The District of Columbia

History of Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. was founded on July 16, 1790, by the signing of the Residence Act. This federal statute, enacted by the First United States Congress and signed by President George Washington, authorized the creation of an independent federal district to serve as the seat of the federal government. Prior to the founding of Washington, D.C, the federal government made its home in New York City, New York. The states of Maryland and Virginia donated the land upon which the District was built — this donation originally included the established cities of Georgetown and Alexandria.

Washington, D.C. was explicitly designed to remain independent from any singular state’s control. To maintain this, the District is under the direct authority of the federal government, unreliant on any state government for protection. The District of Columbia was founded in its current location — on the border of the northern and southern states, as part of a congressional compromise. The Residence Act simply provided for the creation of a capital district along the Potomac River; the exact location of Washington, D.C. was chosen by President George Washington.

In 1846, on the eve of the American Civil War, the residents of Alexandria, Virginia petitioned to take back the land that they had donated to the District. This proposal, known as retrocession, was approved and accepted by the Virginia General Assembly, and subsequently honored by the U.S. Congress. Therefore, the current boundaries of D.C. represent only the land that was donated by Maryland.

Washington, D.C. began to see rapid growth during the early 20th century, due in large part to the increase in federal spending under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. This spending led to the creation of many new government buildings, museums, and memorials in D.C., and the hiring of many new federal employees.

Architecturally, D.C. is designed to emulate European-style city plans. A federal height restriction limits the size of commercial and residential buildings in the District, preventing the skyscraper skylines that are common in other American cities. The skyline remains dominated by several key landmarks, including the Washington Monument and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Geography and Finance

Washington, D.C. is a federal district and the capital of the United States of America. Washington, D.C. is unique in that it is not a part of any state in the union — rather, it is a capital district that is directly governed by the federal government. Because the district was created from land sourced from the surrounding states, D.C. lies in close proximity to both Maryland and Virginia. D.C. is bordered by Montgomery County, Maryland, Prince George’s County, Maryland, Arlington County, Virginia, and the city of Alexandria, Virginia.

As of the most recent census estimate, Washington, D.C. has a population of 702,455. The population of the District is growing, having risen by 16.70% between April, 2010 and July, 2018. There is an active real estate market in the District of Columbia — in the last 12 months, there have been 398 homes listed or sold in D.C.

The median family income in D.C. is $77,649, as recorded by the U.S. Census between 2013 and 2017. The median home value, as recorded in those same years, is $537,400. The median listing price in the District of Columbia between 2013 and 2017 was $599,900, while the median sale price was $530,200.

Popular neighborhoods in the District of Columbia

Foggy Bottom

Foggy Bottom is a historic neighborhood in the Northwest Quadrant of Washington, D.C, and it is the site of George Washington University, whose campus covers much of the neighborhood. It is also quite close to Georgetown University — because of this, many of the residents of Foggy Bottom are students of these schools. Most people in Foggy Bottom rent their homes, though there are plenty of opportunities to purchase real estate. Foggy Bottom is served by the Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines via the Foggy Bottom – GWU Metro station.


Downtown is a neighborhood in the northwestern quadrant of Washington, D.C. The boundaries of this area have changed over the years, but it can be generally defined by its proximity to the White House. Downtown is home to many culturally-important museums, theatres, and entertainment venues, making it a hotspot of activity in D.C. The majority of Downtown residents rent their homes, but there are many options for people interested in purchasing a home in the area. Most of the properties available for purchase are condominiums. Downtown is serviced by several Metro stops — including Farragut North, Dupont Circle, and McPherson Square — on the Red, Silver, Blue, and Orange Lines.


Located in Northeast D.C., Edgewood offers a slightly suburban feel compared to the other popular D.C. neighborhoods. Catholic University Theological College is a primary landmark of Edgewood, though the campus is not technically within the neighborhood. The university and surrounding religious buildings have led to Edgewood being nicknamed “Little Rome.” Most of the homes available for purchase are condominiums, and more people rent their homes than own in Edgewood. There is no Metro station within the Edgewood neighborhood, but residents can access the Red Line through the nearby Brookland-CUA Station.

Cleveland Park 

Cleveland Park, which is in Northwest Washington, D.C., is one of the most popular and highly-rated neighborhoods in the District. Although most residents rent their homes — like in most D.C. neighborhoods — Cleveland Park offers a more diverse selection of housing styles. There is a healthy mixture of condominiums, townhomes, and single family homes, in a wide variety of aesthetic styles. The area is connected to the D.C. Metro by the Cleveland Park Station, which is serviced by the Red Line.

Columbia Heights

Columbia Heights is a vibrant neighborhood in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C.Columbia Heights is home to a thriving artistic culture, as well as a healthy culinary scene and diverse populace. Most of the residents of Columbia Heights choose to rent their homes, but the properties that are available for purchase are generally condominiums. Columbia Heights is extremely walkable, due to the proximity of the D.C. Metro. The area is served by the Columbia Heights Station, on the Green and Yellow lines.

Fun & Leisure

Top 5 most popular things to do in Washington, D.C.

