ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Travel and Places»
  • Visiting North America

Washington DC And Government

Updated on June 20, 2014

How Much Do We Know About Washington DC And Our Government?

What do you actually know about Washington DC, our Constitution, and our Government?

Washington DC is an interesting city with American History as far as the eye can see.

The District is located on the north bank of the Potomac River and is bordered by the states of Virginia and Maryland.

The architecture of Washington varies from the neoclassical, to Georgian, Gothic, Queen Anne, Romanesque, and Victorian to Modern Architecture.

Washington has a growing, diversified economy with an increasing percentage of professional, business service, and federal jobs.

The Smithsonian Institute is an educational foundation that maintains most of the nation's official museums and galleries in Washington, D.C. Its collections are open to the public free of charge. It really is a very interesting town to visit.

First, let us see how much you know.

type=text
type=text

United States Capitol Building

The United States Capitol is among the most symbolically important and architecturally impressive buildings in the nation. A symbol of democracy the world over and the seat of American government, Washington, D.C. confronts visitors with stirring icons and monuments at every turn. This sparkling self-styled city on the Potomac River is full of marble and light, with beautiful landscaping touches and centuries-old architecture. Built on top of former swampland, Washington was deliberately designed into quadrants, with the US Capitol at its hub. Its many unmissable sights provide unparalleled access to the workings of government, internationally famed museums with priceless exhibits, and the cultural and spiritual foundations of the city and the nation. It has housed the meeting chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate for two centuries. The Capitol, which was started in 1793, has been through many construction phases. It stands today as a monument to the American people and their government.

An example of 19th-century neoclassical architecture, the Capitol evokes the ideals that guided the Founding Fathers as they developed the new republic. Pierre Charles L'Enfant was expected to design the Capitol, but his dismissal in 1792 due to his refusal to cooperate with the Commissioners of the Federal Buildings, resulted in other plans. A competition was suggested by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and President George Washington that would award $500 and a city lot to whomever produced the winning plan by mid-July. None of the 17 plans submitted were satisfactory. In October, a letter arrived from Dr. William Thornton, a Scottish-trained physician living in the British West Indies, requesting an opportunity to submit his plan after the competition was closed. The Commissioners granted his request and President Washington commended the plan that was soon accepted by the Commissioners.

The cornerstone was laid by President Washington on September 18, 1793. Because of Thornton's inexperience, the initial work progressed under the direction of three architects in succession. Stephen H. Hallet and George Hadfield were dismissed because of inappropriate design changes they tried to impose; James Hoban, winner of the competition for the President's House, was placed in charge and saw to the completion of the north wing for the first session of Congress on November 17, 1800. In 1803, construction resumed under Benjamin Henry Latrobe who completed the south and north wings. By 1813, Latrobe, with his job done, departed with the wings connected by a temporary wooden passageway.

On August 24, 1814, British troops set fire to the building during the War of 1812. A rainstorm prevented its complete destruction and Latrobe returned to Washington in 1815 to make repairs. He took this opportunity to make changes to the building's interior design and to introduce new materials, such as marble. Latrobe, however, resigned his post in November of 1817 because of construction delays and increasing costs. Charles Bulfinch, a Boston architect, was appointed Latrobe's successor in January of 1818. Continuing the restoration, he was able to make the chambers of the Senate and House, as well as the Supreme Court, ready for use by 1819. Bulfinch redesigned the central section, making the dome that topped the section higher. Bulfinch spent his last couple of years on the Capitol's landscaping and decoration until his position was terminated in 1829.

By 1850, the Capitol could no longer accommodate the increasing numbers of senators and representatives. Another competition was held offering $500 for the best plan to extend the Capitol. Unable to decide between the plans, Congress divided the money between five architects and Thomas U. Walter was chosen to complete the task. Walter supervised the construction of the extensions, making sure they were compatible with the existing style of the building, but using marble for the exterior instead of sandstone, which deteriorates quickly. As the wings progressed, they more than doubled the length of the Capitol making the dome too small for the new proportions. In 1856, the old dome was removed and work began on a replacement with a new, fireproof cast-iron dome. Construction was suspended in 1861 so that the Capitol could be used as a military barracks, hospital and bakery for the Civil War. However, in 1862, construction resumed, because Lincoln believed that the Capitol must go on, just as the Union must go on.

