Washington DC

By | September 22, 2022


Washington DC, capital of the United States of America, geographically (since 1895) and administratively (since 1967) coextensive with the District of Columbia, on the northeast bank of the Potomac, bordered by Maryland and to the south and west by Virginia (Potomac), 174 km2, with 606,000 inhabitants.


The city is the seat of the federal government. The service to the civil servants, the military personnel living in and around Washington (working in the Pentagon on the southwest bank of the Potomac, Virginia [Arlington]), and the employees of the foreign embassies, etc. is the main economic activity. Tourism is the second pillar of the economy.

The industry plays a minor role and is partly in the hands of the government (printers and binderies, etc.); industrial production is strongly geared to the needs of the city itself (foodstuffs, etc.). Especially since the Second World War, Washington has also become a center of research institutes that conduct scientific research (mainly on behalf of the government) in the field of nuclear energy, space travel, weapons development and computer science. Some private research institutes are also located there, such as the Carnegie Institution of Washington (founded 1902; natural sciences) and the Brookings Institution (1927; economics and political science). The city has also, over the years, become the national headquarters of numerous national (trade unions, political parties, etc.) and international organizations.

As a result of this, the city has also developed into a considerable financial center, seat of the IMF and the World Bank, among others. Washington has rail links to most major cities in the United States and has three airports in close proximity: Washington National Airport south of the city, Dulles International Airport 50 km west of the city (both in the state of Virginia), and Baltimore -Washington International Airport 30 km northeast of the city (in the state of Maryland). Underground urban rail network (metro).

The city is the seat of a Roman Catholic archbishop and there are several universities, including Georgetown University (founded 1795), George Washington University (1821), Howard University (1867), Catholic University of America (1884) and American University (1891) and a large number of other educational institutions.

The city is also home to some very large libraries, the largest being the Library of Congress and the National Archives (official documents and correspondence of the federal government, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution). The Folger Shakespeare Library houses the largest collection of works by and about the English poet William Shakespeare. Of primary importance to the city’s cultural life is the Smithsonian Institution, an institution that includes: The United States National Museum (which brings together the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of History and Technology), the Bureau of American Ethnology, the National Zoological Park and the Astrophysical Observatory (in Cambridge, Mass.); the library of the Smithsonian Institution is housed in the Library of Congress.

Other important collections include the National Collection of Fine Arts (which opened a new museum of 18th, 19th and 20th century American art in 1968), The Freer Gallery of Art (oriental art), the National Portrait Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, the Phillips Collection, the National Museum of African Art (1987), Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1987; oriental art), the Dumbarton Oaks collection, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (19th- and 20th-century art, opened in 1974) collected by millionaire JH Hirshhorn, who died in 1982). Other important museums include the large National Air and Space Museum (1976) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which opened in 1993. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial commemorates the Vietnam War. A monument has also been erected for the fallen during the war in Korea. d

he city is home to the National Symphony Orchestra (founded 1931), the Washington Opera Society and the Washington Ballet Society. There are several theaters, including the Lisner Auditorium, National Theater and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (home of the National Symphony Orchestra; also for opera, ballet and stage performances).


The city was built on a site (then Maryland) chosen by President George Washington, authorized by Congress in 1790. Major Pierre L’Enfant, a French engineer, was entrusted with the design, which was carried out with changes after his resignation (1792). In 1800 the city was ready for the first contingent of civil servants to move in. The city has a very spacious layout, with many parks, parks and trees. Washington’s backbone is formed by the middle section of Pennsylvania Avenue, with at one (eastern) end the domed Capitol (1793 ff.; design by Sir William Thornton), seat of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate, and at the other end the White House (1792 ff.; design by J. Hoban),

With a few exceptions (including buildings of the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress), almost all other public buildings are in Classicist style, such as the Supreme Court building, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial (H. Bacon, 1914-1922); until about 1950, classicism remained the dominant style through official regulations. The massive Gothic-style Washington National Cathedral, which began construction in 1907, was completed in 1990. In 1997, the monument to Franklin Delano Roosevelt was completed. Notable later structures include the John F. Kennedy Center (1971), the Hirshhorn Museum (1974; architect G. Bunshaft), and the extension (“East Building,” 1978; Ieoh Ming Pei) of the National Gallery of Art.

In the 19th century, the original city plan was deviated from: railways and streets criss-crossed the beautiful layout. In 1901, however, the government appointed a committee that went back to the designer’s plans; much of the original beauty was restored. Four bridges connect Washington with the suburb of Arlington on the other side of the Potomac (in Virginia), where the Pentagon (Department of Defense) and the national cemetery (Arlington National Cemetery) are located.


When the American Republic was established (1783), the need arose for a capital city that would not be controlled by any of the states, but where federal authorities could exercise their own jurisdiction. Two sites, one in the north near Trenton, New Jersey and one in the south near Georgetown on the Potomac, seemed the most appropriate. In the end, the southern site was chosen.

A number of southerners promised to vote for the measures favorable to the north by the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, if the northerners for their part agreed to this location for the capital. Thus it was decided in 1790. John Adams was the first president to live in the new capital in 1800, Jefferson the first to be inaugurated there in 1801. In 1814 the city was occupied by the British and all public buildings were burned, including the White House (rebuilt under the direction of Hoban himself; finished 1817).

The city, center of American political life, has been the scene of mass riots and protest demonstrations several times since about 1965, including against the government’s policy on Vietnam.

Washington DC