The New International Encyclopædia/Washington (District of Columbia)
WASHINGTON. The capital city of the United States; conterminous with the District of Columbia (q.v.), a territory of 60 square miles (excluding 9.25 square miles of water), under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress. It is situated on the northeastern shore of the Potomac River, about 100 miles from its mouth. and 40 miles by rail southwest of Baltimore, 228 miles from New York, 3118 from San Francisco, and 1110 from New Orleans; latitude (Capitol) 38° 53′ N., longitude 77° W. (Map: District of Columbia, C 7).
Description. The situation of the city is noted for its picturesque beauty. The Potomac stretches out nearly a mile in width along its border, having here finally reached tide-water and the head of navigation. Rock Creek and the Anacostia or Eastern Branch here enter the river, which is spanned by three bridges. Along the Potomac the land is low, but it gradually rises, reaching an elevation of 100 feet, and much more in the suburban portion of the city. A circle of hills forms the edge of a plateau which has in some parts an elevation of 300 to 400 feet. Formerly the section of the District bounded approximately by Rock Creek, the Potomac River, the Eastern Branch, and Florida Avenue was the city of Washington, but now there are no civil distinctions throughout the entire District. Georgetown, built partly on the heights of the Potomac River, west of Rock Creek, was a municipality before the site of the Federal City was selected, and is sometimes designated as West Washington. Anacostia, Brightwood, and other names given to the settlements in the District away from the main centre of population are still in use, but have no civil significance. The steam railroads enter the city from three different points and centre in two depots, one north and the other west of the Capitol building. In the year 1903 Congress authorized the building of a union station, which is to cost $4,000,000. Underground electricity is exclusively used as the motive power in all street railroads within the former municipal limits, and the overhead trolley outside those limits. The facilities of cheap and rapid transit communication with the outlying territory are abundant, some of the lines extending as far as twenty miles from the main portion of the city.
The plan of the city, which was made in 1791 by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French engineer who served in the Revolutionary War, was approved by General Washington, and is generally conceded to be the most complete as well as the most artistic city system ever carried out. As far as the topography of the country outside of the former urban limits and the existing improvements made it possible, this plan has been applied to the entire District. Within the old city limits the alphabetical streets run east and west and the numbered streets north and south, the whole being intersected by twenty-one avenues named from different States in the Union. The avenues converge at centres such as the Capitol and the President's house, so that these broad thoroughfares aid materially in giving that variety which is the unique feature of the city's plan.
The streets on the whole are the widest of any city in the world, as they range from 80 to 160 feet. They are paved with asphalt almost exclusively, and the sidewalks are commonly of cement. More than 84,000 trees line the streets. Massachusetts Avenue is adorned with a quadruple row its entire length of four miles and a half. The broad transverse avenues form at the intersections with the rectangular streets squares and circles and reservations which number 302 and comprise 407 acres. The most important of these reservations is the series beginning with the Capitol grounds, extending westward through the Mall (including the Botanical Gardens) to the Washington Monument grounds, and thence northward to the grounds of the President's house, including also Lafayette Park, opposite the President's house. The Mall, as the park extending from the Capitol to the Potomac is known, is adorned with fine trees. Numerous drives and walks furnish the opportunity of enjoying the unusual experience of rural surroundings in the heart of a great city, since Pennsylvania Avenue, the broad thoroughfare extending from the Capitol grounds to the vicinity of the President's house, lies a square or two north of this park of 230 acres.
The number and general distribution of the parks and the profusion of trees give to the city, when seen from an elevation, the appearance of a great park with buildings showing through the masses of foliage, or thrusting their tall forms of brick and stone above it. The tendency toward centralization in modern business has led to the erection of a number of lofty buildings for commercial purposes. The building regulations restrict buildings on residential streets to a maximum height of 80 feet, and in business sections to 110-130 feet, according to the width of the thoroughfare on which they front.
The principal business thoroughfares are F Street West, Seventh Street West, and Pennsylvania Avenue. There is a great diversity in the character of the domestic architecture, a circumstance which not only adds to the attractiveness of the city, but serves to give it individuality. Some of the fine residence streets are K Street North, Sixteenth Street West, Massachusetts Avenue, and Connecticut Avenue. The tendency in the growth of the city is toward the northwest.
