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Interesting Facts about Washington, DC

Washington Stats:

Coordinates: 38°53'42.4"N 77°02'12.0"W

Population: 591,833

Size: 68.3 sq miles

Time Zone: EST (UTC -5)

Temperature averages: 35° F winter, 80° F summer

Rainiest month (on average): May

Did You Know?

The Washington Monument is DC's largest building - it's roughly a tenth of a mile high.

The "DC" in Washington DC stands for "District of Columbia".  The phrase "taxation without representation", often heard here, is based on the fact that DC, not being a state, doesn't have any representation in Congress.

Washington was ranked the #1 Most Walkable City in the U.S. by The Brookings Institution in 2007.

DC's area code is 202, but you're also likely to see area codes like 301 and 240 (for nearby Maryland suburbs) and 703 (for Northern Virginia).

L'Enfant Plaza, in the SW quadrant of the city, is named after Pierre L'Enfant, who is credited with creating Washington's first planned street layout in the late 18th century.

DC's current Mayor, Adrian Fenty, was the youngest person ever to assume the post (at age 36).  He is also an avid runner who competes regularly in local road races.

Things to See in Washington DC

  1. U.S. Capitol
  2. Reagan Airport
  3. Dulles Airport
  4. Lincoln Memorial
  5. Washington Monument
  6. Union Station
  7. White House
  8. Convention Center
  9. Verizon Center
  10. The Pentagon
  11. Georgetown
  12. RFK Stadium
  13. Alexandria
  14. National Zoo

Washington DC History

Native American settlements existed in current-day Washington DC for thousands of years before the area was first explored by Europeans in the early 1600s; the Potomac River, on which the city is located, derived its name from an Algonquin tribe.  While the Native Americans were initially accommodating to the arriving Colonists, relations became strained due to land ownership disputes, and most members of the DC-area tribes eventually sought refuge further afield.

It was not until 1790, with the signing of the Residence Act, that the states of Maryland and Virginia officially ceded the 10-mile square of land (including Alexandria, Virginia) on which DC was to be built.  Pierre L'Enfant, a French-born architect, was commissioned to develop a plan for the new city; though L'Enfant was eventually de-commissioned and his plans superseded by the updated engravings of Andrew Ellicott, his is the name most commonly associated with the original planning of Washington. 

The 19th century was one of great change in Washington - from the burning of the city by the British during the War of 1812, to Alexandria's "retrocession" from the District and return to Virginia in the mid-century, to the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Slavery was abolished in Washington almost a full year before President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863  This paved the way for the growth of a vibrant African-American community in Washington, the benefits of which have played an integral part in shaping the city's cultural and political history.

The last hundred years have witnessed DC's establishment as one of the most powerful cities in the world.  It was also one of the foremost cities in the American Civil Rights movement.  Washington public schools were the first to integrate in the mid-1950s; the National Mall was the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic 1963 "I have a dream" speech.  When King was assassinated in 1968, riots erupted in Washington, among other places; the U Street Corridor in particular was a scene of massive unrest.  Forty years later, crowds gathered in this same neighborhood - near U and 14th Streets, NW - in a spontaneous, peaceful celebration of the election of America's first African-American President.

Considering the amount of attention that DC receives every four years during election time, it's quite surprising that Washingtonians themselves were only granted the right to vote in Presidential elections in the mid-1960s.  Washington is not a state, nor is it part of a state; it's a free-standing federal territory, under complete jurisdiction of Congress.  Unsurprisingly, this perceived lack of governing control is cause for much controversy.  District residents still lament the lack of Senatorial representation, and the argument for "Home Rule" and distancing from Congressional control has been debated for years.

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