Washington D.C. (District of Columbia), the national capital of the U.S.A., is situated on the Potomac River about 90 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. The District of Columbia is a seat of the federal government of the United States. The city's area was originally taken from the states Maryland and Virginia. Virginia's part was given back in 1846. It covers an area of 180 sq. km and has a population of 623 000 (the metropolitan area around 3 750 000). About 70 per cent of black and 30 per cent of white inhabitants live there.





    The District of Columbia was established by Act of Congress in 1790. The site for the capital was chosen by President Washington himself. He knew this area very well as his plantation Mount Vernon was 16 miles down the Potomac. The capital was designed by the French engineer Pierre L'Enfant. Thomas Jefferson, later the third President of the U.S.A., helped him. Although later several other architects were involved in designing the town, L'Enfant's original vision of the magnificent capital was always respected. Streets and avenues were laid out in a grid scheme. The former streets were numbered, the latter ones were named after the states of the Union. The city was divided into four quarters (Northwest NW, Southwest SW, Northeast NE, Southeast SE).
    This town was first used as the seat of Congress in 1800 but it took many more years before Washington could be called a city.
    In 1910 the Height Buildings Act stated that no structure could exceed 15 stories, thus ensuring that Washington would remain a horizontal and spacious city. In order to solve the problem of transport, a subway system, the Metrorail, began operation in 1976.
    In the 1960s and 1970s the process of protection of historic buildings began, old structures were renovated rather than demolished. At the same time increasing focus was placed on developing and maintaining the parks and green spaces for which the city is famous.







    The Potomac River is too shallow, the big ships can't enter the city and that is why Washington never developed into a major port. Washington's main industry has always been government. Only 5 per cent of its work force are involved in manufacturing. Washington looks and functions like a town of officers - like a white-collar town. Some 360 000 people living in the metropolitan area are employed by the Federal Government. All of them work in the federally owned buildings that occupy 40 per cent of the city's area.
    In order to be near the Federal center hundreds of national and international organizations have their offices in Washington. A number of scientific and development complexes have been built around the capital and particularly the Pentagon draws innumerable defense contracting companies. We can find some 150 foreign missions, embassies and consulates here and such international organizations as the World Bank. The International Monetary Fund and the Organization of American States are based here too.
    As many as 10,000 lobbyists maintain a strong presence in political and social affairs. Representing special interest groups, lobbyists work to persuade legislators to support laws helping to their clients' interests.
    The press, the fourth estate, also has a powerful influence on the city's social and political atmosphere shaping public opinion. The Washington Post, one of the country's most influential newspapers, the USA Today, National Geographic, International Wildlife and various other major publications have their headquarters in Washington.
    Tourism. Attracted by the capital's renowned monuments and museums, nearly 20 million visitors come to the capital each year, making tourism the city's second largest industry.







    Washington has three major airports : Washington National Airport located across the Potomac in Virginia 4.5 miles south down from Downtown; Dulles International Airport situated in Loudoun County, Virginia, 26 miles west from Downtown; and Baltimore-Washington International Airport which is located 18 miles north of Washington and 8 miles south of Baltimore.
    There is only one railway station here - Union Station built in 1907. Bus-service includes Greyhound-Trailways for long distances, and city buses known as Metrobus. There is also a subway system here known as the "Metro". It comprises five colored lines: Red, Blue, Orange, Green and Yellow. There are also taxis available in Washington. But the city's principal sights are best visited on foot.







Capitol - the seat of the Congress

The White House


The Mall

Jefferson Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Washington Monument

Vietnam War Memorial

Arlington Memorial Cemetery

Folger Shakespeare Library





The Capitol    The City's most prominent landmark is the Capitol building, which extends along the eastern end of the Mall, on Capitol Hill. The Hill was chosen by architect L'Enfant in 1791 to site the future Congress. A hundred years later a few other buildings were added: the Library of Congress, now known as the Thomas Jefferson Building, Union Station and the City Post Office (1914) at the northern foot of Capitol Hill, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Supreme Court building and further extensions of the Capitol itself.
    The Capitol is the seat of the Congress of the U.S.A. since 1800. On the top of the building, there is the bronze
Statue of Freedom. The north part is the Senate wing and the south part is the House of Representatives wing. The two main rooms are the House and Senate Chambers. The current House Chamber, a richly decorated room, is dominated by a broad podium faced by seats of the 435 members of the House, which form a semi-circle (Democrats are placed to the right of the presiding Speaker of the House, Republicans to the left). The current Senate Chamber is more soberly appointed than the House Chamber. The 100 Senators are seated in a semi-circle at dark mahagony desks.
The Capitol   
The Supreme Court, a white marble building, is positioned directly across the street from the Capitol and houses the highest court in the country. The Court is appointed for life by the President, with the Senate's approval. Now the Court is set at nine justices.
Library of Congress is the largest library in existence which contains over 90 million items. It was established by and for Congress in 1800 but it has extended its services over the years and it now serves as the national library. The Library expanded from the original building called the Thomas Jefferson Building into two other structures, the John Adams Building (1939) and James Madison Memorial Building (1980).







