Washington DC

About Washington, DC
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, “the District”, or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a federal district to become the national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution. The District is therefore not a part of any U.S. state. It was formed from land along the Potomac River donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia; however, the Virginia portion was returned by Congress in 1846.

Washington, D.C., had an estimated population of 617,996 in 2011. The city was the 24th most populous place in the United States as of 2010. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city’s population to over one million during the workweek. The Washington Metropolitan Area, of which the District is a part, has a population of nearly 5.6 million, the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the country.

The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are located in the District, as are many of the nation’s monuments and museums. Washington, D.C., hosts 176 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The headquarters of many other institutions such as trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations are also located in the city.

The District is governed by a locally elected mayor and 13-member city council. However, the United States Congress has supreme authority over the city and may overturn local laws. Residents therefore have less self-governance than residents of the U.S. states. The District has a non-voting, at-large Congressional delegate, but no senators. D.C. residents could not vote in presidential elections until the ratification of the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1961.

Geography
The District has a total area of 68.3 square miles (177 km²), of which 61.4 square miles (159 km²) is land and 6.9 square miles (18 km²) (10.16%) is water. It is no longer 100 square miles (260 km²) due to the retrocession of the southern portion of the District back to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1846. The city is therefore surrounded by the states of Maryland to the southeast, northeast, and northwest and Virginia to the southwest.

Washington has three major natural flowing streams: the Potomac River and its tributaries the Anacostia River and Rock Creek. Tiber Creek, a natural watercourse that once passed through the National Mall, was fully enclosed underground during the 1870s. The creek also formed a portion of the now-filled Washington City Canal, which allowed passage through the city to the Anacostia River from 1815 until the 1850s. The present Chesapeake and Ohio Canal starts in Georgetown and was used during the 19th century to bypass the Great Falls of the Potomac River, located upstream (northwest) of Washington.

The highest natural elevation in the District of Columbia is 409 feet (125 m) above sea level at Fort Reno Park in northwest Washington. The lowest point is sea level at the Potomac River. The geographic center of Washington is located near the intersection of 4th and L Streets NW. Contrary to the urban legend, Washington was not built on a reclaimed swamp, but wetlands did cover areas along the water. The United States government owns about 23% of the land in the District; lower than the percentage of federal lands in 12 states.

The District has 7,464 acres of parkland, about 19% of the city’s total area and the second-highest percentage among high-density U.S. cities. The large percentage of city land dedicated to park areas contributes to a high urban tree canopy coverage of 35%. The National Park Service manages most of the city’s parkland, including Rock Creek Park, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, the National Mall and Constitution Gardens, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Fort Dupont Park, Meridian Hill Park, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, and Anacostia Park. The only significant area of natural habitat not managed by the National Park Service is the U.S. National Arboretum, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Washington DC Demographics
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the District’s population was 617,996 on July 1, 2011, a 2.7% increase since the 2010 United States Census. The increase continues a growth trend since 2000, following a half-century of population decline. The city was the 24th most populous place in the United States as of 2010. According to data from 2009, commuters from the suburbs increase the District’s daytime population to over one million people. If the District were a state it would rank 50th in population, ahead of Wyoming.

The Washington Metropolitan Area, which includes the District and surrounding suburbs, is the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the United States with approximately 5.6 million residents as of the 2010 Census. When the Washington area is included with Baltimore and its suburbs, the Baltimore–Washington Metropolitan Area had a population exceeding 8.5 million residents in 2010, the fourth-largest combined statistical area in the country.

According to the 2010 Census, the population of Washington, D.C., was 50.7% Black or African American, 38.5% White (34.8% non-Hispanic White), 3.5% Asian, and 0.3% Native American. Individuals from other races made up 4.1% of the District’s population while individuals from two or more races made up 2.9%. Hispanics of any race made up 9.1% of the District’s population.

About 16% of D.C. residents were age 18 or younger as of 2010; lower than the U.S. average of 24%. However, at 34 years old, the District also had the lowest median age when compared to the 50 states. As of 2010, there were an estimated 81,734 foreign immigrants living in Washington, D.C. Major sources of immigration include individuals from El Salvador, Vietnam, and Ethiopia, with a concentration of Salvadorans in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.

Unique among cities with a high percentage of African Americans, Washington has had a significant black population since the city’s creation. This is partly a result of the manumission of slaves in the Upper South after the American Revolutionary War. The free black population in the region climbed from an estimated 1% before the war to 10% by 1810. By 1860, approximately 80% of the city’s 11,000 African American residents were free persons. Black residents composed about 30% of the District’s total population between 1800 and 1940.

