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History of Washington D.C.

Written by Sarah Worthy

The capitol city of the United States of America began with humble beginnings much like our great country. Beginning in the mid-1600’s, the land that was to become Washington D.C. was being offered to aristocratic settlers from Europe in 1000 acre plots. Tobacco was the primary crop and the farmers were content on entertaining at night, laboring during the day and enjoying a peaceful existence. This pastoral lifestyle continued in the area that is now Washington D.C. until 1790.

In 1790, George Washington selected the area that is now the District of Columbia as the location for the Federal City. Over the next decade and under the direction of city planner, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the land was bought from the plantation owners and a city began to take shape. At the end of 1798, the exterior of the President’s House was finished, the Senate wing of the Capitol was almost completed and the Treasury building was under contract to be built. At this time, Congress still met at the Capitol building in Philadelphia.

By 1800, Washington D.C. was not yet the great center of U.S. politics that it has become today. In May, Congress officially moved into the Capitol building in D.C., but the President’s House remained mostly unfinished inside and the homes around the Federal district were mostly unfinished. In fact, many investors and citizens wanted to move the capitol to an already established city instead of trying to continue the experiment of designing a city from scratch. They felt the slow growth of Washington D.C. was a sign of failure.

Then in 1814, the city took an even bigger hit when the British invaded the city and burned down most of the public buildings, including the President’s House and the Capitol. The city was left seemingly forlorn and deserted. Fortunately, very little private property was destroyed and a coming windstorm forced the British out of the city after less than a day.

It wasn’t until 1817, when James Monroe took the office, that the President’s House and the rest of the public buildings were finally rebuilt and a stately and formal aura finally swept over the Capitol city. The first lady, Mrs. Monroe, became known for her southern hospitality and grand state dinners. Finally the nation had a capitol city it could be proud of.

Washington D.C. has a feeling of distinguished Southern grace to this day. It is a city for politics and government business as well as history and tourism. Tourists and residents alike find no lack for entertainment or good conversation topics. Every American should make Washington D.C. a top destination on their list of places to see.

  • Departure Times:

    DC IT ALL! Tours Leave at 10 AM.
    DC THE LIGHTS! Tours leave at 7:30 PM
    DC THE BEST! Tours Leave at 10:30am & 2:30pm (Apr - Oct)

  • Where:

    From the North side of the Old Post Office Building at 12th and Pennsylvania NW (1100 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC)

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