    Close to the Library of Congress stands Folger Shakespeare Library, which houses the world's largest collection of Shakespeare's works with 79 copies of the First Folio from 1623.







The Mall and Washington Monument    From the west terrace of the Capitol one can admire a remarkable view across the Mall to the Washington Monument. The mile-long tree-lined East Mall extending from the foot of Capitol Hill to 15th Street contains one of the world's densest concentration of museums. The dominating presence here is the Smithsonian Institution, which operates eight important museums on the Mall proper. The independently administered National Gallery of Art, comprising two structures, dominates on the northeast corner of the Mall. Juts off the Mall are such governmental institutions as the National Archives, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the US Botanical Garden.
    The portion of the Mall west of 15th Street is the setting for the nation's remarkable monuments located on major focal points of the city's monumental axes. These three memorials command West Potomac Park and Constitution Gardens. Encircling the
Tidal Basin are the city's famous Japanese cherry trees which originated as a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo to Washington DC in 1912.







Washington Monument    The Washington Monument is the tallest masonry structure in the world. It is as much a monument to the city as it is to the man it immortalizes. This marble obelisk has become the visual symbol that most people associate with the Washington area. It is about 555 ft high and 15 ft wide at the base.
    Although a monument to George Washington was first conceived (navržený) in 1783, i.e. 16 years before his death, it was not until 65 years later that its construction was begun. Six years after that, in 1854, work on the monument stopped because of lack of finances and the coming Civil War. Another reason was an unpleasant incident involving the Pope. Pius IX sent a block of African marble from a Roman temple to be included in the monument. But this stone was stolen.
Washington Monument    The work started again in 1876 when the government took it over. The original design of architect Robert Mills had been modified to create the more contemporary feel of the monument as it exists today. The time gap, however, left a visible mark on the structure itself. Looking upward 150 feet from the base of the monument, it is apparent that the marble stones are darker color than those below. The stone came from the same Maryland quarry (lom), but by the time work resumed, the marble was coming from a different stratum (vrstva). The monument was opened to the public in 1888.
    Breathtaking panoramas of the Washington landscape can be seen from the top of the monument. Eight small windows, two on each side of the pyramidal top of the obelisk, overlook the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial in the south, the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial in the west, the Eclipse and the White House in the north, and the Mall ending in the Capitol in the east. These views are unmatched from any other perspective. At night, the views are even more spectacular. The only disadvantage of this "expedition" is that the line of people standing in front of the monument is almost constantly incredibly long and it takes some time till you get into the monument.







    It is the 20th century adaptation of the ancient Roman Pantheon built on the south shore of the Tidal Basin in 1934, and commemorates the third President of the U.S.A. Encircled by an Ionic colonnade, the open-air interior of the monument is dominated by a 19-ft bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence. The four wall panels surrounding the statues are inscribed with Jefferson's writings.

    During cherry blossom season each spring, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial upstages almost everything else in the nation's capital. The colonnaded Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a grand tribute to the third U.S. President.
    The memorial was not completed until 1943. Designer, John Russell Pope, who died before the memorial was completed, decided to personalize it by incorporating Jefferson's own architectural designs for the rotunda and columns. His elegant design of the open-air circular rotunda with its low, graceful dome and classical-style columns is a worthy tribute to the man who was not just the President of the United States of America. Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and, among other things, a statesman, an architect, an inventor, and a botanist.


    The memorial centres on the imposing figure of Thomas Jefferson, who is dressed in fur-collared greatcoat, addressing the Continental Congress. The weight of the statue is five tons. It was sculpted by Rudolph Evans. It stands atop a six-foot-high black granite pedestal.
    Inscriptions engraved on the interior walls of the memorial further document the scope and brilliance of Jefferson's thinking:
    From the Declaration of Independence, "These colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states"; from a 1789 letter to James Madison, "I know of but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively"; from his writings on slavery, "Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free"; and from his own personal credo, "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
    Visiting Thomas Jefferson's Memorial should be included in every tour of the capital. Evening is the ideal time to visit it and in this way one avoids the traffic and the crowds of people who visit the monument every day.