Buildings. A conspicuous object is the great dome of the Capitol, 288 feet high, the central feature of a structure which stretches along the brow of a hill for 751 feet. Its width is 350 feet. The main structure is of sandstone painted white, while the two wings occupied by the Senate and the House of Representatives are built of white marble. As a whole the building, with its porticoes and lobby dome (of iron), ranks as one of the most impressive and beautiful examples of architecture in the world. In general, the style is classic, with Corinthian details. Beneath the dome is the Rotunda, 96 feet in diameter and 180 feet high, adorned with historical paintings. What is now known as Statuary Hall was formerly the chamber of the House of Representatives, and the court room of the Supreme Court was once the Senate chamber. Since 1897, when the building for the Library of Congress, just east of the Capitol, was completed at a cost of over $6,000,000, the books of the great national collection have been housed in the new structure, instead of in the inadequate quarters in the west front of the middle section of the Capitol building. The Library building is an elaborate specimen of Italian Renaissance, and its ornamentation both inside and outside is more profuse than in any other structure which has been erected at public expense. A tunnel connects the Library and Capitol buildings. See Library of Congress, with Plate.
About a mile and a half northwest of the Capitol is the President's house, or White House (q.v.). Owing to the unfortunate location of the granite structure occupied by the Treasury Department, the view from the Capitol down the broad expanse of Pennsylvania Avenue is interrupted by the southern portico of the Treasury building, instead of ending with the White House and its garden. Flanking the White House on the east is the Treasury Department building, with its vast colonnade, and on the left, the massive granite structure occupied by the State, War, and Navy departments. About midway between the White House and the Capitol are two marble buildings situated on opposite sides of F Street. One of these, an imposing specimen of the Doric, is the home of the Interior Department. The Patent Office is here, and in the building across the street are the Indian and Land offices. Still farther to the east along F Street is a great structure of brick, where the clerks of the Pension Office do their work. The building consists of a tier of offices, three stories high, surrounding a court protected by a roof of glass and iron. A feature of the exterior is the terra cotta frieze, depicting scenes from army life during the Civil War.
The only type of modern ‘skyscraper’ building for office purposes erected by the Government, in Washington is the nine-story granite structure occupying an entire square on Pennsylvania Avenue, between Eleventh and Twelfth streets. It is the home of the Post Office Department, with offices on the first floor for the city post office. Directly north of the Capitol is another lofty structure which forms a part of the plant of the Government Printing Office, the largest concern of its kind in the world. Another great workshop of the Government is the ordnance factory, which occupies the old Navy Yard site to the southeast of the Capitol. The great guns are forged elsewhere, but in this shop, which employs hundreds of men, they are finished. Another workshop of interest is that in which the paper money and the postage stamps of the Government are made. This is known as the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and is situated in a large brick structure on the south side of the Mall and at the west end of the line of structures occupied by Government institutions. Its neighbor on the east is the building of the Agricultural Department. Plans were being prepared in 1903 for a building of marble to cost $3,500,000, to take the place of the present structure, which is of brick. Farther to the east rise the Norman towers of the Smithsonian Institution, and near by is the low-lying but extensive building occupied by the National Museum. Even with the large floor space provided, there is not sufficient room, and Congress has authorized the expenditure of more than $3,000,000 in the construction of a building on the south side of the Smithsonian grounds west of Seventh Street. Not far from the National Museum is the Army Medical Museum of the Surgeon-General's Office, U. S. A., which has come to have a wide reputation as the home of the largest medical library in the world. Still farther to the east is the home of the United States Fish Commission.
As the dome of the Capitol building closes in the vista of the Mall to the east, so at the extreme west rises the impressive marble obelisk erected to the memory of the first President of the United States. It was begun in 1848 and completed in 1884. (See Washington Monument.) On the heights north of Georgetown and near the line of Massachusetts Avenue is an extended group of white marble buildings where the work of the Naval Observatory is carried on. Still to the north and east is the site selected for the buildings that are being erected for the use of the Bureau of Standards. To the east is the United States Soldiers' Home in a beautiful park of 502 acres. On the opposite side of the Potomac, on the Virginia shore, is Arlington (q.v.), with a famous national cemetery. Adjoining these ample grounds is the reservation of Fort Myer, a cavalry post of the United States Army. Overlooking the city from the north side of the Anacostia are the towers of the Government Hospital for the Insane. On the point of land separating the Anacostia and the Potomac rivers are the Washington Barracks, now an artillery post and designated as the site of the War College. Near the old Navy Yard are the barracks of the Marine Guard, where is also the home of the famous Marine Band.
