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District of Columbia

Washington D.C. occupies all of the District of Columbia, a 68 square mile area northeast of the Potomac River donated by the state of Maryland. It is not a state, nor is it part of any state, though counties of two states lie within the Washington Metro Area boundaries. It is a "federal district" established by the US Constitution as the seat of government. The site was chosen by George Washington, for whom the city was named. Columbia, in the "District of Columbia", refers to Christopher Columbus.

The task of forging a visionary capital of monuments, broad avenues and spacious circles fell to Pierre Charles L'Enfant. He designed the Capitol Building and the White House, but refused to turn over the designs and returned to France when he was offered only $2000 instead of the $95,000 he'd billed the US government. Fortunately, one of his assistants had memorized the designs and re-drew them.

Washington is bordered by Virginia and Maryland and lies 90 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. It is divided into four quadrants: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast, with the US Capitol building marking the point at which the quadrants meet. In addition to Washington DC (pop. 572,000), what is referred to as the Washington Metropolitan Area (pop. 5.4 million) also includes seven Maryland counties, five Virginia counties, and five Virginia cities (Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax City, Manassas and Manassas Park).