A. Lincoln    It commemorates the 16th U.S. President and was dedicated in 1922. This stately memorial was inspired by Greek architecture and has a shape of a Doric Temple, reminiscent of the Parthenon in Athens. The famous 20-ft marble statue of a seated Lincoln stares across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument and to the Capitol beyond. On the south-west side of the monument, Arlington Memorial Bridge serves as a symbolical link between Lincoln and the South's great hero, Robert E. Lee, whose farm, Arlington House overlooks the Monument from the Virginia side. Along the same axis is positioned the eternal flame marking the Arlington graveside of J. F. Kennedy, the popular 20th century President with whom Lincoln is compared.

    Like the man it commemorates – whose vision united the country - the Lincoln Memorial acts as a visual focal point that unifies the city's landmarks. From it, one's gaze can take in the White House, the Capitol dome, and the Jefferson Memorial. The classic design of the memorial - borrowed from ancient Greece - is elegantly simple. Architect Henry Bacon masterfully re-created a rectangular Doric temple similar to the Parthenon. It has 36 marble columns representing the 36 states that belonged to the Union when Lincoln died; their names appear on the frieze above the row of columns.
Lincoln Memorial    The memorial is as tall as a nine-storey building, though it seems shorter. It was completed in 1922. At the time the site was selected, it was a desolate swamp at the edge of the Potomac River that had to be drained before construction.
    Inside, the seated Mr. Lincoln is a commanding presence. Considered one of the greatest sculptures of the world, the 19-by-19 foot statue took sculptor Daniel Chester French four years and 28 blocks of ivory-white marble to carve. Two 60-foot murals by Jules Guerin allegorically portray the freeing of the slaves and the unity of North and South, which were Lincoln's greatest achievements.
    The statue of Abraham Lincoln is absolutely majestic and one feels to be overwhelmed by this great personality. The statue seems to be looking at the Reflecting Pool, which stretches 350 feet toward the Washington Monument and, behind it, the Capitol dome. At night, reflections of the illuminated monuments bounce off the shimmering water to create one of Washington D.C.'s most spectacular vistas.
    In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his „I Have a Dream” famous speech here.







Vietnam Veterans Memorial     The War in Vietnam is  a painful memory for many Americans, either for those who participated in it or to those who lost members of their family there.
    In the northwest corner of the Constitution Gardens there is the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial (dedicated in 1982), a simple but solemn black granite wall in a shape of a "V" engraved with the names of those 58,000 killed or missing in the Vietnam War. It is still a common view to see the members of the family who come to this memorial to look for the name of their beloved husband, son or brother.







Arlington Memorial Cemetery    It is located not far from the Lincoln Monument on the other side of Arlington Memorial Bridge. It is the country's most revered burial ground and it contains the graves of over 200, 000 military persons of every armed conflict in which the U.S.A. has participated since the Revolutionary War. It was established as a National Cemetery   on June 15, 1864.
    Two U.S. Presidents are buried here: President
W.H.Taft (1857-1930) and President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) whose simple grave is marked by an eternal flame. The grave of Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) marked by a white cross lies close to that of his older brother.







    It is the largest simple structure building in the world and lies close to Arlington Cemetery. This enormous pentagonal building houses the headquarters of the Department of Defense. Twenty-three thousand people work here.
    In the time of the Cold War "Pentagon" was a kind of synonym for the threat from the Soviet Union.









The White House    It is the President's residence and stands on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue between the Treasury and the Executive Office Buildings (to the north of the Washington Monument). The exterior walls made of sandstone were painted, and that is why the building is called "White House".
    It has been the home of America's First Families for two centuries and it has become a symbol of the United States presidency. Every president - except George Washington - has lived in Washington, D.C. - in the White House. George Washington chose the place, but when the house was finished, he was no longer President. It was President John Adams who was the first to live here. It was in 1800.
    The White House looked very different and it was not easy to live there. There were only six rooms that were lighted by candles and heated by fires in fireplaces. Even water had to be carried from half a mile away. Running water came into the White House in 1813.
The White House.    Another great success came in 1877 when Alexander Graham Bell himself installed one of the first telephones. But greatest progress followed in 1891. The White House became one of the first houses in the USA with electricity.
    Gradually the White House became better, more comfortable and more famous. Even wives of Presidents, the first ladies of the USA, have played a great role in rebuilding, furnishing and organizing the different activities of the House. Nowadays, the White House has 132 rooms, including living quarters (the second and the third floors), official rooms for meetings on the first floor, a library, cinema, a pool, a gymnasium etc.
    To the south of the White House the open expanse of ground is called
the Eclipse. It has become the ceremonial grounds for the White House. The White House organizes a series of public annual events such as the Easter Egg Roll held on Easter Monday for children under eight years of age.



