Washington DC Facts
Washington DC Facts

32 Interesting Washington, D.C. Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 17, 2020
  • Hundreds of millions of years ago, an ocean covered Washington, DC. Fossils of ancient trilobites can still be found in the area.[4]
  • In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo gifted Japanese cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC, as a gesture of friendship. Today, over 1.5 million people attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival each year.[4]
  • In the spring of 1999, officials investigated reports that vandals had cut down four cherry trees and five white cedars in Washington, DC. The "vandals" turned out to be a pair of beavers.[4]
  • Darth Vader Fact
    Darth Vader is more than just a character in the Star Wars movies, he's also a beloved stone figure on the National Cathedral
  • The National Cathedral features several grotesques and gargoyles, including one of Darth Vader.[2]
  • Washington, DC, is home to two endangered species, the dwarf wedgemussel and the Hay's Spring amphipod.[4]
  • In 10,000 BCE, the first humans arrived in the area now known as Washington, DC.[4]
  • In 1608, John Smith, the leader of Jamestown, sailed up the Potomac River to what is now Washington, DC, and first encountered the Piscataway people. By the 1700s, most of the Piscataways were driven off their land, either by disease or by force.[4]
  • Residents of Washington, DC, could not vote in presidential elections until the 23rd Amendment was ratified in 1961.[4]
  • The Washington Monument is two different colors. Funding dried up halfway through the project, and when construction resumed, builders used different-colored stones from a quarry.[4]
  • The DC Metro is the second busiest subway system in the United States.[4]
  • There is an empty crypt underneath the Capitol building. George Washington was supposed to be buried there. He is actually buried in his family vault at Mount Vernon.[4]
  • An Irish architect named James Hoban designed the White House.[4]
  • In Washington, DC, politics dominate even the most casual conversations.

    - Armstrong Williams

  • The first school for black children in Washington, DC, opened in 1807. Three former slaves taught there.[4]
  • Both Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams kept pet alligators in the White House.[4]
  • George Washington never lived in the White House; it was built after he died. John Adams was the first president to live in the capitol.[4]
  • Famous people from Washington, DC, include Kevin Durant, Al Gore, Samuel L. Jackson, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.[6]
  • Only one US president is buried in Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson.[4]
  • With over 160,000 objects in its collection (including 6,000 books from Thomas Jefferson), the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world.[6]
  • First opened in 1805, the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, DC, is the oldest fish market in the United States.[6]
  • Washington, DC, receives more rain than Seattle, Washington.[4]
  • Washington DC Rain Fact
    Move over Seattle

  • On top of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, is a statue called the Statue of Freedom. Made of bronze, it is over 19 feet tall and weighs around 15,000 pounds. It is of a woman wearing a headdress in the shape of an eagle's head.[6]
  • Of the 672,000 people who live in Washington, DC, 15% speak a language other than English.[6]
  • The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, has 36 columns, representing the states in the Union when Lincoln died. It also includes stone from Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Indiana, and Tennessee, to show that a country torn apart by war can still be united.[6]
  • The sculptor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Memorial is Chinese artist Master Lei Yixin. He sculpted 80% of it in China and then finished the rest in Washington, DC.[6]
  • Washington, DC, is home to the Folger Shakespeare Library, which contains the world's largest collection of information about William Shakespeare.[4]
  • In Lafayette Square, across from the White House, there is a statue of Andrew Jackson that is partially made from cannons used in the War of 1812.[6]
  • The White House was originally called the President's Palace. When Andrew Jackson became president in 1829, he began referring to it as the White House, and Theodore Roosevelt made the name official in 1901.[4]
  • Presidential Palace
    It is the only private residence of a head of state in the United States open free of charge to the public

  • Washington, DC, is named for both George Washington and Christopher Columbus (District of Columbia).[6]
  • Washington, DC, Events
    c. 10,000 BCEThe first humans reach the Potomac River
    c. 6000 BCEPeople begin to plant crops and live part of the year in settled villages
    1608 John Smith sails up the Potamac River
    1632Henry Fleet establishes a trading post on the Potomac River 
    1634Settlers from two ships, the Ark and the Dove, establish the English colony of Maryland 
    1751The port of Georgetown is founded on the Potomac
    1790President George Washington selects the site for Washington, DC
    1800Congress and the president move into Washington, making it the official seat of government
    1814British troops burn Washington during the War of 1812
    1850The Compromise of 1850 ends the sale of slaves in the District of Colombia 
    1855The Smithsonian Institution Castle opens to the public
    1861-65Washington, DC, serves as a supply station for the Union Army during the Civil War
    1865Abraham Lincoln is assassinated at Ford's Theater
    1922The Lincoln Memorial is dedicated
    1932Veterans come to Washington, demanding their bonuses 
    1944Delegates from powerful nations meet in Washington to plan the United Nations
    1961Washington, DC, residents gain the right to vote in presidential elections
    1963Martin Luther King Jr. delivers  "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial
    1976The first section of the Washington Metro opens
    1996Archeologists discover ancient jewelry in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood
  • Initial ideas for the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, included an equestrian statue of the first president, a statue on top of a classical Greek column, and a tomb.[6]
  • Several items are buried underneath the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, including a copy of the Constitution, a map of the city, a book of poems, a Bible, and daguerreotypes of George Washington and his mother, Mary.[3]
  • Washington, DC, is home to the famous stone steps featured in the 1973 film The Exorcist. The long, steep staircase is featured in the movie's climactic scene with the priest and the demon who possesses 12-year-old Regan.[5]
  • Underneath the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in Washington D.C. is a series of catacombs. A group of Franciscan monks built them at the turn of the 20th century for Americans who couldn't afford to see the European catacombs.[1]

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