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Washington DC History

Since 1571, Washington DC has steadily risen to international prominence. Pierre L'Enfant, designer of the city, thought of it as the Capital City. Jefferson referred to it as Federal Town. Washington, however, considered this undignified, and instead used the name Federal City. The initial plot of land authorized by the Constitution for the seat of the US government was a 100-square mile area. The first commissioners appointed to acquire the property for the new capital and construct the first government buildings made the obvious choice and named the city Washington. At the same time, they decided to call the entire 100 square-mile area the District of Columbia. Congress later went along with this decision through legislative references to the area.

The city of Washington as designed by L'Enfant did not, of course, fill the 100 square-mile area authorized by the Constitution for the seat of government. The area also included the cities of Georgetown (1751) and Alexandria (1749), which were already in existence. Congress designated the rest of the 10-mile by 10-mile portion outside the corporate limits of these three cities as the County of Alexandria, in the section given by Virginia, and the County of Washington, in the Maryland-ceded portion. In 1846 Congress voted to give back to Virginia all the land that state had given to the government in 1790 for creation of the District of Columbia. This move returned about 32 square miles of territory to Virginia. Residents of Alexandria and what is now Arlington County, Virginia, thus lost District of Columbia residency and again became Virginia citizens.

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Washington DC Souvenirs and Gifts

Washington DC Souvenirs

Washington DC gifts and souvenirs are a must for anyone visiting our Nation's Capital and are a great way to remember your experience in the city. We have compiled a list of the most popular Washington DC souvenir gift ideas that are currently available throughout the city. Whether you are looking for White House gifts, Smithsonian souvenirs, Washington Monument paperweights, or patriotic decorations our list of Washington DC souvenirs has everything you are looking for.

Washington DC History: 1571 - 1703

Washington History necessarily begins on the Potomac River - known to many Native Americans as the "Co-hon-ho-roo-ta", to the Spanish as the "Espiritu Santo"; to the first English explorers as the "Elizabeth"; and to Lord Calvert's pilgrims as the "St. Gregory." "Europeans were on the Potomac River in the first half of the 16th century," says Catholic historian Shea. But the earliest explorer who is known to have sailed for any considerable distance up the river was the Spanish admiral, Pedro Memendez, founder of Saint Augustine (1565) and governor of Spain's Florida possessions. He ascended, in 1571, as far as Aquia Creek - possibly as far as Occoquan Creek, about 25 miles below Washington. His departure, in the same year, marks the end of Spanish connection with Potomac history. Read More

Washington DC History: 1703 - 1752

Immediately north of Thompson's New Troy tract (which extended far north of what is now called Capitol Hill) was a tract called Scotland Yard, Patented to Captain Robert Troope in 1663, or earlier; and immediately north of Troope's land lay the tract known as Room, or Rome, granted to Francis Pope in 1663, and wrongly supposed by many writers to include the high land upon which our Nation's Capitol now stands. In 1600 James Langworth, of Charles County, Maryland, bequeathed to his son John his rights in 670 acres "yet to be taken up"; this, it is thought, was the 600-acre tract granted to John Langworth in 1664 - the so-called Widow's Mite, lying to the north. It changed hands many times during the next 130 years. A tract known as Vineyard, in what became the Georgetown area, was patented to William Hutchinson in 1696; part of it was owned by Robert Peter in 1791. Read More

Washington DC History (1752 - 1790)

During the Revolutionary period the Continental Congress was a somewhat nomadic body. At different times within a single year, 1777, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York had the distinction of being the seat of Congress. In 1783 the delegates were comfortably settled in Philadelphia, and might have stayed there indefinitely had not mutinous continental soldiers come upon them suddenly, while in session, demanding their long overdue pay. Affronted and alarmed, Congress removed to Princeton, N.J., a small place soon deplorably overcrowded. The need for a permanent seat of national government, preferably some piece of virgin territory wherein a "Federal town" might be built, became imperative. Read More

Washington DC History (1790 - 1798)

