The history of our nation’s capital is as complicated as the birthing of our nation itself.
Until the late 1700’s American colonists were subjects of the British Crown. As British rule became more and more oppressive the colonists sent representatives to Philadelphia to participate in the First Continental Congress in 1774, and a Second Continental Congress in 1775 to determine a course of action.
When King George III refused to address our grievances the Continental Congress formed the Continental Army and elected George Washington as Commander in Chief. In 1776 Congress approved our Declaration of Independence, which was sent to King George III.
For five years the American colonists fought against the British for freedom. Our forces began as a rag tag group of untrained, under-supplied recruits. Under the guidance of General Washington our armed forces became an effective fighting machine that won our freedom against the most powerful empire in the world.
The decisive victory was won at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. The colonist’s most supportive ally was France, without whom they could not have overcome the might of the British forces.
King George III signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783 recognizing the colonies as an independent nation.
When the Continental Convention met in 1787 to draft the Constitution of the United States of America, it was General Washington who presided over the event. In 1789 he was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States of America.
In 1790 congress decided to build a new city as the nation’s capital, and it authorized President Washington to choose the location. He selected an area of farmland on the banks of the Potomac River. The area was centrally located between the 13 states and not far from the bustling ports of Alexandria and Georgetown. It was designated as a “federal” district to keep it politically separated from the other states. The “District of Columbia” was named after none other than Christopher Columbus. The city itself was named after President Washington.
For ten years the government of the newly formed United States of America met in New York and Philadelphia while Pierre L’Enfant, a French architect and engineer, moved forward with the building of our nation’s capital. In 1800 the government officially moved to Washington D.C. but even then both the Capital and the White House were incomplete.
For 50 years Washington D.C. remained small and relatively unchanged. Then the nation was consumed with the bloodbath of the Civil War, beginning in 1861 and ending in 1865.
After the Civil War the capital began to grow, with houses developing both north and east of the central areas. By the 1870’s there were paved streets, utilities, and even horse-drawn public transportation.
Washington D.C. has continued to evolve and is now one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It offers an abundance of green space, broad avenues lined with trees, and spacious parks decorated with statues and fountains, sophisticated dining and entertainment venues, as well as world class museums.
The Joy of Travel can arrange your independent travel to this beautiful city, or we offer a nice variety of escorted tours that include not only our nation’s capital, but other historically significant sites in the surrounding areas, as well.
I hope you’ll add Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas to your bucket list. Celebrating our nation, and the places and events that made it what it is today, is a great way to spend your next vacation.