington, which acquired a relevant urban and architectural image. The long Mall (late 18th century – early 20th century), which extends for about 3 km in an east-west direction, connects the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, through the intermediate destination of the Washington Monument obelisk: a straight path that, in addition to characterizing the urban heart of Washington, it hosts a reflecting pool along its extension(651 × 51 m) and many of the city’s many museums. Noteworthy from an institutional and architectural point of view are those that depend on the Smithsonian Institution (National gallery of art, the neoclassical seat of JR Pope, with the East Building by IM Pei in 1978; Hirshhorn museum and sculpture garden, 1974; National air and space museum, 1976, by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum; National museum of American Indian, 2004, by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates etc.). Among other museums: Corcoran gallery of art (1869); American film institute (1973, by Hardy, Holzman, Pfeiffer ass.); National museum of women in arts (1981); United States holocaust memorial museum (1993, by JI Freed) etc. Among Washington’s cultural institutions, the Library of Congress deserves particular mention, established in 1800 within the Capitol to provide the necessary books for the Congress (since 1897 with its own seat, open to the public since 1950). Architecturally relevant also the offices of the various embassies (for example, the Embassy of Germany, by OM Ungers, 1995). The Vietnam veterans memorial (1981-83, M. Lin) is among the most notable monumental interventions in the city; it is contrasted by the realism of the Vietnam women’s memorial (1993, G. Goodacre).


Reunited under the American presidency from November 1921 to February 1922, it gave rise to three treaties that put an end to the naval arms race and gave a stable structure to the political-military situation in the Pacific.


The first, in 1867, was concluded between the USA and Russia which, finding it increasingly difficult to sustain itself in Alaska, gave it, for a fee in cash, to the government of Washington together with the Aleutian islands.

In 1871 Britain and the US agreed to submit the so-called Alabama question (which along with 12 other British ships had damaged American ships during the civil war) for arbitration. The arbitration ruling, issued in Geneva on September 14, 1872, awarded the USA a compensation of $ 15,500,000 in gold.

On June 16, 1897, a treaty was signed between the USA and the representatives of the Hawaiian Islands, who signed the act of annexation of their islands to the federal republic.

In 1903, with the treaty also known as Hay-Banau Varilla, named after the two main negotiators, Panama ceded to the USA, for 10 million dollars, the land necessary for the construction of the canal; the USA guaranteed the independence of the new republic.

On January 6, 1909, the negotiations between the USA, Colombia and Panama led Colombia to recognize the independence of Panama, which allowed it to pay Colombia 2.5 million dollars as part of the Colombian public debt.


Establish a capital

In 1790 the United States Congresshe had decided that the capital of the new state was an entirely new city: a place with no previous history that would become the center of future history. Among the reasons that led to this decision was the intention to show, precisely through the construction of a capital city, the novelty of the political experience of the United States – colonies that had freed themselves and joined together to achieve goals of prosperity and justice. for all citizens -, but also the concern not to ignite rivalry between existing cities (such as Boston or Philadelphia) that could have tried to establish themselves as capitals; for this same second reason, even the area on which the capital was to be built was not to be part of any of the states, so that none of them could control the capital. The area, chosen by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, was located along the Potomac River, on the border between Virginia and Maryland: in 1790 the two states each ceded a portion of the territory and the Federal District of Columbia was created. The project was entrusted to an architect of French origin, Pierre-Charles L’Enfant, an officer of the American army, who developed a plan with strong symbolic contents.

In the design of the city, large radial avenues, with the names of the 15 states then united, symbolized the convergence of the states towards a common goal, entrusted to federal power. This stellar scheme, with great perspectives of Baroque tradition and rich in parks, was only partially implemented during the nineteenth century, but was revived in 1902 and completed. In the year 1800 the capital was inaugurated. All the events of its two hundred years of life have left their testimony in the urban fabric: functional buildings, monuments erected in memory of great presidents, museums, libraries, parade avenues. The city as a whole is a memorial to the history of the United States.

Brick symbols

However, Washington is also a large city, almost entirely tertiary: upper tertiary (ministries, embassies, press agencies, offices, studios, laboratories, research centers) and lower tertiary (custody and maintenance of administrative offices, monuments, parks: this is why 70% of the population is black and of Hispanic origin). The attraction that Wash; ington exerts is among the strongest in the country. It currently has 572,000 inhabitants, which become 7,736,000 in the urban agglomeration, extended to the city of Baltimore. The demographic pressure has led to the formation of two sectors: political city and residential areas. The center of Washington is Capitol Hill, the seat of Congress, almost entirely occupied by the administrative buildings of the two Houses. At its foot, the Supreme Court building; next to it, the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. The Capitol is located at the top of a large V., at the center of which opens the Mall, a large straight and tree-lined esplanade. Along the axis of the Mall stands the Washington Monument, a 150 m high obelisk from which you have a complete overview of the city. At the end of the Mall, on the Potomac, is the Lincoln memorial, in the form of a Doric temple: its 36 columns represent the 36 states of which the Union was constituted in the year of Lincoln’s assassination. Across the river, the National Heroes Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the graves of Robert and John Kennedy. Further south, the right bank of the river is dominated by the Pentagon. The northern arm of the great V, Pennsylvania avenue, connects the Capitol with the White House (1792), residence of the president. Halfway between the two buildings, the FBI headquarters. Washington is visited by a steady stream of US citizens, including the most recent immigrants, who seek, and find there, confirmation of their sense of belonging: the capital offers visitors an uplifting speech centered on civic virtues.

Washington DC Facts

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