Parks. With the exception of the Mall, the plan of the city made no provision for extensive park space. There are, however, many open places scattered throughout the city, some of which are of sufficient size to warrant their being placed in the category of small parks. Their combined area is 617 acres. While this system of little parks is to remain a feature of the urban plan as applied to the territory beyond the original city limits, yet large areas have been and are to be reserved. The latest addition is Potomac Park, a domain of 739 acres, which has been reclaimed from the Potomac River. It is practically a continuation of the Mall and will afford water drives and other attractive features. The ponds used by the Fish Commission border this new reserve, and the water attractions are increased by a large tidal reservoir basin connected with the main channel of the Potomac. Another fine public reservation is the stretch of territory comprising the Zoölogical and Rock Creek parks, and containing 1775 acres. The land lies on either side of Rock Creek from Connecticut Avenue north to the District bounds, and is broken and picturesque. When the reclamation of the Anacostia Flats is completed another large addition will be made to the park area.
The statues throughout the city are numerous and, on the whole, meritorious. Many are effigies in bronze of distinguished soldiers and sailors. The latest addition is the statue of Rochambeau in Lafayette Park, which flanks the one erected on the east side of the same park in memory of Lafayette and his compatriots in the Revolutionary War. Abraham Lincoln is commemorated by a bronze group erected in Lincoln Park by the colored people. There are also memorials to those who have won distinction along paths other than military, as, for example, statues of Joseph Henry, Daniel Webster, Benjamin Franklin, Sanuiel D. Gross, Martin Luther, Samuel Hahnemann, John Marshall, and James A. Garfield.
Educational Institutions. The public school system has the patronage of all classes of the community, and a smaller percentage of children attend private institutions than in the average city. The system includes all the approved modern features, from the technical high school to kindergarten, night schools, and vacation schools. In 1902 there were 48,432 pupils enrolled, and the number of teachers was 1323. The school buildings numbered 124. The higher educational institutions are the Columbian University (q.v.), the Catholic University of America (q.v.), Georgetown University (q.v.), Howard University (q.v.), the Carnegie Institution (q.v.), and the Columbian Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. Law, medical, and dental schools are maintained in connection with the Columbian, Georgetown, National, and Howard universities. There are also a law school under the auspices of the Catholic University, and the Washington College of Law, primarily for women. In addition to the National College of Pharmacy, there is a pharmaceutical school in connection with Howard University. There is also a college of veterinary surgery. The American University, established by the Methodists, has extensive grounds near the city and one building has been erected, but the university has not yet been opened. Near the Catholic University are several affiliated colleges established by various orders for the education of their members. These include Saint Thomas College (Congregation of Saint Paul), the Marist Coliege, Holy Cross College, College of the Holy Land (Franciscans), Saint Austin's College (Society of Saint Sulpice), Trinity College for girls, and colleges conducted by the Dominicans and the Paulists. Housed in a splendid building on Seventeenth Street are the treasures of the Corcoran Gallery of Arts. An art school carried on in connection with the gallery has large classes in attendance.
Libraries. Washington contains a greater number of collections of books than any other city of its size in the world. There are no less than thirty-four libraries owned by the Government, besides the Public Library and those in educational institutions and in private hands. The aggregate number of books and pamphlets in these libraries is estimated to be more than 2,000,000. The Library of Congress, with 1,100,000 books and pamphlets, is one of the great general collections of the world. The various scientific bureaus of the Government have valuable special collections. Among these may be mentioned the great medical library of the Surgeon-General's Office, and the collections belonging to the Geological Survey, the Patent Office, the Smithsonian Institution, the Agricultural Department, the Bureau of Labor, the Weather Bureau, the Bureau of Education, the Naval Observatory, and the War, State, and Navy Departments. The Public Library is a free circulating library. It occupies a spacious marble structure on Mount Vernon Square, given by Andrew Carnegie. The library is controlled by a board of trustees, appointed by the District Commissioners. The Bar Association has a valuable library in the Court House, and there are also collections of books in the various educational institutions.
