In America’s short but tenuous history, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had always been the capital. In 1790, however, George Washington made the decision to move the capital to a brand new area called the District of Columbia – a small, swampy area on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia.
While in District of Columbia, Washington and Pierre L’Enfant, a city planner, helped find a location that would house the president of the United States. After a suitable location was found, a competition was held to build the house. Irish architect James Hoban won the contract to design and build the house. He designed the house after a model in the Book of Architecture called the Gibbs House. The house was completed in 1800. John Adams, not George Washington, became the first president to live in it. It was located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Despite the many changes that the house has been through in the past 200 years, its location has remained the same.
In 1814, as part of the War of 1812, the British occupied Washington and burned the house to the ground. Two years later James Hoban successfully restored it to its original form and added a south portico. The house was known as the Executive Mansion or President’s Palace for much of the 1800’s. In 1901, Teddy Roosevelt renamed it "The White House". The White House’s next renovation occurred in 1902 when the executive office wing and gallery were added. In 1929, it was severely damaged in a fire for the second time and renovated. Today, the White House remains one of the top tourist destinations in Washington. It even has its own bowling alley and movie theater.
The U.S. Capitol, one of the most recognizable buildings in America, serves as the home of the legislative branch of the United States Government. Construction on the building began in 1793. On September 18th of that year, president George Washington laid the cornerstone. Congress held its first session in the building on November 17th, 1800. Today, the U.S. Capitol Building is honored on the back of the $50 bill.
The U.S. Capitol is perhaps best known for its massive dome. In 1856, after the capitol building was expanded, the old dome proved too small in proportion to the growing building. A larger, cast-iron dome was designed by architect Thomas U. Walter. It was completed in 1863. When it was complete, the dome itself was made of nearly 9,000,000 pounds of iron!
The Lincoln Memorial, a large shrine to America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, is one of the most important landmarks in Washington. The memorial is modeled after a Greek Doric Temple with 36 columns each 33 feet tall. The interior of the memorial contains a large sculpture of a seated Lincoln. It also features inscriptions of two of Lincoln’s most famous speeches, The Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. Abraham Lincoln is widely considered one of the greatest leaders in American history, as he guided a torn nation through the Civil War.
The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated by President Warren G. Harding on May 30, 1922. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from the front of the memorial. Over 250,000 people were said to be in attendance.
The Washington Monument, a large obelisk made of sandstone, marble, and granite, was built for first president and war hero George Washington. Designed by architect Robert Mills, the cornerstone of the monument was set in 1848, though construction lasted for 36 years. It was finally dedicated on February 21, 1885.
Upon its completion, the Washington Monument was the world’s tallest man-made structure at 555 feet tall. Although it is no longer the tallest man-made structure in the world, it remains the tallest man-made structure in Washington and is visible throughout much of the city, and even into parts of Virginia and Maryland. In addition, the Washington Monument is one of the most popular landmarks in Washington. Over 800,000 people visit each year.
More About Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. – Interactive Map of the city, the metro rail, and metro area