The work on the dome and extensions was completed in 1868 under Edward Clark, who had served as Walter's assistant until his resignation in 1865. Clark held the post of Architect of the Capitol until his death in 1902. Considerable modernization occurred during his tenure, as well as the construction of the marble terraces on the north, west, and south sides of the Capitol. The terraces were constructed as part of the grounds plan devised by landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. After a fire in November 1898, the need for fireproofing became evident. Elliot Woods, Clark's successor, saw to the reconstruction and fireproofing of the damaged wing.

The 20th century has seen even further changes for the Capitol. Under the direction of J. George Stewart, the appointed Architect of the Capitol, the East front extension added 102 more rooms from 1959 to 1960. The stonework was also changed from sandstone to Georgia marble during the process. After a public protest at further plans to expand in the 1970s, the plans were dismissed and the vote went to restore, rather than enlarge, the West Front. Since then, primary emphasis has been on strengthening, renovating and preserving the building.

Today, the Capitol covers a ground area of 175,170 square feet and has a floor area of about 16.5 acres. In addition to its use by Congress, the Capitol is a museum of American art and history. It stands as a focal point of the government's legislative branch and as a centerpiece of Capitol Hill and the National Mall.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln
Lincoln

Lincoln Memorial is the house of the 19-foo-high marble statue of the seated Lincoln which was designed by Henry Bacon and created by Daniel Chester French, is located inside the Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial stands at the west end of the National Mall as a neoclassical monument to the 16th President. The memorial was designed after ancient Greek temples, stands 190 feet long, 119 feet wide, and almost 100 feet high. It is surrounded by a peristyle of 38 fluted Doric columns, one for each of the thirty six states in the Union at the time of Lincoln's death, and two columns in-antis at the entrance behind the colonnade.

The north and south side chambers contain carved inscriptions of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address. Lying between the north and south chambers is the central hall containing the solitary figure of Lincoln sitting in contemplation.

The statue was carved in four years by the Piccirilli brothers under the supervision of the sculptor, French. The statue of Lincoln is 19 feet high and weighs 175 tons. The original plan was for the statue to be only ten feet high, but this was changed so that the figure of Lincoln would not be dwarfed by the size of the chamber.

A commission to plan a monument was first proposed in 1867, shortly after Lincoln's death. The design for that plan called for six equestrian and 31 pedestrian statues of colossal size, with a 12-foot statue of Lincoln in the center. That project was never started for lack of funds. Congress approved the bill to construct this memorial in 1910. Construction began in 1914, and the memorial was opened to the public in 1922. The Memorial is visited by millions of visitors each year and is the site of many large public gatherings.

Damaged over the years by heavy visitation and environmental factors, the Lincoln Memorial is currently undergoing a major restoration.

The words above the Lincoln statue

In this temple

as in the hearts of the people

for whom he saved the Union

the memory of Abraham Lincoln

is enshrined forever

type=text
type=text

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument was built between 1848 and 1884 as a tribute to George Washington's military leadership from 1775-1783 during the American Revolution. Its construction took place in two major phases, 1848-56, and 1876-84. A lack of funds, political turmoil, and uncertainty about the survival of the American Union caused the intermittent hiatus.