Washington’s African American population reached a peak of 70% by 1970. Since then, however, the percentage of black residents has steadily declined due to many African Americans leaving the city for the surrounding suburbs. At the same time, the city’s white population has steadily increased, due in part to the effects of gentrification in many of Washington’s traditionally African American neighborhoods. This is evident in an 11.5% decrease in the black population and a 31.4% increase in the non-Hispanic white population since 2000. Even still, Washington, D.C., is a top destination for African American professionals who are moving to the area in a “New Great Migration.”

Researchers using data from the 2010 Census revealed that there were 4,822 same-sex couples in the District of Columbia, about 2% of total households. The city council passed legislation in 2009 authorizing same-sex marriage and the District began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in March 2010.

A report published in 2007 found that about one-third of District residents are functionally illiterate, compared to a national rate of about one in five. This is attributed in part to immigrants who are not proficient in English. In contrast to the high rate of functional illiteracy, 50% of D.C. residents have at least a four-year college degree. In 2006, D.C. residents had a personal income per capita of $55,755, higher than any of the 50 U.S. states. However, 19% of residents were below the poverty level in 2005, higher than any state except Mississippi. According to data from 2008, more than half of District residents identify as Christian: 28% of residents are Baptists, 13% are Roman Catholic, and 31% are members of other Christian denominations. Residents who practice other faiths make up 6% of the population and 18% do not adhere to a religion.

Over 90% of D.C. residents have health insurance coverage; the second-highest rate in the nation. This is due in part to city programs that help provide insurance to low-income individuals who do not qualify for other types of coverage. A 2009 report found that at least 3% of District residents have HIV or AIDS, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) characterizes as a “generalized and severe” epidemic.

Economy
Washington has a growing, diversified economy with an increasing percentage of professional and business service jobs. The gross state product of the District in 2010 was $103.3 billion, which would rank it No. 34 compared to the 50 U.S. states. The gross product of the Washington Metropolitan Area was $425 billion in 2010, making it the fourth-largest metropolitan economy in the United States. As of June 2011, the Washington Metropolitan Area had an unemployment rate of 6.2%; the second-lowest rate among the 49 largest metro areas in the nation. The District of Columbia itself had an unemployment rate of 9.8% during the same time period.

In 2012, the federal government accounted for about 29% of the jobs in Washington, D.C. This is thought to immunize Washington to national economic downturns because the federal government continues operations even during recessions. However, as of January 2007, federal employees in the Washington area comprised only 14% of the total U.S. government workforce. Many organizations such as law firms, independent contractors (both defense and civilian), non-profit organizations, lobbying firms, trade unions, industry trade groups, and professional associations have their headquarters in or near D.C. to be close to the federal government.

The District has growing industries not directly related to government, especially in the areas of education, finance, public policy, and scientific research. Georgetown University, George Washington University, Washington Hospital Center, Children’s National Medical Center and Howard University are the top five non-government-related employers in the city as of 2009. According to statistics compiled in 2011, four of the largest 500 companies in the country were located in the District.

Washington became the leader in foreign real estate investment in 2009, ahead of both London and New York City, in a survey of the top 200 global development companies. In 2006,Expansion Magazine ranked D.C. among the top ten areas in the nation favorable to business expansion. Despite the national economic crisis and housing price downturn, Washington ranked second on the Forbes list of the best long-term housing markets in the country.

Culture
Historic sites and museums
The National Mall is a large, open park in downtown Washington between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol. Given its prominence, the mall is often the location of political protests, concerts, festivals, and presidential inaugurations. The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Pier are located near the center of the mall, south of the White House. Also located on the mall are the National World War II Memorial at the east end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Directly south of the mall, the Tidal Basin features rows of Japanese cherry blossom trees that originated as gifts from the nation of Japan. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, George Mason Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the District of Columbia War Memorial are located around the Tidal Basin.

The National Archives houses thousands of documents important to American history including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Located in three buildings on Capitol Hill, the Library of Congress is the largest library complex in the world with a collection of over 147 million books, manuscripts, and other materials. The United States Supreme Court Building was completed in 1935; before then, the court held sessions in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol.

