Washington Becomes Capital - History

Washington Becomes Capital - History

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1800- Washington Becomes Capital

After the decision to locate the capital in the South, the Residence Act of 1790 was passed to enable the building of the capital in the District of Columbia. President Washington took a direct interest in the development of the capital, but it was Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson who was directly responsible for the initial implementation. Jefferson submitted an initial plan, and then French engineer Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant was selected to develop a plan for the city. L'Enfant submitted the plan that exists to this day: a radial series of avenues on a grid system of streets.

Washington himself selected the exact location of the city along the banks of the Potomac River. He also negotiated an agreement by which the landowners would cede to the federal government between 3,000 and 5,000 square acres of land between Rock Creek and East Branch.

The government would allow the land owners to keep every other lot of land, the logic being that the increased value of the land in the District of Columbia would more then compensate the landowners for the land taken. The city became known as Washington, after a meeting of the commissioners responsible for building the city. That meeting was also attended by Jefferson and Madison.

Unfortunately, the construction of Washington got off to a slow start. The major impediment to construction was the means chosen to finance the building of the capital: land sales. Land sales failed to bring in very much money. The first brought in about $2,000, and two subsequent sales brought in little more. This and other matters caused increasing tension between L'Enfant and the commissioners in charge of the building. The issue came to a head over L'Enfant's decision to demolish a house that protruded into his future New Jersey Avenue. After L'Enfant declared that he could not work for the commission anymore, Jefferson then informed him that his services were no longer needed. With L'Enfant gone, Jefferson selected James Hoban to design the home for the President and Dr William Thornton to design the Capitol. Finally, in 1796, Washington was forced to request from the Congress that it guarantee a loan for the purpose of building the public buildings in Washington. Despite all of the difficulties, as well as continued attempts by Pennsylvania to maintain the US capital in Philadelphia for as long as possible, the seat of government moved to Washington in 1800. Although it was still in under construction, Washington, D.C. became the capital of the US.


George Washington becomes a Master Mason

George Washington, a young Virginia planter, becomes a Master Mason, the highest basic rank in the secret fraternity of Freemasonry. The ceremony was held at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Washington was 21 years old and would soon command his first military operation as a major in the Virginia colonial militia.

Freemasonry evolved from the practices and rituals of the stonemasons’ guilds in the Middle Ages. With the decline of European cathedral building, “lodges” decided to admit non-stonemasons to maintain membership, and the secret fraternal order grew in popularity in Europe. In 1717, the first Grand Lodge, an association of lodges, was founded in England, and Freemasonry was soon disseminated throughout the British Empire. The first American Mason lodge was established in Philadelphia in 1730, and future revolutionary leader Benjamin Franklin was a founding member.

There is no central Masonic authority, and Freemasons are governed locally by the order’s many customs and rites. Members trace the origins of Masonry back to the erecting of King Solomon’s Temple in biblical times and are expected to believe in the “Supreme Being,” follow specific religious rites, and maintain a vow of secrecy concerning the order’s ceremonies. The Masons of the 18th century adhered to liberal democratic principles that included religious toleration, loyalty to local government, and the importance of charity. From its inception, Freemasonry encountered considerable opposition from organized religion, especially from the Roman Catholic Church.

For George Washington, joining the Masons was a rite of passage and an expression of his civic responsibility. After becoming a Master Mason, Washington had the option of passing through a series of additional rites that would take him to higher �grees.” In 1788, shortly before becoming the first president of the United States, Washington was elected the first Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22.

Caps History: Washington Capitals Franchise Timeline

June 9, 1972: The NHL grants Abe Pollin the right to bring an expansion franchise to Washington, beginning with the 1974-75 season. Washington and Kansas City become the 17th and 18th NHL clubs, beating out Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Phoenix and San Diego for the right to join the league.

May 28, 1974: Washington chose defenseman Greg Joly with its first pick and the first choice overall in the NHL Amateur Draft.

October 9, 1974: Jim Hrycuik scores the first goal in franchise history but the Caps fall to the New York Rangers by a 6-3 score at Madison Square Garden in the team's first ever regular season game.

October 15, 1974: Yvon Labre scores the team's first home ice goal in a 1-1 tie against Los Angeles.

October 17, 1974: The Capitals record the first regular season victory in franchise history, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 at the Capital Centre. Jack Egers supplies the game-winning goal.

February 16, 1975: Goaltender Ron Low notches the first shutout in franchise history with a 3-0 whitewashing of the Kansas City Scouts.

March 28, 1975: The Capitals defeat the California Golden Seals 5-3 at the Cow Palace in Oakland. It is the lone road victory in the team's inaugural season.

March 30, 1975: Ron Lalonde registers the first hat trick in Caps history in an 8-5 loss to Detroit at the Capital Centre.

April 6, 1975: Stan Gilbertson becomes the first Capital to score four goals in a game as Washington downs Pittsburgh 8-4 in the regular season finale of its maiden NHL campaign.

June 1, 1976: The Capitals choose defenseman Rick Green with the first overall pick in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft.

August 9, 1979: Washington chooses right wing Mike Gartner with its first choice (fourth overall) in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. Gartner goes on to become the first player drafted by the Capitals to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

November 14, 1979: The Capitals name 26-year-old Gary Green to replace Danny Belisle as the team's head coach. At the time, Green was the youngest head coach in league history.