In October 1790, President Washington took up his role of agent. He inspected many Potomac sites--from Conococheague, about 80 miles above the present city, to Oxon Hill, several miles below; and in January 1791 he made his decision, choosing the land in Maryland which is now the District of Colombia, and a smaller section across the Potomac in Virginia territory, including the town of Alexandria. In the same month he appointed Daniel Carroll, Thomas Johnson, and David Stuart as commissioners to superintend the building of the Federal City. Washington was also ready to employ L'Enfant to lay out the city and another surveyor, Andrew Ellicott, to survey the bounds of the Federal tract, 10 miles square. Ellicott came in February and L'Enfant in March. During the latter month Washington met the local landowners at Suter's Tavern in Georgetown, and persuaded them to sell at $66.00 and acre any land the Nation might need as sites or grounds for public buildings, and to permit the remainder of the proposed city area to be divided into lots and sold, the proceeds from every other lot to go to the Government. It was further agreed that no charge should be made for the land needed for highways. Read More

Washington DC History (1752 - 1790)

December 14, 1799, was a sad day for Washington DC and the rest of the world. Our beloved first President, George Washington passed away. Congress was in session at Philadelphia, and had received President Adam's reminded legislators that under the provisions of the Residence Bill of 1799 Congress should convene in the permanent seat of government on the first Monday in December 1800. Washington's dream would come true. On May 15, 1800, Congress having adjourned, Adams directed his Cabinet so to arrange their departmental affairs "that the public offices may be opened in the city of Washington... by the 15th of June." Read More

Washington DC History (1790 - 1798)

In 1809, the British minister Francis Jackson likened the American Capital to the British, yet spoke about Washington's "wild, desolate air from being so scantily and rudely cultivated." All were agreed, however, that Washington was charming during "the season." Mrs. Madison's drawing room would be filled with "gallants immaculated in sheer ruffles and small clothes", exchanging delightful small talk with "dainty belles in frills, flounces, and furbelows." But during the congressional recess even President Madison thought the city was "a solitude." "You cannot imagine", wrote Washington Irving in 1811, how forlorn this desert city appears to me, now that the great tide of casual population has rolled away." Read More


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Washington DC Gallery - 2009 Innauguration

January 20, 2009 was a magical, as well as historical day. Although the temperature dropped to the single digits with the wind whipping, that refused to stop two-million people strong from attending the 56th Presidential inauguration. "Yes We Can" was President Barack Obama's rallying cry througout his campaign to be the 44th President and Commander-in-Chief. The crowd that packed the National Mall (from the Capitol Building all the way back to the Washington Monument - over two miles) was an incredible combination of ecstatic jubilation and peaceful celebration. Security was extremely tight and lack of communication between law enforcement agencies made for long lines of supporters trying to ingress and egress The National Mall. However, the people would not be stopped - they wanted to see the first African American Commander-in-Chief get sworn in and would wait in lines as long as they had to to do so. View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - 2005 Innauguration

The World watched President George W. Bush second inaugural address President Bush committing the United States to defeating tyranny and expanding freedom. Sworn in by ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the president delivered a 22-minute address that outlined his view of America's role in the world. "At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire." - George W. Bush View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - 2001 Innauguration

The 54th Inauguration of the 43rd President of the United States took place on a freezing cold, rainy Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. on January 20, 2001 on the west front of the US Capitol. President Bush arrived led by Senators and Congressmen and joined former President Clinton and former Vice President Gore on the stage, anticipating his oath of office and the enormous job that lay ahead. The Clinton's looked happy, doing their part to welcome the Bush and Cheney families to their new roles. The Reverend Franklin Graham, standing in for his ailing father, gave the invocation as a light drizzle fell on the bowed heads and shoulders of a massive crowd gathered on the National Mall. View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - George W. Bush vs. Albert Gore, Jr

On Tuesday, December 12, 2000, the world paused as the U.S. Supreme Court deleberated the fate of the Presidential Election. The cold affected everyone as we await the decision. Little did we know that the fractured ruling wouldn't come until nearly 11:00 pm. Clever protest signs and people bantering humorous slogans were everywhere. View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - 9-11 Commission Final Report