Visitors and residents of D.C. have recommended the following experiences and attractions in the area:

  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
    The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is a wildly popular attraction for visitors and residents of the District alike. The museum falls under the control of the Smithsonian Institution — like the other Smithsonian museums, it is completely free to the public. The National Museum of Natural History is the most visited natural history museum in the world, and is home to the world’s largest staff of professional natural history scientists. The primary building is 1.5 million square feet and houses over 126 million specimens and artifacts. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is open every day of the year except December 25th, and is a staple of D.C.’s cultural offerings.
  • National Gallery of Art
    Like the Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art is completely free to the public. This, in combination with the expansive collection of priceless, breathtaking art, has made it a massively popular attraction for tourists and residents of Washington, D.C. The National Gallery is one of the largest museums in North America, in terms of both its vast architecture and the extensive collection. The Gallery is split into two buildings, each with its own collection of static and rotating exhibits. In addition to these two indoor spaces, the Gallery also operates the nearby Sculpture Garden, an open-air collection of contemporary sculptures.
  • Washington National Cathedral
    As the fourth-tallest structure in Washington, D.C., it is hard to miss the massive gothic building commonly known as the Washington National Cathedral. This Episcopal cathedral is second-largest church in the United States, behind only New York City’s famous Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The National Cathedral was under construction for 83 years, from 1907 until 1990. This cathedral has been the site of several culturally significant funerals and religious services, including funerals or memorial services for nine different U.S. Presidents. Additionally, the diocese performs 3 worship services every weekday, rooted in the Episcopal doctrine.The Cathedral draws a significant number of its 270,000 annual visitors due to the breathtaking architecture. The National Cathedral is designed in the style of medieval European cathedrals, with a cross-shaped floor plan and Gothic architecture.
  • Ford’s Theatre
    Originally founded in 1863, Ford’s Theatre gained swift infamy when became the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. The building was used as a commercial site for several years, before reopening as a theatre in the late 1960s. The theatre underwent a final renovation in 2000, and opened to the public in 2009, to commemorate the 200 year anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Today, the theatre’s is preserved by the National Park Service, though the theatrical programming is guided by the Ford’s Theatre Society, a separate entity. Ford’s Theatre operates a curated collection of artifacts and information, while simultaneously serving as a functioning theatre with a wide variety of performances.
  • Renwick Gallery
    The Renwick Gallery was built in 1874, in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. The Gallery is a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and is completely free and open to the public. This space is home to a collection of decorative art and crafts, as opposed to the more traditional media that visitors can view at other Smithsonian museums. The Renwick Gallery rotates its exhibitions regularly, and the staff hosts many events to allow visitors to get hands-on with creating DIY art and crafts.

Education in District of Columbia

The District of Columbia contains 243 primary and secondary schools, located in various neighborhoods. One popular, highly-rated school is Ross Elementary School. Ross Elementary School was assigned a rating of 10 by GreatSchools, a non-profit which specializes in providing comparative grades of primary and secondary schools. This score was assigned based on a comprehensive assessment of the school’s average test scores, as well as metrics which grade academic improvement among students. At the most recent count, 154 students attended Ross Elementary School.

Food & Drinks in Washington D.C.

  • Roy Boys
    With locations in the Shaw and Navy Yard neighborhoods, Roy Boys specializes in an eclectic menu and fun atmosphere. Diners can get Nashville-style hot chicken and local oysters, as well as DMV beer on tap and even ice cream tacos! With both locations being in hip parts of DC, Roy Boys is a perfect spot to grab a bite and a drink, whether you are ending your night or just getting started!
  • Old Ebbitt Grill
    Old Ebbitt Grill is the oldest bar and restaurant in the District, originally established in 1856. Due to its age and cultural significance, Old Ebbitt Grill has one of the highest amounts of sales of any restaurant in the United States. The restaurant has an extensive and varied menu, though it is perhaps most known for its selection of oysters.
  • Ambar
    Ambar has three locations across the world — one in D.C., one in nearby Clarendon, and one in Belgrade, Serbia. The owners of Ambar were dedicated to introducing traditional Balkan cuisine into D.C., while presenting a modern and stylish experience. Ambar specializes in unique, old world-inspired small plate dishes, as well as a vast sampling of Eastern European wines and liquors.
  • Bad Saint
    Bad Saint is a popular spot for Filipino food in D.C., offering a full menu of unique, mouthwatering dishes. Diners frequently praise Bad Saint’s exquisite seafood dishes, which blend traditional Filipino ingredients with other culture’s flavors. Bad Saint has a reputation as being very exclusive; the dining space is small, and the wait times can be long. They do take online reservations, but these spots often go quickly — so prepare accordingly!
  • Amsterdam Falafelshop
    Though Amsterdam Falafelshop has opened locations outside of the District, the core three stores all lie within the bounds of D.C. The Falafelshop is a self-serve experience — once the falafel has been placed into your pita, you can load the pocket with whatever toppings strike your fancy. The restaurant is popular as a vegetarian option in D.C., and it sees plenty of traffic from people enjoying the nightlife options around Downtown D.C.
  • 9:30 Club
    The 9:30 Club is one of the most famous music venues and nightlife spots in all of Washington, D.C., serving as one end of the U Street Corridor. The club was recently named as one of the 10 best live music venues in the entire country by Rolling Stone magazine, and routinely tops lists of America’s top nightclubs.

Highlighted Attraction: National Mall

The National Mall is a curated park near downtown Washington, D.C., containing or bordering almost all of the District’s most famous museums and memorials. Broadly defined, the National Mall stretches from the Lincoln Memorial, on the western edge, to the United States Capitol on the east. It is bisected by the Washington Monument. Due to the abundance of free museums and national attractions nearby, the National Mall receives roughly 24 million visitors each year.


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