Plans for a national monument began as early as 1783 when Congress proposed that an equestrian statue of George Washington be erected. Although the Monument was authorized by Congress, little action was taken, even after Major Peter Charles L'Enfant selected its site in his 1791 Federal City plan. Washington's 1799 death rekindled public aspiration for an appropriate tribute to him, and John Marshall proposed that a special sepulcher be erected for the General within the Capitol itself. Lack of funds postponed construction, but Marshall persevered, and in 1833, he, James Madison, and others formed the Washington National Monument Society. By 1836, the society advertised for competitive architectural designs. The winning architect was Robert Mills, whose design called for a neoclassical plan which provided for a nearly-flat-topped obelisk surrounded by a circular colonnade on which would stand a statue of Washington in a chariot. Inside the colonnade, statues of thirty prominent Revolutionary War heroes would be displayed.

In an elaborate Fourth of July ceremony in 1848, the cornerstone was laid. Lack of funds and the illegal election which placed the Washington National Monument Society in the hands of the Know-Nothings, a political party, caused delay. Although the Know-Nothings returned all records to the original society in 1858, the latter could accomplish little without funding. The outbreak of Civil War of 1861 exacerbated the society's difficulties with fund-raising efforts. When Lt.Col.Thomas L.Casey, Mills' successor, resumed work on the project in 1876, he heavily altered the original design for the monument so that it resembled an unadorned Egyptian obelisk with a pointed pyramidion. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of the War Department was charged with completing the construction, and the monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885, and officially opened to the public on October 9, 1888.

Weighing 81,120 tons, the Washington Monument stands 555' 5-1/8" tall. The walls of the monument range in thickness from 15' at the base to 18'' at the upper shaft. They are composed primarily of white marble blocks from Maryland with a few from Massachusetts, underlain by Maryland blue gneiss and Maine granite. A slight color change is perceptible at the 150' level near where construction slowed in 1854. Inserted into the interior walls are 193 memorial stones presented by individuals, societies, cities, States, and nations of the world. Attached to in independent iron framework, flights of 896 steps surround an elevator which takes visitors to the observation level, where they can gaze over the city from the monument's pyramidion windows.

In 1996, the Washington Monument Restoration Project was kicked off with Target Stores joining the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to help restore this national treasure. Guaranteeing $1 million, Target served as the lead sponsor working with the foundation to raise awareness and an additional $4 million in donations from corporate partners. The restoration included constructing scaffolding for the entire 555-foot, 5 1/8-inch monument; sealing 500 feet of exterior and interior stone cracks; pointing 64,000 linear feet of exterior joints; cleaning 59,000 square feet of interior wall surface; sealing eight observation windows and eight aircraft warning lights; repairing 1,000 square feet of chipped and patched stone; pointing 3,900 linear feet of interior joints; and preserving and restoring 1932 interior commemorative stones. The project was completed in 2000.

Washington National Cathedral

National Cathedral
National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral is probably the last great church built using the techniques of the Gothic style of architecture. The triumph of the Gothic style was its ability to evoke the splendors of God's kingdom to the medieval worship.

The National Cathedral, completed in 1990, is the culmination of a two-century-long plan for a majestic Gothic style cathedral. This richly decorated cathedral is located on a landscaped 57 acre plot of land on Mount Saint Albans in Northwest Washington, 400 feet above sea level. The cathedral consists of a long narrow rectangular mass, the eight bay nave and the five bay chancel, intersected by a six bay transept. Above the crossing, rising just over 300 feet above grade, is the Gloria in Excelsis Tower.

The Cathedral is the sixth largest in the world, second largest in the United States. The top of the tower is the highest point in DC. The one story porch projecting from the south transept has a large portal with a carved tympanum. This portal is approached by the Pilgrim Steps, a long flight of steps 40 feet wide.

Engineered and constructed as the medieval churches, the primary building material is gray Indiana limestone, or quarried stone, and some concrete. There are no steel reinforcements in any part of the building.

The building abounds in architectural sculpture, wood carving, leaded glass, mosaics, artistic metal work, and many other works of art, including over 200 stained glass windows. Most of the decorative elements have Christian symbolism or are memorials to famous persons or events.

On January 4, 1792, descriptions from President Washington's disclosed plan for the "City of Washington, in the district of Columbia" were published in The Gazette of the United States, Philadelphia. Lot "D" was set aside and designated for "A church intended for national purposes." However, the National Portrait Gallery now occupies that site.