The 54th Inauguration of the 43rd President of the United States took place on a freezing cold, rainy Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. on January 20, 2001 on the west front of the US Capitol. President Bush arrived led by Senators and Congressmen and joined former President Clinton and former Vice President Gore on the stage, anticipating his oath of office and the enormous job that lay ahead. The Clinton's looked happy, doing their part to welcome the Bush and Cheney families to their new roles. The Reverend Franklin Graham, standing in for his ailing father, gave the invocation as a light drizzle fell on the bowed heads and shoulders of a massive crowd gathered on the National Mall. View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - Mayor Williams Second Inaugural Address

"One City, One Future". We put our "bodies and souls in motion" for change. We came together, we worked together and we achieved together. More than 11,500 children now have a safe place to go after school in their neighborhood because 90 community organizations opened their doors. More than 10,000 citizens participated in our Citizen Summits and our Neighborhood Action initiative. We resurfaced more than 2,000 blocks in every corner of the District...And on September 11...and during the dark months that followed we showed the world what it means to be the capital of our nation...Standing here today, I see before me the face of Washington. We are a magnificent tapestry made up of many peoples. It is the community we build from that diversity that makes us strong and proud. Today, we have the chance to live up to Dr. King's great dream of inclusiveness, of true democracy, of opportunity for all. Let today be a clarion call that brings together everyone to create a city of learning, a beacon of hope that shines for all the world. One City. One Future. -Mayor Anthony A. Williams View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - Woodrow Wilson Bridge Dedication

At a star-spangled ceremony attended by more than 1,400 dignitaries and guests, the first new Woodrow Wilson Bridge was dedicated. One of the nation's largest public works, the $2.4 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge dedication signaled a new dawn for congestion-weary commuters and interstate travelers: The beginning of the end of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge corridor's notorious traffic congestion. In addition to serving as a major local commuting route, the Wilson Bridge is the mid-point of Interstate 95, the east coast's busiest highway. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project is jointly sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Maryland State Highway Administration and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation. View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act

On Friday, December 17, 2004, at the Andrew W. Mellon auditorium President Bush signed legislation that reforms the intelligence community and the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government. The many reforms in this act have a single goal: to ensure that the people in government responsible for defending America have the best possible information to make the best possible decisions. View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - March on the Pentagon

On Saint Patrick's Day, March 17, 2007, the anniversary of the start of the United States invasion of Iraq, an estimated at 15,000 to 25,000 demonstrators marched in the bitter cold from the Vietnam War Memorial, down Route 27 to the Pentagon North Parking Lot. A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) Coalition organized the event in symbolic tribute to the historic 1967 march to the Pentagon. The march capped a week of anti-war protests in Washington. Prominent speakers at the event included anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.). View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - Queen Elizabeth II Visits Virginia

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, II and His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, visited Virginia May 3rd and 4th to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, the first permanent British colony in America. The Queen's first public appearance was in Richmond's Capitol Square, where visited Virginia's recently refurbished statehouse and address a special session of the General Assembly. The Queen toured the reproduction of the fort that english colonists built in 1607, more than a decade before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth Rock. The royals also visited the Jamestown museum and archaeological and conservation sites at Jamestown. Many Virginians were hurriedly studying the rules of royal etiquette so as not to offend the royal couple. The Queen's colorful hats, and clothing captured the hearts of her adoring fans. View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - Philip Merrill Memorial Service

Vice President Dick Cheney, dignitaries, friends and family gathered yesterday to remember the life of publisher and former diplomat Philip Merrill, 72, who passed on while sailing alone on the Chesapeake Bay on June 10, 2006. Phil Merrill purchased Capital-Gazette Newspapers in 1968, later adding Baltimore magazine and Washingtonian magazine (1979) to his company. "My husband took great joy in publishing the Capital-Gazette Newspapers and the Washingtonian. He was particularly proud of the fact that he ran the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States." - Eleanor Merrill on the passing of her husband. View Our Gallery

Washington DC Gallery - DC Voting Rights March

"Free DC! Free DC!," was the only sound that could be heard as an estimated 5,000 citizens and civil rights leaders braved the cold, damp, and windy weather to demand voting representation. The DC Voting Rights March was led by Mayor Adrian Fenty, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District City Council, DC Vote and other groups in a civil rights coalition on Emancipation Day. The March commenced at Freedom Plaza (13th and Pennsylvania Ave., NW) and proceeded along Pennsylvania Avenue, then rallying the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool. View Our Gallery


