Washington, D.C.: A Capital Idea

The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo by UpstateNYer via Wikimedia Commons)
The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo by UpstateNYer via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1802, Washington D.C. was incorporated as a city.

Here are some things you may not have known about the American capital.

Since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, there have been three capital cities of the United States. The first was New York from March 1789 to December 1790, then the capital was moved to Philadelphia between 1790 and 1800.

The formation of a capital district was permitted by Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution, but it does not specify a location for the capital. In 1790, it was agreed that the capital would be located in the Southern United States in exchange for the federal government paying off the Revolutionary War debts of every state.

The only constitutional requirement was that the site be 100 square miles. The precise location was to be chosen by President George Washington. He picked a spot near the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. The site was a 10 mile square with the corners pointing north, south, east and west. The land itself was donated by the states of Maryland and Virginia.

The new federal city was to be built on the north bank of the Potomac. At the time, however, the city of Washington didn’t fill the entire district, and there were other cities located there, including Georgetown and Alexandria. The unincorporated areas on the Maryland side were in Washington County, while those on the Virginia side were in Alexandria County. At this point, the residents of the area were stripped of their representation in Congress, as they no longer lived in a state.

In 1791, it was decided that all public buildings would be built on the Maryland side, which made the Virginia side less important to the government.

In 1846, the Virginia portion of the district was given back to the state, leaving the capital district about 68 percent of its original size.

In 1871, the County of Washington, the City of Washington and the District of Columbia were consolidated into one entity.

The city is now home to about 672,000 people, making it the 22nd largest city in the United States.

Our question: What was the original name of Capitol Hill?

Today is World Press Freedom Day, Constitution Memorial Day in Japan, and Constitution Day in Poland.

It’s National Teacher’s Day, Public Radio Day, and World Asthma Day.

It’s the birthday of actor and singer Bing Crosby, who was born in 1903, singer and activist Pete Seeger, born in 1919, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, born in 1921 and musician James Brown, who was born in 1933.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1992, the top song in the U.S. was “Jump” by Kris Kross.

The No. 1 movie was “Basic Instinct,” while the novel “The Pelican Brief” by John Grisham topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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