A century later, in 1891, a meeting was held to revive plans to build the church intended for national purposes. It was to be a Christian cathedral.

In 1893, the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation of the District of Columbia was granted a charter from Congress to establish the cathedral and the site on Mount Saint Albans was chosen. The building of the cathedral finally started in 1907 with a ceremonial address by President Theodore Roosevelt.

When construction of the cathedral resumed after a brief hiatus for World War I, both Bodley and Vaughan, the original architects, had passed away. American architect, Philip Hubert Frohman, took over the design of the cathedral and is known as the principal architect.

The Cathedral has been the location of many significant events, including the funeral services of Woodrow Wilson and Dwight Eisenhower. Its pulpit was the last one from which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke prior to his assassination. The Cathedral is the burial place of many notable people, including Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, Admiral George Dewey, and Bishop Satterlee, as are the original architects, Henry Vaughan and Philip Frohman.

The Cathedral is over a tenth of a mile long from the eastern apse to the west facade.

Basilica Of The National Shrine Of The Immaculate Conception

Imaculata Conception
Imaculata Conception

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America, and is one of the ten largest churches in the world.

Fulfilling its mission, the Basilica is a place of worship, pilgrimage, evangelization and reconciliation.

Designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a National Sanctuary of Prayer and Pilgrimage, the Basilica is the nation's preeminent Marian shrine, dedicated to the patroness of the United States-the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. It is oftentimes affectionately referred to as America's Catholic Church.

Visited by Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, and Mother Teresa, among others, the Basilica, though distinctly American, rivals the great sanctuaries of Europe and the world.

Byzantine-Romanesque in style, its massive, one-of-a-kind superstructure is home to over 70 chapels and oratories that relate to the peoples, cultures and traditions that are the fabric of the Catholic faith and the mosaic of our great nation. The Basilica also houses the largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art on earth.

Open 365 days a year, the Basilica is host to nearly one million visitors annually, attracting pilgrims and tourists alike from across the country and around the world.

The Basilica offers six Masses and five hours of Confessions daily. In addition, Special Masses, Devotions, Pilgrimages and Concerts are held regularly throughout the year, and on Holy Days and Holidays.

Inside of Immaculate Conception

Video Washington National Cathedral - Choir: "Ride On"

type=text
type=text

White House

For more than 200 years, the White House has been more than just the home of the Presidents and their families. Throughout the world, it is recognized as the symbol of the United States, the President, of the President's administration, and the American people.

Its history, and the history of the nation's capital, began when President George Washington signed an Act of Congress in December of 1790 declaring that the federal government would reside in a district "not exceeding ten miles square…on the river Potomac." President Washington, together with city planner Pierre L'Enfant, chose the site for the new residence, which is now 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As preparations began for the new federal city, a competition was held to find a builder of the "President's House." Nine proposals were submitted, and Irish-born architect James Hoban won a gold medal for his practical and handsome design.

Construction began when the first cornerstone was laid in October of 1792. Although President Washington oversaw the construction of the house, he never lived in it. It was not until 1800, when the White House was nearly completed, that its first residents, President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved in. Since that time, each President has made his own changes and additions. The White House is, after all, the President's private home. It is also the only private residence of a head of state that is open to the public, free of charge.

The White House has a unique and fascinating history. It survived a fire at the hands of the British in 1814 (during the war of 1812) and another fire in the West Wing in 1929, while Herbert Hoover was President. Throughout much of Harry S. Truman's presidency, the interior of the house, with the exception of the third floor, was completely gutted and renovated while the Trumans lived at Blair House, right across Pennsylvania Avenue. Nonetheless, the exterior stone walls are those first put in place when the White House was constructed two centuries ago.