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Planning Our Capital City

Washington, D.C. was built at the start of the 19th century with more irony than iron. Not only did a Frenchman design the American capital, but a free black man may have secured the construction of the city, which was to take place in the middle of the two largest slave-holding states in the union, Maryland and Virginia. Even before President Washington hired the French artist-architect Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant to plan the physical layout of the city, L'Enfant seemed eager to help build the capital of someone else's country, a country he envisioned would grow from 13 colonies to 50 states and from 3 million inhabitants to 500 million citizens, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Read More

The First Tribe of Washington - Origins of the Piscataway

As we look around, searching for evidence, proof, or nostalgia, there seems to be a problem: not many people have heard of the Native American Tribe of Piscataway. When asked about them, most people scratch their heads, frown their faces, shrug their shoulders and politely say, "Never heard of them." However, with much determination and inquiry, a minute sign of their existence was found. The Piscataway tribe lived along the Piscataway Creek in the Prince George's region of Maryland up to our Nation's Capital. Most of the tribe settled comfortably in small villages and camps along the Chesapeake Bay. They were quite content with domestic affairs: the men building wigwams and "dug-out canoes," while the women made pottery and baskets. Read More

Get to know the District of Columbia

Pierre L'Enfant, designer of the city, thought of it as the Capital City. Jefferson referred to it as Federal Town. Washington, however, considered this undignified, and instead used the name Federal City. The initial plot of land authorized by the Constitution for the seat of the US government was a 100-square mile area. The first commissioners appointed to acquire the property for the new capital and construct the first government buildings made the obvious choice and named the city Washington. At the same time, they decided to call the entire 100 square-mile area the District of Columbia. Congress later went along with this decision through legislative references to the area. Read More

District Streetcars

Not too long ago, the streets of Washington, DC were lined with tracks. For a century, streetcars glided along the Capital's streets, transporting residents and commuters. The District's first streetcar arrived in the midst of the Civil War; a century later, this public transportation infrastructure disappeared. Washington, DC's present transportation infrastructure is once again being reevaluated to accommodate both a growing population and constant congestion. One of the technologies being considered is Light Rail Transit (LRT), the modern day streetcar, trolley, or tramway. LRT implementation would return street rails to Washington, DC, first seen during the Civil War in 1862. Read More

Washington Senators

Long before the Nationals came to DC the Washington Senators were the District's baseball team. In 1947 Washington Senators Baseball Club was having another tough year. There lineup included such names as Mickey Vernon 1b, Jerry Priddy 2b, Mark Christman ss, Eddie Yost 3b, Buddy Lewis rf, Stan Spence cf, Joe Grace lf, Al Evans c. Starting pictures were Bob Newsom, Walt Masterson, Mickey Haefner, Early Wynn, Ray Scarborough and Sid Hudson. Utility infielders were war hero Cecil Travis who endured the Battle of the Bulge in Europe and Sherry Robertson a son in law of the Senator owner Clark Griffith. They lost 90 games that year 33 games behind the first place Yankees. The Old Griffith Stadium off Florida Avenue had a very high right field wall that was plastered with an advertisement for Lifeboy Soap with a slogan stating that "Use Lifeboy the Senators do". The left field line was over 400 feet and it was a pitcher's ballpark. Read More

Montrose Park

Situated on the edge of Georgetown and bordered by Rock Creek Park, a small road called "Lover's Lane", Dunbarton Oaks and Oak Hill Cemetery sits Montrose Park. It's towering oak trees date easily far into the 19th century. In the 1940s and 1950's Montrose was a special place for a variety of activities. Four clay tennis courts allowed players to perform on a surface that was unusual to public tennis courts in Washington. A small concrete road opened the main entrance to the park and about a quarter of a mile away was a small house that was used in the summertime to teach children how to make straw baskets and fashion lariats made out of a new substance called plastic. On one occasion children were shown how to build small wooden sailboats with double sails. Completed boats were then entered into a sailing contest at the Reflecting Pool adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial. Read More


Washington DC Gift Shop - Cherry Blossom Gifts
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