Sites There are many churches in the Washington area, the largest and most impressive of which is the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, more commonly known as the National Cathedral. Another imposing church is the Roman Catholic National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a blend of Byzantine and Romanesque architecture that stands on the grounds of Catholic University in northeastern Washington. Other famous churches include New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Lincoln worshiped; Saint John’s Episcopal Church, known as the Church of Presidents because it was attended by ten presidents; Saint Matthew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, attended by President Kennedy; and Christ Church, where Thomas Jefferson worshiped. Outside the city is the Washington Temple of the Church of Latter-day Saints, completed near the Beltway in Maryland in 1974.
The most famous museum in Washington is the Smithsonian Institution. With help from a gift from Englishman James Smithson, Congress chartered the Smithsonian in 1846. The Smithsonian is a collection of many different institutions that are world-famous for their art, historical, and scientific collections. The National Museum of African Art was the first museum in the United States devoted exclusively to African art. The Museum of Natural History houses many of the world’s most famous gems, and the National Museum of American History traces the development of the United States through scientific, technological, and cultural exhibitions. The National Air and Space Museum has aeronautical exhibits that include the original craft used by the Wright Brothers and the Mercury capsule in which astronaut John Glenn made the first orbit of the earth.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden contains notable paintings and sculptures by 19th- and 20th-century European and American artists. The Arts and Industries Building and the Freer Gallery of Art house fine collections of American and Asian art. Another major art collection, the National Portrait Gallery, is in a building with the National Museum of American Art, which houses American paintings, sculptures, graphics, folk art, and photographs from the 18th century to the present.
Over time, the Smithsonian has evolved from being the so-called nation’s attic into a far-ranging and diverse set of research and educational facilities. In recent years, other, more specialized institutions have joined the rich set of cultural institutions that form the Smithsonian. In addition to the many artistic and historical collections, the Smithsonian includes the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars—a living memorial to former U.S. president Woodrow Wilson—which sustains research and writing of scholars selected nationally to spend time at their work in Washington.
Other important collections in Washington include the National Gallery of Art, one the nation’s chief art galleries, with major collections of European and American paintings; the Dumbarton Oaks Museum, with a collection of pre-Columbian and Byzantine art; the National Building Museum, dedicated to American achievements in architecture, construction, engineering, and design; and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which provides information about the persecution and murder of Jews in Europe during World War II. There are also several venerable private institutions, such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, launched in the 1880s through the bequest of banker William W. Corcoran, and the Phillips Collection, opened in 1921 near DuPont Circle as the city’s first modern-art museum. The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., located in a 19th-century mansion built by beer magnate Christian Heurich, is the only institution dedicated solely to the preservation and interpretation of Washington’s rich local history.
D Libraries The Library of Congress is the national library of the United States and includes a record of every book printed in the United States. Among its priceless documents are the first draft of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and an early draft of the Declaration of Independence as composed by Thomas Jefferson and corrected by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. The library’s music collection contains original manuscripts, ranging from a Ludwig van Beethoven sonata to the score of the musical Oklahoma!, as well as a large collection of instruments. The affiliated Folger Shakespeare Library contains 79 first folios (early printings) of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as oddities such as a corset that Queen Elizabeth I of England wore in the late 1500s. Other distinguished libraries in Washington include the National Agricultural Library, which has more than a million volumes on botany, zoology, entomology, and chemistry; and the Founders Library at Howard University, with 50,000 volumes relating to black history and culture.
E The Performing Arts Washington provides many outlets for the performing arts. The National Theatre, founded in 1812, hosts new theatrical productions. The Arena Stage, founded in 1949, opened a new facility in the early 1970s as part of redevelopment of the city’s southwest area and has achieved worldwide recognition for its productions. Also starting in the early 1970s, the Elizabethan Theatre of the Folger Library began offering Shakespearean productions. Twenty years later the Shakespeare Theatre opened to enthusiastic audiences in the restored Lansburgh Department Store on Seventh Street downtown.
One really big boost for the city’s arts came in 1971 with the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The center includes the Opera House, the Concert Hall, and the Eisenhower Theater, and also provides a home for the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Ballet, and the American Film Institute’s National Film Theater. The opening of the center stimulated the creation of a number of smaller theaters serving diverse interests. In the suburbs, the Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia and Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland have become major performance centers.
F Cultural Events
Washington hosts many annual events, including the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which celebrates the blossoming of the Japanese cherry trees in the Tidal Basin. The weeklong Hispanic Festival has taken place each summer in Washington since 1970. The Mall hosts an annual Fourth of July fireworks display and the National Folk Festival. The city also celebrates the Chinese New Year, Columbus Day, and St. Patrick’s Day with parades.
The Washington region has many well-known parks and recreational areas. The Mall is Washington’s most prominent park, and it hosts many special demonstrations and events. Nearby East and West Potomac parks, formed from reclaimed land along the Potomac River, provide space for a range of recreational activities, including rugby, softball, volleyball, and polo. The Ellipse, between the White House and the Washington Monument, is a large public park that contains the Zero Milestone, from which distances are measured on all national highways that pass through Washington. Within the city, Rock Creek Park, which stretches from downtown to the Maryland border, is home to the National Zoological Park. The National Arboretum is in northeast Washington. Also, the intersection of Washington’s broad diagonal avenues with other streets laid out on a straight grid provides a number of small parks.
Professional sports are important in Washington. For many years Griffith Stadium in LeDroit Park hosted the national Negro League’s Homestead Grays and the American League’s Washington Senators. Integration of the major leagues doomed the Grays, and poor fan support resulted in a franchise move for the Senators. Another team that left the city was the Washington Redskins professional football team, which moved to Prince George’s County, Maryland, in 1997. As that team moved from city to suburb, however, the region’s professional hockey team, the Washington Capitals, and basketball team, the Washington Wizards, returned downtown after spending nearly a generation in the Maryland suburbs. The Capitals and the Wizards play in a new sports and entertainment complex, the MCI Center, which opened in December 1997. The Center has helped to revitalize the downtown area. The D.C. United soccer team, a recent arrival to Washington, achieved success quickly and became national champions in 1996.
VI ECONOMY A Major Economic Activities From the time of its origin, Washington was expected to emerge as a great trading city because of its site along the Potomac River. However, the city lagged behind other major port cities, such as Baltimore, along the eastern seaboard. Instead of trade, the driving force of the city’s economy has proved to be the federal government.
At first employing no more than several hundred workers, the federal bureaucracy grew steadily in the 19th century and exploded in the 20th century. By 1940, 44 percent of civilian workers in the city of Washington were federal employees. Although the private economy grew faster than the public sector after World War II, it still remained closely tied to the federal presence through the proliferation of national associations, lobbyists, subcontractors, lawyers, and accountants associated with government work. America’s increasingly global role created scores of jobs in such organizations as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States, in addition to the U.S. government’s own departments of state and defense. These federal jobs stimulated the economy and boosted the value of real estate in Washington, especially in the