Presidents can express their individual style in how they decorate some parts of the house and in how they receive the public during their stay. Thomas Jefferson held the first Inaugural open house in 1805. Many of those who attended the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol simply followed him home, where he greeted them in the Blue Room. President Jefferson also opened the house for public tours, and it has remained open, except during wartime, ever since. In addition, he welcomed visitors to annual receptions on New Year's Day and on the Fourth of July. In 1829, a horde of 20,000 Inaugural callers forced President Andrew Jackson to flee to the safety of a hotel while, on the lawn, aides filled washtubs with orange juice and whiskey to lure the mob out of the mud-tracked White House.

After Abraham Lincoln's presidency, Inaugural crowds became far too large for the White House to accommodate them comfortably. However, not until Grover Cleveland's first presidency did this unsafe practice change. He held a presidential review of the troops from a flag-draped grandstand built in front of the White House. This procession evolved into the official Inaugural parade we know today. Receptions on New Year's Day and the Fourth of July continued to be held until the early 1930s.

POINTS OF INTEREST:

There are 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the Residence. There are also 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators.

At various times in history, the White House has been known as the "President's Palace," the "President's House," and the "Executive Mansion." President Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name in 1901.

Presidential Firsts while in office... President James Polk (1845-49) was the first President to have his photograph taken... President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) was not only the first President to ride in an automobile, but also the first President to travel outside the country when he visited Panama... President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-45) was the first President to ride in an airplane.

With five full-time chefs, the White House kitchen is able to serve dinner to as many as 140 guests and hors d'oeuvres to more than 1,000.

The White House requires 570 gallons of paint to cover its outside surface.

For recreation, the White House has a variety of facilities available to its residents, including a tennis court, jogging track, swimming pool, movie theater, and bowling lane.

The Constitution For The United States Of America

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America..."

Would you like to read the rest? You can find it here:

The Constitution For The United States Of America

type=text
type=text

Time To Ponder

We know our country's past greatness. We have heard the stories of those who have given their all, and sometimes their lives, to uphold that greatness. We have studied the Constitution and the laws of the land in school as children. We have spent our lives reaping the benefits of life as an American.

Now, what of this do we want to leave for our grandchildren? As a country, our values, our morals and our patriotism is failing rapidly. If we, as a people, don't step up to the plate soon, all that we know and have taken for granted during our lifetime, will only be stories for our great grandchildren to read about in their History books.

Do you value America? It is time to do some heavy soul searching, pray daily, and get out and vote when next we elect a leader for this country, whose land on which we have been so very fortunate to live. So many before us loved this land so much that they would have given their all, and did, to prove their love for their country and all it represents.

Do you have what it takes to follow their example? Do you truly love your country? Would you give as those have given before you?

Would you consider America still existing under the grace of God? Without His grace, America doesn't have a chance. And with every decision made in this country today, we fall farther and farther away from His graces.

So, it is up to you and me...what are YOU going to do? You and I CAN make a difference...one step at a time.

type=text
type=text

"We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for,

protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend

our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was

once like in the United States where men were free." Ronald Reagan

What did you like the most?

Did you visit Washington DC?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Momtothezoo profile image
      Author

      Eugenia S. Hunt 6 years ago

      @Michey LM: Thanks, Michey...glad you like it!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      Hi! Jeanie, the final form of lens created by you looks better then the beginning version.

      So great job!

      Regards

      Michey

    • Momtothezoo profile image
      Author

      Eugenia S. Hunt 6 years ago

      @OhMe: Thanks, Nancy...I'm glad you enjoyed this lens. Michey sent it to me back in November as a gift with some photos and the quiz. I just hadn't had time to work on it until today.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I have been to D.C. twice in my life and thoroughly enjoyed both visits. Our son and d.i.l live there now so I hope to make more trips in the future. Washington DC is a great family trip and so very educational. I love this lens and so glad that you and Michey put it together. It makes me proud to be an American!

    • Momtothezoo profile image
      Author

      Eugenia S. Hunt 6 years ago

      Thank you, Michey...the photos are beautiful and there are many avenues where this lens can lead me. I actually did better on the quiz than I expected as well! :)