POPULATION: 672,228 (Federal District) | 5,949,859 (Metro) | TIME ZONE: Eastern | CLIMATE: Humid subtropical (Four distinct seasons, hot and humid summer, warm spring and fall, chilly winter)
With so much extraordinary Washington D.C. history, it’s easy to lose track of the football huddle. But yes, this is where it was invented. And yes, there are other stories about where the huddle originated. But Washingtonians get to claim the earliest story, dating back to the 1890s and Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University). A school for the deaf and hard of hearing, the Gallaudet team wanted a way to prevent the opposing team from reading their sign language between plays. Paul Hubbard, Gallaudet’s quarterback, began bringing the team together in a tight circle so they could discuss plays in private. There ya go. Huddle.
So what is a District of Columbia and how did it all begin? Well, in school we don’t typically learn of the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783. It was a protest by 400 ticked-off Continental Army soldiers demanding pay. Under the law, the new Federal Government had no jurisdiction over the army except in times of war. Armies were controlled by the states. And right then, the state of Pennsylvania refused to protect Congress. So Congress left Philly and headed for Princeton. In 1788, James Madison argued that the Federal Government needed a national capital independent of any state so it could provide for its own upkeep and defense.
When the United States Constitution was written, it permitted establishment of a district not exceeding ten miles square to become the seat of the government of the United States. Then, in the Compromise of 1790, an agreement was made that the government would pay the left over Revolutionary War debts of each state in exchange for establishing the new national capital in the southern states. Congress approved creating a national capital on the Potomac River. President George Washington was to decide where. Maryland and Virginia each donated land, and a district was born. It included two existing settlements, Georgetown (originally part of Maryland) and Alexandria (originally part of Virginia). The famous surveyor Andrew Ellicott surveyed the borders with the aid of several assistants, including the famous astronomer Benjamin Banneker, a free African American. Many of the boundary stones they placed back then are still standing and are considered the oldest federal monuments. (As of this writing, a group called BoundaryStones.org organizes an annual bike ride around them. It’s apparently just about a metric century ride—100 kilometers, or 62 miles—and concludes in a bar.)
In 1791, the city was named in honor of President Washington. At the time, “Columbia” was one of various names used in the female personification of the United States, and it became the name of the district. In 1801, Congress officially organized the District of Columbia and put it under control of the federal government. Anyone living in the District of Columbia was no longer a resident of Maryland or Virginia and without representation in Congress.
During the War of 1812 came the Burning of Washington. British forces invading D.C. burned and sacked the Capitol, the Treasury and the White House. In the 1830s, Virginia residents began demanding their state take back Alexandria, and the 31 square miles of the state was returned to VA in 1846. With the Civil War in 1861, the federal government expanded along with the population of D.C.. By 1870, the population had nearly doubled to over 130,000, but the city still had dirt roads and no sanitation. Eventually, big projects were launched, modernizing the nation’s capital—and bankrupting the city. Streetcars appeared in 1888, and with them came the inevitable streetcar suburbs. Still, by the 1900s, Washington suffered from subpar housing conditions and meager public works. The "City Beautiful movement," a philosophical trend in the late 1800s, promoted “moral and civic virtue” in several big cities. Washington D.C. became the nation’s first urban renewal project.
The New Deal led to new buildings, memorials and museums. World War II brought even more government and more federal employees. The population passed three quarters of a million in 1950. In 1961, the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution granted D.C. three votes in the Electoral College for presidential elections—but still no voting representation in Congress. But in 1973, D.C. did get a mayor. The District of Columbia Home Rule Act gave the District a mayor and a 13-member council.
Today, the federal government accounts for about one third of D.C.’s employment. Economic downturns have less impact here because of that. The government is always running. The second largest industry here is tourism. 2012 figures show that almost 19 million tourists were worth about $5 billion to the local economy. Gentrification has also taken hold here. Politics is a big business, and people continue flocking to D.C. to make their political fortune. This is a city with an ever-progressing cost of living.
