History of the District of Columbia The Founding of the District of Columbia The Continental Congress in 1783 decided that they needed a permanent seat of the national government, after moving the seat of Congress numerous times throughout its short existence. It was said by one of the members of the Congress that “the place should be a piece of virgin territory where a ‘Federal Town’ might be built.” Two areas were surveyed to relocate the Federal Town in 1784. The northern states chose an area near Trenton, New Jersey and the southern states chose an area near Georgetown, Maryland. A site was not selected because a formal constitution for the United States had not been introduced let alone ratified by the states. In June of 1788 the Constitution of the United States was ratified by enough states of the union. One of the articles of the Constitution states that it gives Congress authority “to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding 100 square miles) as may by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States…” When the first Congress of the United States convened, a Southerner George Washington was unanimously elected President. While a Northerner, John Adams was elected Vice President. The conflicts between the North and the South were great because each side wanted the Federal Town in their respective regions. The Revolutionary War which created the United States and its freedom also generated a large national debt. During the time the Federal District was being decided a legislative bill was drafted by Alexander Hamilton and stated that the whole Nation would assume the debts of the individual States. The southern states did not want to take on these debts since most of the war had taken place in the North. Thus a compromise was suggested by Thomas Jefferson and other Congressmen from Virginia in which the Southern states would agree to assume the debts while the Northern states would agree to have the capital in the south. The Residency Act of 1790 gave the president, George Washington, the power to choose a site for the new Federal District. He chose an area on the east bank of the Potomac River where he would have to acquire the tract and appoint building commissioners for the Federal District. The Creation of the District of Columbia and the City of Washington President George Washington selected the site for the new capital, which would be called the city of Washington. The area would include portions of Maryland and Virginia on the banks of the Potomac River several miles up river from his home at Mount Vernon. George Washington hired the Frenchman Pierre L’Enfant in 1791 to design the plan of the city Washington. With a largely undeveloped area to build the capital city, L’Enfant transformed the Federal District using a Baroque plan that features ceremonial spaces and grand radial avenues. This plan superimposed a system of diagonal avenues over a conventional street grid. These avenues would radiate from two building sites: the house of Congress and the President’s home. Also throughout of the city L’Enfant designated squares and circles to commemorate individual state residents who became national heroes at the intersection of the diagonal avenues. This premise was carried on to the naming of these avenues for the states of the union. The McMillan Commission In 1901Senator James McMillan from Michigan was the chairman of the Senate Park Commission to study the improvement of the park system of the District of Columbia. This plan would restore and expand the open spaces and parks introduced by L’Enfant as the leading elements in the federal identity of the National Capital. Also the National Mall was reconfigured to frame and emphasize the connection between the Washington Monument and the Capitol as well as highlighting the relationship among the radial streets and avenues. A number of the McMillan Commission’s proposals for the District were realized in the following decades including parkways through the city and the Fort Circle Parks around the city.