Washington DC or the District of Columbia is the capital of the United States, which is obvious and pretty well known. Even though a lot of people know what Washington DC is most of these people do not know the very interesting background and history behind the capital of the United States. In this week’s essay I will be getting into this history, the history of Washington DC.
Before Washington DC
Before the American Congress built Washington DC(where Congress is today), the National government was placed in two cities. From 1785-1790, the government held all their meetings in the New York City, Federal Hall. Then from 1790-1800, the government moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and resided in the Congress Hall.
But there were some problems with this. Both of these cities were also very well established cities in actual States, and also these cities were probably the biggest or one of the biggest cities in their particular separate States, the government of those States were not exactly going to give up these cities for the use of just being capital cities. The only way that a capital city would not be a city that was in a state was to create a separate district just for the capital. And there were several issues(such as the Whisky Rebellion during George Washington’s Presidency), that proved that a separate district for the capital was a good idea.
And finally in 1789 Congress signed the Residence Act, to establish a site that was along the Potomac River, that was going to be used as the land for the future capital. More land was included when the legislature of Maryland agreed to give a small portion of land for the construction of the capital. The site of the city included land from the ports of Georgetown and Alexandria, but that still meant it would be established as an entire new city.
The Building of the Capital
George Washington(who was the president at the time) in 1789, gave the job of designing this new capital to a man named Pierre L’Enfant. L’Enfant before this had helped renovate the Federal building in New York, so his plans for the construction of the new Capital included many designs that were very similar to the Federal building and ancient Greek and Roman architecture. But L’Enfant was fired though by Washington in favor of a different man named Andrew Ellicott, this was because there were some conflicts with the plans of the city.
Also Congress had appointed three other men who were commissioners, Thomas Johnson, Daniel Carroll, and David Stuart. These men oversaw the construction of the city.
The Background of the Capital Name: Washington DC
The background of the capital city’s name is divided into three parts, each part has a different origin. I will be getting into each origin.
The first part of the name, Wasington: I think this part of the name is a little obvious, Washington is the last name of the very first US President and Founding Father, George Washington.
The second part of the name, D: the D in the capital name stands for district or federal district.
And finally the third part of the name, C: the C in the capital name stands for Columbia, which is a personification of the goddess of liberty, and was a name to refer to the European colonies in North America as a whole.
The Official Capital
Washington DC became the official capital of the US in 1800, and was also placed under the jurisdiction of Congress by the District of Columbia Organic Act in 1801. President John Adams was the first President to live in the President’s House.
In 1802, Washington DC was granted a municipal government, which included a city Mayor, that was appointed by the President himself.
The War of 1812
During the war of 1812, the British invaded and burned almost all of the government buildings in Washington DC, including the Capital and the President’s House. After the war the government buildings were rebuilt overtime, so Congress had to meet up in a different place till the capital was rebuilt.
Because the President’s House was made out of brick, and had not been fully burned down, the building was painted White to save costs. This also gave the President’s House the name the White House, which almost everyone uses today to refer to the building the US President lives in.
Today Washington DC remains as the US Capital. The city itself contains many famous and historical monuments and memorials, of famous US leaders and events. This is my essay on the history of Washington DC.