The Smithsonian Institution is an educational foundation chartered by Congress in 1846 that maintains most of the nation’s official museums and galleries in Washington, D.C. The U.S. government partially funds the Smithsonian, thus making its collections open to the public free of charge. The most visited of the Smithsonian museums in 2010 was the National Air and Space Museum located on the National Mall. Other Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries located on the mall are: the National Museum of Natural History; the National Museum of African Art; the National Museum of American History; the National Museum of the American Indian; the Sackler and Freer galleries, which both focus on Asian art and culture; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Arts and Industries Building; the S. Dillon Ripley Center; and the Smithsonian Institution Building (also known as “The Castle”), which serves as the institution’s headquarters.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are located in the same building, the Donald W. Reynolds Center, near Washington’s Chinatown. The Reynolds Center is also known as the Old Patent Office Building. The Renwick Gallery is officially part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum but is located in a separate building near the White House. Other Smithsonian museums and galleries include: the Anacostia Community Museum in Southeast Washington; the National Postal Museum near Union Station; and the National Zooin Woodley Park.

The National Gallery of Art, located on the National Mall near the Capitol, features works of American and European art. The gallery and its collections are owned by the U.S. government but are not a part of the Smithsonian Institution. The National Building Museum, which occupies the former Pension Building near Judiciary Square, was chartered by Congress as a private institution to host exhibits on architecture, urban planning, and design.

There are many private art museums in the District of Columbia, which house major collections and exhibits open to the public such as the National Museum of Women in the Arts; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the largest private museum in Washington; and The Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle, the first museum of modern art in the United States. Other private museums in Washington include the Newseum, the O Street Museum Foundation, the International Spy Museum, the National Geographic Society Museum, and the Marian Koshland Science Museum. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum located near the National Mall maintains exhibits, documentation, and artifacts related to the Holocaust.

Arts
Washington, D.C., is a national center for the arts. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is home to the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, and the Washington Ballet. The Kennedy Center Honors are awarded each year to those in the performing arts who have contributed greatly to the cultural life of the United States. Other prominent institutions such as the National Theatre, the Warner Theatre, and DAR Constitution Hall host live performances from around the country. The historic Ford’s Theatre, site of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, continues to operate as a functioning performance space as well as museum.

The Marine Barracks near Capitol Hill houses the United States Marine Band; founded in 1798, it is the country’s oldest professional musical organization. American march composer and Washington-native John Philip Sousa led the Marine Band from 1880 until 1892. Founded in 1925, the United States Navy Band has its headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard and performs at official events and public concerts around the city.

Washington has a strong local theater tradition. Founded in 1950, Arena Stage achieved national attention and spurred growth in the city’s independent theater movement. In 2010, Arena Stage opened its newly renovated home in Southwest D.C., which has become a centerpiece of the city’s emerging waterfront area. Organizations such as the Shakespeare Theatre Company and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Penn Quarter, as well as the Studio Theatre and the Source Theatre on 14th Street NW, feature classical and new American plays. The GALA Hispanic Theatre, now housed in the historic Tivoli Theatre in Columbia Heights, was founded in 1976 and is a National Center for the Latino Performing Arts.

The U Street Corridor in Northwest D.C., known as “Washington’s Black Broadway”, is home to institutions like Bohemian Caverns and the Lincoln Theatre, which hosted music legends such as Washington-native Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. Other jazz venues feature modern blues, such as Madam’s Organ in Adams Morgan and Blues Alley in Georgetown. Washington has its own native music genre called go-go; a post-funk, percussion-driven flavor of R&B that blends live sets with relentless dance rhythms. The most accomplished practitioner was D.C. band leader Chuck Brown, who brought go-go to the brink of national recognition with his 1979 LP Bustin’ Loose.

The District is an important center for indie culture and music in the United States. The label Dischord Records, formed by Ian MacKaye, was one of the most crucial independent labels in the genesis of 1980s punk and eventually indie rock in the 1990s. Washington’s indie label history includes TeenBeat, Simple Machines, and ESL Music among others. Modern alternative and indie music venues like The Black Cat and the 9:30 Club near U Street bring popular acts to smaller more-intimate spaces.

Sports
Washington is one of 12 cities in the United States with teams from all four major professional men’s sports and is home to one major professional women’s team. The Washington Wizards(National Basketball Association), the Washington Capitals (National Hockey League), and the Washington Mystics (Women’s National Basketball Association), play at the Verizon Center in Chinatown. Nationals Park, which opened in Southeast D.C. in 2008, is home to the Washington Nationals (Major League Baseball). D.C. United (Major League Soccer) plays at RFK Stadium. The Washington Redskins (National Football League) play at nearby FedExField in Landover, Maryland.
Current D.C. teams have won a combined ten professional league championships: the Washington Redskins has won five; D.C. United has won four (the most in MLS history); and the Washington Wizards (then the Washington Bullets) has won a single championship.