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Museums and galleries


    In recent decades Washington has become a center of performing arts and has become famous for its museums and galleries. The biggest concentration of museums can be found on the East Mall.
The most outstanding of them is
the Smithsonian Institution (established in 1846), one of the largest museums and research complexes in the world. It contains 14 museums and the National ZOO. It was founded through a bequest to the US from an English scientist named James Smithson (1765-1829), an illegitimate son of the Duke of Northumberland who, having no descendants, bequested his wealth to the United States to establish the institution. The collections of the Smithsonian Institution number more than 100 million objects. In addition the Institution operates six major research facilities supporting work in the arts and sciences. It also sponsors lectures, concerts, festivals and travel agendas.


Smithsonian Institutions

Castle    The symbol of the Institution became the red sandstone
Castle (1855), the building which now functions as a visitors' information center. On the same site, in 1987, the Smithsonian Quadrangle was added, which comprises the National Museum of African Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery exhibiting the Arts of Asia.
    The National Museum of Natural History (1911), the National Museum of American History (1964), Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (1966) and the National Portrait Gallery are some others of the most popular Smithsonian museums.

    The National Air and Space Museum (opened in 1976), commemorates human aeronautical and astronautical achievements and its holdings constitute the most comprehensive collection of its kind in the country.

    The National Gallery of Art (1941) is an independent institution and includes artifacts from the Middle Ages to the present. We can see one of the world's finest collections of the Italian Works (Raphael, da Vinci, Tizian) here.

    National Archives (1937) hold the nation's documentary treasures, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Displayed in a separate case is also a 1297 version of England's Magna Carta.

    In addition to these attractions, the capital boasts other museums created through the generosity of prominent collectors. Foremost among these institutions are the Phillips Collection and especially the Corcoran Gallery, the capital's oldest gallery opened in 1874. The philanthropist William W. Corcoran (1798-1888) founded not only the gallery but also an art school.

Theatre, music, opera

    Among many other theatres and concert halls the most famous one is John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts situated on the Riverfront. With its opening in 1971 Washington finally began to attract an increasing number of world-class performers. There are four theaters, the Opera House with 2,318 seats, the Concert Hall with 2,759 seats and the American Film Institute there and the Center is also a home to the National Symphony Orchestra. The Center offers drama, concerts and dance performances.

    The National Theater in Pennsylvania Avenue focuses on plays and musicals. A number of private theatres, including the well-respected Arena Stage complex, offer traditional and experimental productions. There are still two other renowned theatres; historic Ford's Theatre (1863), located Downtown, where President Lincoln was shot by the actor J. W. Booth in 1865, and the highly acclaimed Wolf Trap Farm for the Performing Arts, an outdoor summer theatre in the nearby Virginia suburbs which features world-renowned dance groups and musicians.







    Washington is world famous for its parks and green spaces. About 7,000 acres of the District is currently devoted to public parkland. The most attractive parks are the West and East Potomac Parks and Constitution Gardens.







    The oldest and best reputated of Washington's many universities and colleges are: Georgetown University (1789), the first Catholic institution of higher education in the country, founded in the west from Downtown, in Georgetown, the quarter where Congressmen, foreign dignitaries and the capital's intelligentsia live; and George Washington University (1821) now housed in a new building at the riverfront in the west.







    A visitor to Washington can find everything from small speciality shops and boutiques in Georgetown to famous department stores in Downtown Pennsylvania Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue and Connecticut Avenue. Some of the most exclusive malls (Watergate, Willard Collection, Mazza Gallery) house boutiques of internationally renowned designers. Galleries, antique shops and bookshops can be found in the neighborhood of Dupont Circle and Eastern Market on Capitol Hill.







    There are a few places of interest outside Washington DC which is worth visiting, but Mount Vernon is the best known. Situated 16 miles south of Washington, George Washington's private mansion lies on a grassy slope overlooking the Potomac River. It came into the property of the Washington family in 1674 and here Washington enjoyed the life of a successful Virginia planter. The house and furnishing are authentic to Washington's final years. Washington and his wife are buried in the grounds of Mount Vernon.