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.
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).
INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE
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.
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.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The City's most prominent landmark is theCapitol 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT
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
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.