Charitable Institutions. The city is well supplied with hospitals, some of the leading ones being: Garfield, Providence, Freedmen's, Homœopathic, Emergency, Columbia Hospital for Women, Government Hospital for the Insane, Children's Hospital, and Columbian University Hospital. There are many dispensaries, asylums, homes, reformation and relief societies. Social settlement methods are not lacking. Organized charitable work on an extensive scale is carried on by the Associated Charities, which is supplied in large part with funds raised by the Citizens' Relief Committee. An incorporated company is engaged in erecting sanitary homes for the poor.
Theatres, Clubs, and Hotels. Some of the leading theatres are the Columbia, the National, and the Lafayette. The principal clubs are the Metropolitan, Cosmos, and Army and Navy, which are all in commodious homes. There is perhaps no city in the world where the flood of visitors is so continuous as at the national capital. It is probably true that more conventions and annual gatherings are held in Washington than in any other place. The facilities for the comfort and care of the stranger are extensive and thoroughly modern. Among the prominent hotels are the New Willard, Arlington, Shoreham, Raleigh, Metropolitan, Ebbitt, Riggs, Gordon, Cochran, Hamilton, and Grafton.
Manufactures. Washington is not a manufacturing city, but still a large sum of money is invested in manufacturing enterprises, and the value of the yearly output is considerable. The product is made up principally of articles for home consumption. In the census year 1900 the District had 2754 manufacturing establishments, with a total capital of $41,981,245. They employed 24,693 hands and paid in wages $14,643,714. The raw materials used were valued at $10,369,571. The product was valued at $47,667,622. Twenty per cent. of the total value of the manufacturing and mechanical industry of the District was the product of Government establishments.
Government. Since 1874 the government has been under the control of three commissioners appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The citizens have no direct voice in the appointments to office within the District, having no vote in District or national affairs.
Estimates of the money needed for municipal purposes are sent to Congress by the District Commissioners and an appropriation bill is framed, based on these estimates. In the year 1903 the total amount carried in the District bill was $9,354,287. The principal items were as follows: schools, $1,378,909; interest on debt and sinking fund provision, $925,408; improvements and repairs of streets, $791,000; sewers, $897,000; police, $800,325; fire department, $372,180. Half of the amount appropriated is paid by the United States and the other half is raised by taxation from the citizens of the District. This division of the municipal burden is based upon the large ownership by the United States of property in the District, which, of course, is untaxed and which is estimated, counting the streets, to be one-half of the entire area. All the expenditures of money thus appropriated, made under the direction of the Commissioners, must pass the scrutiny of the auditing officers of the Treasury Department, just as in the case of all Federal expenditures. With these safeguards about municipal disbursements and the practical elimination of local politics, the affairs of the District are managed with a degree of economy and efficiency that is believed to be without a parallel in the history of municipal government. The tax rate on both real and personal property is $1.50 per hundred. In the case of real estate it is upon the assessed valuation, which is not less than two-thirds the actual value. The funded debt of the District in 1902 was $14,198,330. The assessed value of real estate in 1903 was $208,519,436, and of personal property $22,249,935.
The water supply is brought from the Great Falls of the Potomac by means of an aqueduct 12 miles long. The water-works are owned by the Government. The fund from the water tax is kept separate from the general fund. A sand filtration plant is a new feature that is to be added to the system.
Population. In 1900 the population of the District was 278,718, of whom 191,532 were white and 86,702 were colored.
