History – Following the American Revolutionary
War, the U.S. Congress undertook a search for a location
for what was to become the permanent seat of the new
government. President George Washington selected a
site along the Potomac River. Once the land was acquired,
Pierre Charles L’Enfant was chosen to design
the city. L’Enfant envisioned a city in the
style of a European capital complete with monuments,
grandiose buildings and wide boulevards.
This city-to-be was named both the “Territory
of Columbia” (to honour Christopher Columbus)
and the “City of Washington”
(to honour George Washington). Unfortunately the capital
went unfinished. Rather than the majestic city that
was designed, Washington arose in a haphazard manner.
In 1793 construction finally began on both the President’s
Home and the U.S. Capitol. However it wasn’t
until 1800 that the President’s Home was occupied
by John Adams. The U.S. Capitol was barely finished
when in 1814, British troops torched the brand new
U.S. Capitol. Though the U.S. Capitol
was rebuilt, the burning of the building caused an
emotional slump that took the city years to recover.
Ironically it was the Civil War which forced the
prominence of Washington. Due to its strategic location
in the south and along the Potomac River, the Civil
War brought hospitals, bivouacs and the armies of
both the North and the South to it. President Lincoln
refused to halt the reconstruction of the U.S.
Capitol’s Dome during the war and after
Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theater,
the city changed into a symbol of the federalism which
united the country.
The monuments, museums and parks, which define the
city, were not added until the early 20th century.
Subsequent to the beautification plan, the construction
of the Kennedy Center heralded a movement to establish
Washington as a culture centre rivalling the great
capitals of the world.
The city has both benefited and paid the price of
being the nation’s capital. Its political power
draws tourists from every corner of the earth annually.
However its chronic mismanagement has also led to
poverty, crime and violence for its inhabitants. On
September 11, 2001 terrorists hijacked an airplane
and flew it into the Pentagon causing
significant damage and killing all the passengers
on board as well as a number of personnel at the Pentagon.
It was also later discovered that terrorists had hijacked
another plane destined for Washington D.C..
However this plane crashed in Pennsylvania without
ever reaching its destination. The same day two planes
crashed into the World Trade Centers in New York City
killing over 2500 people. This was the worst terrorist
attack on U.S. soil.
Despite its problems the city has remained resilient
and has built itself back from the terrorist attacks
of 2001 and continues to address the problems of the
1990’s. As a testament to its successes, tourists
are flooding back to Washington to
take advantage of all of its wonders.