Sunday, February 17, 2013

Washington, D.C.

The founding of the City
Washington, the capital of the USA, is situated on the north bank of the Potomac River close to the country's east coast, between the states of Virginia and Maryland. It is in the District of Columbia (D.C.), which does not belong to any separate state but to all the states - so the city is quite unique in this respect.
The Capitol and the White House
Washington was named after the first US President - George Washington. It was he who chose the place for the capital city of the new independent country on the Potomac River not far from Mount Vernon, his home. Washington became the capital in 1800. During the War of 1812 the city fell into the hands of the British and much of it was burnt. But the damage was soon repaired. Washington is not the largest city in the USA. Its population is about 900 thousand people, but it is, probably, the largest «one-industry city» in the world, and that industry is government. The city's main product is law and government decisions.
Besides, Washington is the residence of the Presi­dent and the location of the Congress of the United States. The city is also unique in its architectural planning. It did not just grow up from a small village as many cities have. It was specially designed as a capital city, and its center was built on a radial plan; that is, many streets go out from circles like the spokes in a wheel. People who have been to Washington say that it is not difficult to find their way around there.
In 1790 George Washington laid the corner-stone of the Capitol - the most important and famous building in America - the place, where the US Congress meets to discuss the nation's affairs. The Capitol has a huge white dome rising on a circle of columns which is a familiar sight; together with the White House they can be called the symbol of Washington. On the dome of the Capitol there is a bronze Statue of Freedom which symbolizes the main idea of the US constitution that free people may govern themselves. It is in the Capitol that the inauguration of the President and other events of state importance take place. The building itself is enormous and it is very easy to get lost in its vast halls and rooms full of beautiful paintings and statues which make it look like a big museum.
Pennsylvania Avenue joins the Capitol and the White House which is the President's residence. The Avenue was intended to be the symbol of separation of powers under the Constitution and also of their joining in mutual understanding and cooperation. The building of the White House was started when the United States was very young. The first president to live in it was John Adams. The house had not been finished and was not white in those days. Its walls were of gray sandstone and it was called the “President’s Palace”. In 1814 the building was badly damaged by fire but was soon rebuilt and painted white to hide the smoke stains that showed on some walls. The house has been white ever since. It now has 107 rooms and 31 bathrooms. All American presidents have lived there except George Washington as the White House was not yet built at that time. The current president of the USA lives in the White House during his term and works in the Oval Office which is located in the White House building. The White House is open for tours and tourists can visit it almost any day a year. Annually about 1 mln people visit the White House. The best known rooms of the White House are the East Room, the Blue Room, the Green Room, the Red Room, and the State Dining Room where a hundred guests can be seated.
Other sights of Washington
Washington is a wonderful city; its fine parks, gardens and squares help to make the city beautiful. And one can hardly find a park, a square or an open area in it without a monument or a memorial. The most impressive and the best-known ones are the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument, which looks like a very big pencil is not far from the Capitol, on the Mall, a long grass-covered area that extends from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. When its cornerstone was laid, a speaker said, “Build it to the skies, you cannot outreach the loftiness of his principles.” The height of the Monument is 160 metres and it's hollow inside. A special lift brings visitors to the top in 70 seconds and from it they can enjoy a beautiful view of the whole city.
The Lincoln Memorial is built in the style of a classic Greek Temple. But it is neither temple, palace nor tomb but embodies something of each. Its marble walls seem to hold the spirit of Lincoln's character and his belief that all men should be free - free to think and express themselves, and free to apply their natural talents and ambitions to lawful enterprise. The Memorial has 36 columns that show the number of states in the Union in Lincoln's time. Inside the Memorial there is a large white marble statue of the 16th President of the United States who was well loved by his friends and supporters and fiercely hated by the enemies of the Union who killed him in 1865. On the stone walls of the Memorial two of Lincoln's most famous speeches are carved, one of which is the speech he made on his second inauguration.
Washington is an important scientific and cultural center. There are five universities there (the most famous are Georgetown University, George Washington University and Howard University), the National Academy of Science and the famous Library of Congress, one of the largest libraries in the world. Every book, magazine or newspaper produced in the USA have to give a copy to the Library to keep. It is paid for by the government and is open to the public. The Library contains more than 13 million books and newspapers and 19 million manuscripts, including the personal papers of the US presidents.
Another place of interest, though very solemn, is Arlington National Cemetery, which is on the other side of the Potomac River, opposite the capital. It is a resting place of many soldiers and leaders of the US military and other professions. The 35th President of the USA, J.F. Kennedy, the youngest and one of the most popular presidents of the country, killed in 1963 in Dallas, is also buried there. The Vietnam Memorial Wall, located on the Mall, has become a major attraction for the visitors of Washington.
Washington is a city of museums and art galleries where one can see all kinds of things: the original of the Declaration of Independence, famous paintings and sculptures, the largest blue diamond in the world, the dresses of some presidents' wives and the like. Washington's most popular tourist attractions are the Air Space Museum which is part of the world famous Smithsonian Museum, Washington Museum of Arts, The Natural History Museum, and the Holocaust Museum which recollects the terrible World War II events.
There are no skyscrapers in Washington, because they would hide the city's numerous monuments from view. Besides, no building in the city may be more than 40 meters tall, that is, it can't be higher than the White House.

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