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Washington, D.C.

Trivia powered by Prof. WalterWashington, D.C. formally, the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, the District, or simply D.C.) is the capital of the United States, founded on July 16, 1790. The City of Washington used to be a separate municipality within the District of Columbia until an Act of Congress in 1871 effectively merged the City and the District into a single entity. It is for this reason that the city, while legally named the District of Columbia, is known as Washington, D.C. 

Now is time to play the D.C. quiz?

1. What are the three streams that flow through Washington?

2. Who was the principal designer of the City of Washington?

3. How was it determined that the capital would be located in the South?

4. What were the two independent municipalities located in the District of Columbia?

5. What happened in the District on August 24 - 25, 1814?

6. Why was all the District's territory south of the Potomac River returned back to the Commonwealth of Virginia?

7. What happened with the Organic Act of 1871?


1. The District has three major natural flowing streams: the Potomac River, the Anacostia River, and Rock Creek. The Anacostia River and Rock Creek are tributaries of the Potomac.  Contrary to the urban legend, Washington was not built on reclaimed swampland. While wetlands did cover areas along the two rivers and other natural streams, the majority of the District's territory consisted of farmland and tree-covered hills

2. The design for the City of Washington was largely the work of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French-born architect, engineer, and city planner who first arrived in the American colonies as a military engineer with Major General Lafayette.

3. The Constitution does not specify a location for the new capital. In what later became known as the Compromise of 1790, Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson came to an agreement that the federal government would assume war debt carried by the states, on the condition that the new national capital would be located in the South. On July 16, 1790, the Residence Act provided for a new permanent capital to be located on the Potomac River, the exact area to be selected by President George Washington.

4. Two independent municipalities were already located within the District: the City of Alexandria, founded in 1749 and the City of Georgetown, founded in 1751.

5. On August 24-25, 1814, British forces burned the capital during the most notable raid of the War of 1812, in retaliation for the sacking and burning of York (modern-day Toronto).

6. Alexandria was a major market in the American slave trade, but rumors circulated that abolitionists were attempting to end slavery in the nation's capital. Partly to avoid an end to the lucrative slave trade, a referendum to ask for the retrocession of Alexandria passed in 1846. On July 9 of that year, Congress agreed to return all the District's territory south of the Potomac River back to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Four years later, the Compromise of 1850 outlawed the slave trade in the District, though not slavery itself.

7. With the Organic Act of 1871, Congress created a new government for the entire federal territory. This Act effectively combined the City of Washington, Georgetown, and Washington County into a single municipality officially named the District of Columbia. Even though the City of Washington legally ceased to exist after 1871, the name continued in use and the whole city became commonly known as Washington, D.C.

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