The American Rome
City of Magnificent Intentions
The Federal City
Hollywood for Ugly People
Justitia Omnibus (Justice for all)
RANDOM SONG ABOUT THE CITY
“Washington D.C.” by Jimmy Newman
PRO SPORTS TEAMS
Washington Redskins (NFL)
Washington Nationals (MLB)
Washington Wizards (NBA)
Washington Capitals (NHL)
D.C United (MLS)
Washington D.C. Slayers (ANRL)
Washington Mystics (WNBA)
D.C. Diva (IWFL)
ALSO KNOWN FOR…
The White House
The Nation’s Capital
Historical sites galore
Tourists galore gawking at monuments, museums and historical sites
More rain than Seattle
The invention of the football huddle
Ben’s Chili Bowl
The Baltimore Ravens (yes, they’re a thing here)
Bao Bao The Panda
George Mason University, Georgetown University and Howard University
One-fifth of the city is parks and green space
North America’s only Leonardo da Vinci painting
Ranked as a state, the smallest population in the country
Bill Nye, Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Hayes, Louis C.K., Taraji Henson, Ana Gasteyer, Dave Chappelle, Peter Tork, Johnny Gill, Connie Chung, William Hurt, Henry Rollins, Robert E. Lee, Mike Tyson, Walt Whitman, Benjamin Oliver Davis, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, John Philip Sousa
LIVING IN AND AROUND WASHINGTON D.C.
If you’re a committed urban dweller, Downtown is certainly urban. Fans of downtown living praise the nightlife. The amenities get high scores. And it seems that more families are choosing to live here. That said, the Washington Post ran a 2014 article entitled, “More families are living in downtown D.C., and they want playgrounds.” With a median home price just south of half a million, D.C. is definitely not cheap. And whether you want to raise a family there is a matter of personal opinion. But there is undoubtedly no other city like it in the country or in the world. Capitol Hill has rowhouses and townhouses, green space (of course) and a bar scene. And there are probably more families here than in any other D.C. neighborhood, with children in about 12 percent of the households. Dupont Circle has a reputation as a fun neighborhood. Largely a community of diverse, well-educated professionals, it’s an expensive place to live and in high demand. You can find condos, rowhouses, single-family homes and rental units. And excellent schools and amenities, of course. Just be forewarned: parking is epically bad.
Highly desirable Cleveland Park is even more expensive, and is also very Metro-friendly. High-end restaurants make it a destination neighborhood. Lack of parking also abounds. It’s also a relatively safe neighborhood, and many consider it the epitome of good living in a city. More expensive Tenleytown borders Maryland. Lots of families, some good schools, and a median home price over 800K make it a more desirable if less affordable neighborhood. But it ain’t world-famous Georgetown, which is also world-famously expensive. Tree-lined, cobblestone streets and immaculate homes are how they roll here. The median home price is just south of a million, and it’s easy to spend upwards of two to three times that. There’s high-end shopping, high-end hotels, high-end restaurants, and famous Georgetown University. Oh, and no access to the Metro. But you do get the Thai Embassy. Now how much would you pay?
Moving out of town, Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood is for the grownup in you. The average age here is about 42. Real estate here is more affordable, there are still high-end restaurants, and more moderately priced shopping than in town. Moving further away from the city, there are nice places in Maryland. North Laurel has been on Money magazine’s list of best places to live. A median home price in the low 300K range helps, as do good schools. And it’s important to note that rush-hour traffic to D.C. can be challenging. But, without traffic, the drive to FedEx Field (which is in Landover, MD rather than D.C.,) is only about 20 minutes. Silver Spring is another diverse community that’s somewhat more expensive than North Laurel, and somewhat more affordable than the District. There are young professionals and young families here, and a wide range of housing options. Again, traffic is a consideration for anyone needing to get in and out of D.C.
If you like crab cakes and sailing, Annapolis has plenty of both. Home to the Naval Academy, Annapolis is also a vibrant city with a fun downtown, young folks and families. Again, less expensive than D.C. and still quite historical. Many of the old maritime neighborhoods retain their old-world charm. Heading back inland, Hyattsville is more affordable, with small to mid-size homes in what’s considered a pleasant, leafy suburb. A walkable downtown known as the Arts District offers restaurants and bars, and there also two Metro stations here. Laurel is another affordable suburb with a quaint downtown that has plenty of amenities (200 restaurants!) and a bar scene. Single-family homes, townhouses and condos provide an array of housing options. Way at the other end of the price spectrum is neaby Bethesda. (If the name tickles anything, think the famous Naval Hospital, now known as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.) Median home price here is over three quarters of a million. That said, there are some townhomes and condos around half a million—even lower if you can make do with a small place. The cost of living here is high—but what follows is great schools and amenities in a quiet town. And the residents include some of the smartest, best educated people on planet earth.