Other professional and semi-professional teams in Washington include: the Washington Kastles (World TeamTennis); the Washington D.C. Slayers (American National Rugby League); the Baltimore Washington Eagles (USAFL); the D.C. Divas (Independent Women’s Football League); and the Potomac Athletic Club RFC (Rugby Super League). The William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park hosts the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. Washington is also home to two major annual marathon races: the Marine Corps Marathon, which is held every autumn, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon held in the spring. The Marine Corps Marathon began in 1976 is sometimes called “The People’s Marathon” because it is the largest marathon that does not offer prize money to participants.

The District’s four NCAA Division I teams have a broad following. The Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team is the most notable and also plays at the Verizon Center. Since 2008, the District has hosted an annual college footballbowl game at RFK Stadium, now called the Military Bowl. The D.C. area is home to one regional sports television network, Comcast SportsNet (CSN), based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Media
Washington, D.C., is a prominent center for national and international media. The Washington Post, founded in 1877, is the oldest and most-read local daily newspaper in Washington. It is probably most notable for its coverage of national and international politics and for exposing the Watergate scandal. “The Post”, as it is popularly called, had the sixth-highest print circulation of all news dailies in the country in 2010.

The Washington Post Company has a daily free commuter newspaper called the Express, which summarizes events, sports and entertainment, as well as the Spanish-language paper El Tiempo Latino. Local dailies The Washington Times and The Washington Examiner as well as the alternative weekly Washington City Paper also have substantial readership in the Washington area.

Some community and specialty papers focus on neighborhood and cultural issues, including the weekly Washington Blade and Metro Weekly, which focus on LGBT issues; the Washington Informer and The Washington Afro American, which highlight topics of interest to the black community; and neighborhood newspapers published by The Current Newspapers. Congressional Quarterly, The Hill, Politico and Roll Call newspapers focus exclusively on issues related to Congress and the federal government. Other publications based in Washington include the National Geographic magazine and political publications such as The New Republic and Washington Monthly.

The Washington Metropolitan Area is the ninth-largest television media market in the U.S. with two million homes (approximately 2% of the U.S. population). Several media companies and cable television channels have their headquarters in the area, including C-SPAN; Black Entertainment Television (BET); Radio One; the National Geographic Channel; Smithsonian Networks; National Public Radio (NPR); Travel Channel (in Chevy Chase, Maryland);Discovery Communications (in Silver Spring, Maryland); and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) (in Arlington, Virginia). The headquarters of Voice of America, the U.S. government’s international news service, is located near the Capitol in Southwest Washington.

Education
District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) operates the city’s 123 public schools. The number of students in DCPS steadily decreased for 39 years until 2009. In the 2010–11 school year, 46,191 students were enrolled in the public school system. DCPS has one of the highest-cost yet lowest-performing school systems in the country, both in terms of infrastructure and student achievement. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration made sweeping changes to the system by closing schools, replacing teachers, firing principals, and using private education firms to aid curriculum development.

The District of Columbia Public Charter School Board monitors the 52 public charter schools in the city. Due to the perceived problems with the traditional public school system, enrollment in public charter schools has steadily increased. As of fall 2010, D.C. charter schools had a total enrollment of about 32,000, a 9% increase from the prior year. The District is also home to 92 private schools, which enrolled approximately 18,000 students in 2008. The District of Columbia Public Library operates 25 neighborhood locations including the landmark Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

Private universities include American University (AU), the Catholic University of America (CUA), Gallaudet University, George Washington University (GW), Georgetown University (GU), Howard University, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The Corcoran College of Art and Design provides specialized arts instruction and other higher-education institutions offer continuing, distance and adult education. The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is a public university providing undergraduate and graduate education. The District is known for its medical research institutions such as Washington Hospital Center and the Children’s National Medical Center, as well as the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition, the city is home to three medical schools and associated teaching hospitals at George Washington, Georgetown, and Howard universities.

External links
Washington DC Official website
Guide to Washington, D.C., from the Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. travel guide from Wikitravel

All information about Washington, DC courtesy of Wikipedia.


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