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Washington, D.C., the District of Columbia, is commonly referred to as Washington, “the District”, or simply “DC,” is the Capitol of the United States. Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the Federal District, which included preexisting settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of George Washington, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capitol. The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are in the District, including the Congress, the President, and Supreme Court. Washington, DC hosts 176 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many international organizations, trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups and professional associations.


In 2012, the federal government accounted for about 29% of the jobs in Washington, D.C.  Many organizations such as independent contractors (both defense and civilian), non-profit organizations, lobbying firms, law firms, trade unions, industry trade groups, and professional associations have their headquarters in or near D.C. to be close to the federal government. According to statistics compiled in 2011, four of the Fortune 500 companies in the country were headquartered in the District.  Tourism is Washington’s second largest industry. Contributing an estimated $4.8 billion to the local economy by their visitors in 20112.  There are several industries growing in the District that are not directly related to government, those being in education, finance, public policy, and scientific research. Georgetown University, George Washington University, Washington Hospital Center, Children’s National Medical Center and Howard University are the top five non-government-related employers in the city.

Public Transportion in the Nation’s Capitol

Commuting to Washington DC is challenging and the region’s traffic problems are legendary. Residents of DC, Maryland and Virginia travel to work using a wide range of transportation options including driving, mass transit, carpooling, bicycling, and walking.  Driving offers the most flexibility, but is the most time consuming.  37% of Washington-area commuters take public transportation to work, the second-highest rate in the country.  Offering a wide variety of avenues to get to where you need to go, the the Metro, Metrobus, MARC Train and the Virginia Railway Express, you can create a route of your own.  An additional  6% D.C. commuters carpooled, 12% walked to work and 3% traveled by bicycle (in 2010).  The District has currently become involved in the Capital Bikeshare program. Dispersing over 2,500 bikes throughout the metropolitan area with more than 300 stations. An expansion is planned for the current 56 miles of bicycle lanes throughout the area.

The Washington Mall

Situated between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol, the National Mall is a large, open park, spanning 1.9 miles, in downtown Washington.The mall is often the location of presidential inaugurations, political protests, concerts and festivals. Close by, you will find the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Pier and at the east end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, you will find the National World War II Memorial,  the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in close proximity also. The Tidal Basin, with its rows of Japanese cherry blossom trees that were gifts from the nation of Japan, is on the south side of the mall. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, George Mason Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the District of Columbia War Memorial are around the Tidal Basin.  The National Mall receives approximately 24 million visitors each year.

The Growth of Washington DC’s Population with Expansion of the Federal Government

The outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 led to notable growth in the District’s population due to the expansion of the federal government. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act in 1862, which ended slavery in the District of Columbia and freed about 3,100 enslaved persons, nine months prior to the Emancipation Proclamation.By 1870, the District’s population had grown 75% from the previous census to nearly 132,000 residents. Increased federal spending as a result of the New Deal in the 1930s led to the construction of new government buildings, memorials, and museums in Washington.  World War II further increased government activity, adding to the number of federal employees in the capital and by 1950, the District’s population reached its peak of 802,178 residents.  Today, Washington, D.C., has an estimated population of 646,449, the 23rd most populous city in the United States. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city’s population to more than one million during the workweek. The Washington metropolitan area, of which the District is a part, has a population of 5.8 million, the seventh-largest metropolitan statistical area in the country.

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