History. For a number of years after the Revolutionary War the country had no permanent capital, and there was great rivalry among the principal cities to secure the seat of government. At last, in 1790, partly as the result of a compromise and partly in deference to Washington's judgment, the Potomac country was chosen and Virginia and Maryland each offered to cede a tract to the General Government. By act of March 30, 1791, Washington was authorized to select the site and mark the boundaries, and this he did early in the year, the cornerstone of the Federal territory being laid on April 15th. On the spot chosen an Englishman named Francis Pope had settled in 1663 and had called the place Rome. Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French engineer who had served in the Continental Army, was chosen to lay out the town, and, though dismissed in March, 1792, he drew up a plan which was adopted by the commissioners in charge and in accordance with which Andrew Ellicott laid out the city. In September, 1791, the name Columbia was adopted for the District and the name Washington for the city. The District was originally ten miles square, but in 1846 the Virginia portion was retroceded, leaving a land area of 60 square miles. The land within the area of Washington laid out in lots was divided by agreement equally between the United States and the proprietors, except certain portions which were purchased by the Government. By the sale of land thus obtained a part of the money used in the erection of the public buildings was secured. In order to facilitate this division, the land-owners deeded their entire holdings to the Government, receiving from the latter title deeds. For this reason the land records within the original urban limits start from the Government's title to the whole acquired in 1791. During the first few years the large scale on which the plans were drawn was in such striking contrast to the actual size of the place that by travelers and others Washington was derisively called ‘The City of Magnificent Distances,’ ‘The City of Streets Without Houses,’ ‘The Wilderness City,’ and ‘The Capital of Miserable Huts.’ In 1800 the north section of the Capitol, the cornerstone of which had been laid in 1793, was finished, and Congress held its first session there in November, the archives having been transferred from Philadelphia somewhat earlier. A letter-writer in this year said: “The Capitol is on an eminence near the centre of the immense country called here the city. There is one good tavern and several other houses are finished or being built.” The city is now regarded as coextensive with the District, though there are some differences in taxation between the ‘urban’ and the ‘rural’ parts.
On August 24, 1814, an English force of about 5000 men under General Ross and Admiral Cockburn defeated an American militia force of about 7000 at Bladensburg (q.v.), and, advancing to Washington, set fire to the Capitol, the President's house, and other public buildings, all of which, however, were replaced within the next few years.
During the Civil War Washington was repeatedly threatened by Confederate armies, notably in July, 1864, when General Early, after defeating Gen. Lew Wallace at Monocacy, only thirty miles away, advanced to within a few miles of the city. Early in 1861 work was begun on a system of fortifications which when finished consisted of “68 inclosed forts and batteries, having an aggregate perimeter of about 14 miles and emplacements of about 1120 guns; of 93 unarmed batteries, having 401 emplacements; and of 20 miles of infantry trenches.” These works have been since unoccupied with the exception of Fort Myer (q.v.) on Arlington Heights. Throughout the war Washington was a vast depot of military supplies; long trains of army wagons were almost constantly passing through its streets; immense hospitals for the sick and wounded were erected, and many churches, public institutions, and the Capitol itself, were at times given up to this service. During the period 1861-65, however, much work was done on the public buildings. On May 23 and 24, 1865, Washington was the scene of the greatest military display ever witnessed in America, when the Federal veterans of the war were reviewed by President Andrew Johnson.
With the year 1871 began what has been called the Renaissance of Washington. Under the lead of Alexander R. Shepherd, Governor of the District, vast improvements were effected throughout the city: pavements were constructed, a sewage system devised, shade trees set out, grades equalized, parks beautified, and a new system of water supply provided. In consequence of the expense entailed by this reconstruction of the city, which was carried out with great waste, arising in a great measure from corruption, the territorial debt increased from $3,000,000 in 1871 to $20,000,000 in 1875; and largely on this account Congress (1874) changed the government. Georgetown, which had been settled as early as 1695, had been laid out as a town in 1751, and had been incorporated in 1789, was annexed to Washington in 1878, its charter having been withdrawn in 1871.
Bibliography. Todd, The Story of Washington (New York, 1889); Varnum, The Seat of Government of the United States; A Review of the Discussions on the Site and Plans of the Federal City (Washington, 1854); Porter, The City of Washington (Baltimore, 1885); Crew, Centennial History of the City of Washington (Washington, 1892); Records of the Columbian Historical Society (ib., 1897); Mackall, Early Days of Washington (ib., 1897-1903); Bryan, Bibliography of the District of Columbia (ib., 1900); Wilson, Washington, the Capital City (Philadelphia, 1902); Cox, Celebration of the One Hundredth Anniversary of Washington, 1800-1900 (Washington, 1901).