Washington Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 10 › view all entries
Lady Columbia sits atop the Capitol Dome

Washington, D.C., is the capital city of the United States. The D.C. stands for the District of Columbia, although this is seldom used now and it is simply known as DC. When the Constitution was drafted to form the basis of govenment in the United States it provided a clause that a district of land (not to exceed 10 miles square) be selected as the seat of government. The first president of the United States, George Washington, selected the current site in 1791 and the states of Virginia and Maryland donated land for that purpose. Such land was once home to the Algonquin Indians when settlers arrived in what is now Jamestown, VA in 1607. The French architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant designed the city and construction began in 1792 and continued into the early 1800's.

Lady Columbia from a WWI promotional poster
 Washington D.C. became the nation's capital on June 11, 1800. Before this time, the nation had been governed from Philedelphia, Pennsylvania. So, the first president to actually live there was the 2nd president of the USA, John Adams, who moved there with his family in 1800.  

The seat of all three branches of the federal govenment (executive, judicial and legislative) are located here and it is the home of many national monuments and museums (arranged around a National Mall) as well as the embassies of many foreign nations (so-called Embassy Row). The city itself is laid out in a grid with streets running in a north-south and east-west direction with diagonal streets, which were later named after states and historical figures.

Lady Columbia from "Columbia Pictures"
North-south streets are designated by numbers, while east-west streets are designated by letters. Those east west streets surrounding and inside the National Mall are Independence Ave., Constitution Ave., Jefferson Dr. and Madison Dr. Some people have speculated that there is a hidden Freemason influence in the design and that there are symbols hidden within the grid, usually taken to be occult or pagan in nature. This speculation extends to some of the building designs as well. However, such a city laid out in such a grid fashion, by its nature, incorporates many geometric shapes which people can interpret in many ways, so such speculation is likely just an over active imagination.

Just as a side note, some might wonder where the name Columbia came from? Well, the female personification of the USA was not always the Statue of Liberty and it was only after WWI that Lady Liberty became the dominant symbol due to her use in military recruitment posters and war bond drives.

Capitol Building - 1992
Of course, Lady Libery had been a representation of freedom to many immigrants since the statue was unveiled in New York harbor in 1886, so this was a factor too. Before this time the dominant symbol was Lady Columbia (or sometimes called Miss Columbia), a mythical goddess-like figure that has its origins in the American Revolutionary War, and whose name is derived from a femminization of the explorer Christopher Columbus. She was usually portrayed as a youthful to middle aged woman draped in classical garments bearing the stars and stripes, with a cap of liberty, laurel wreath or even indian headdress. In fact, she was so closely identified with America that it became a poetic or literary way to refer to the nation - Columbia (Land of Columbus).
Lincoln Memorial - 1992
In fact, "Hail Columbia," was the USA's unofficial anthem until "The Star-Spangled Banner" became official in 1931, but is still used for the Vice President's entrance march. In a sense, perhaps the image of Columbia was a way of connecting with the classical past, yet forging a new identity as well. Anyway, there you have it and why the capital was called the District of Columbia.

Well, I thought a brief historical introduction was in order since this Blog is all about one place - Washington, DC. For my own experiences I visited there a few times in the 1990's, the first being in 1992, followed by another in 1996 and then again in 1998. During my 1992 visit I drove up there from Virginia (where I had moved to from New Hampshire in late 1990) for a day visit in my trusty 1973 Chevy Nova.

White House - 1992
That car and I logged over 200,000 miles together from 1986 to 2003, mostly up and down the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine, even Montreal in Canada. Anyway, I had never seen DC before so drove up for the day and had a looksee. No time for museums or such, just some driving around and snapping some photos, most of which I have lost. My 1996 trip was with a friend of mine, John, here in VA and we have been friends for over 20 years now to date. In 1998 I went with my then girlfriend, Leslie, and we visited some monuments and the Natural History Museum in addition to a meal in Alexandria outside of DC. I did not visit again until 2004, when I went with my then girlfriend, Regine, where we looked at some monuments and visited the Air and Space Museum and National Gallery of Art.
Washington Monument - 1992
I returned again in 2010 and 2011 as I had business at the Optical Society of America (OSA) Headquarters with an afternoon the day before and a morning afterward to fit in some sightseeing.

I think one day I'd like to go up for an extended stay in more than a day or two. It's not like its that far from where I live in Virginia and just four hours by train or a few hours by car. Washington DC is one of those places that you can always find something new to see or gain a different perspective on the familiar. One of the great places in the United States of America to visit and there is something there for everyone to enjoy. Anyway, there are a few images here from 1992 that I cropped up for presentation here and the rest of the Blog covers my 2004, 2010 and 2011 visits to the Nation's capital.

sansan says:
Thank you! Brian,The deserved feature blog! The history and famous people and stories and pictures are all very fascinating and attract to me...Appreciate and worship your erudition! scientist.
Posted on: Jan 17, 2013
Vikram says:
Congrats on today's featured blog. Yet to give it a read.
Posted on: Jan 15, 2013
spocklogic says:
Thanks, everyone! Hey, Ian, is that Gaelic or Tennents?
Posted on: Jan 15, 2013
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Lady Columbia sits atop the Capito…
Lady Columbia sits atop the Capit…
Lady Columbia from a WWI promotion…
Lady Columbia from a WWI promotio…
Lady Columbia from Columbia Pictu…
Lady Columbia from "Columbia Pict…
Capitol Building - 1992
Capitol Building - 1992
Lincoln Memorial - 1992
Lincoln Memorial - 1992
White House - 1992
White House - 1992
Washington Monument - 1992
Washington Monument - 1992
My 1973 Chevy Nova (leftmost car) …
My 1973 Chevy Nova (leftmost car)…
My 1973 Chevy Nova - 1999/2000 (wi…
My 1973 Chevy Nova - 1999/2000 (w…