November 7, 1981: The Capitals retire the uniform No. 7 worn by defenseman Yvon Labre.

November 21, 1981: The Caps record the first double hat trick in team history when Dennis Maruk and Tim Tookey each score three goals in a 10-4 rout of the Philadelphia Flyers.

February 9, 1982: The Capital Centre hosts its only NHL All-Star Game. A sellout crowd of 18,130 watches as the Wales Conference team defeats the Campbell Conference, 4-2. The Caps Dennis Maruk records an assist to aid the Wales' cause.

September 9, 1982: Mere days after taking over as the team's general manager, David Poile makes the trade that is credited with saving NHL hockey in the District. The Caps send Rick Green and Ryan Walter to Montreal for Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin.

June 9, 1982: Washington chooses defenseman Scott Stevens with its first choice (fifth overall) in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. Stevens plays the first eight seasons of a 22-year NHL career in Washington and goes on to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

April 6, 1983: The Caps play the first Stanley Cup playoff game in franchise history, a 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders. Bobby Gould scores Washington's first ever playoff goal.

June 7, 1983: Caps defenseman Rod Langway wins the Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL's top defenseman. Langway is the first Capital to win a major NHL award and the first American to win the Norris.

January 8, 1984: Washington's Bengt Gustafsson scores five goals on five shots in a 7-1 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia.

February 18, 1984: The Caps defeat the Blues 4-2 in St. Louis for their 10th straight win, still a franchise record.

April 7, 1984: The Capitals hammer Philadelphia 5-1 to complete a sweep of the Flyers in the best-of-five Patrick Division Semifinal series, Washington's first ever playoff series win.

June 4, 1984: Caps blueliner Rod Langway wins his second consecutive Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman, Washington coach Bryan Murray claims the Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach, and Capitals center Doug Jarvis earns the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward.

April 18, 1987: The Capitals and New York Islanders play the longest Game 7 in Stanley Cup playoff history at the Capital Centre. New York's Pat Lafontaine scores at 8:47 of the fourth overtime to give the Isles a 3-2 win in the deciding game of the Patrick Division Semifinal series.

June 13, 1987: Washington deals forwards Gaetan Duchesne and Alan Haworth and a first-round pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft to Quebec for center Dale Hunter and goalie Clint Malarchuk.

April 16, 1988: Dale Hunter's goal at 5:57 of overtime of Game 7 of the Patrick Division Semifinal gives the Capitals a 5-4 win and Washington its first ever win in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series.

January 15, 1990: Terry Murray is named to replace brother Bryan as Washington's head coach. Bryan Murray departs with a career mark of 343-246-83 in eight-plus seasons behind the Washington bench.

April 27, 1990: John Druce's overtime goal against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden enables the Caps to oust the Rangers in the Patrick Division Final. Washington advances to the conference final for the first time in franchise history.

October 17, 1990: Caps rookie Peter Bondra scores the first of a franchise record 472 goals he will score in a Washington uniform, victimizing New Jersey's Chris Terreri.

February 5, 1994: Peter Bondra becomes the second Capital to score five goals in a game in a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

April 24, 1996: Petr Nedved's goal at 19:15 of the fourth overtime gives Pittsburgh a 3-2 win over Washington in the longest playoff game in franchise history.

June 19, 1996: Washington's Jim Carey becomes the first Capitals goaltender to win the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender.

November 26, 1997: Rod Langway's No. 5 sweater is hoisted to the rafters prior to the final game ever at USAir Arena (The Capital Centre), a 6-5 setback at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.

December 5, 1997: The Capitals christen MCI Center -- their new downtown D.C. home -- with a victory. Jeff Toms' overtime goal enables the Caps to prevail by a 3-2 score over the Florida Panthers.

June 4, 1998: Joe Juneau's overtime goal pushes the Caps past the Buffalo Sabres in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, propelling Washington to its first ever Stanley Cup final appearance.

May 12, 1999: Abe Pollin announces that he has sold the Capitals and a minority interest in Washington Sports and Entertainment to Ted Leonsis.

March 11, 2000: Dale Hunter's No. 32 sweater is hoisted to the rafters of MCI Center.

June 16, 2000: Olie Kolzig wins the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender.

April 6, 2004: Capitals win NHL draft lottery, jumping from third to first in draft order and winning the right to choose first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

June 26, 2004: Choosing first overall in the NHL draft for the first time since 1976, the Capitals select left wing Alex Ovechkin .

October 5, 2005: Alex Ovechkin scores two goals in his first NHL game, a 3-2 win over Columbus at Verizon Center.

January 13, 2006: Alex Ovechkin notches his first career hat trick to lead the Caps to a 3-2 overtime win over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Anaheim.

January 16, 2006: Alex Ovechkin scores what will forever be known as "The Goal" against the Coyotes in Phoenix.

June 22, 2006: Alex Ovechkin becomes the first Capital to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. Olie Kolzig is given the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarian contribution.

November 1, 2006: The Capitals open their new practice facility, the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va.

June 22, 2007: The Capitals show off their new uniforms at a draft day party held at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex. The new threads harken back to the team's original red, white and blue color scheme with a modernized version of the original logo.

June 12, 2008: Alex Ovechkin became the first player in NHL history to win the Hart Trophy (league MVP), Art Ross Trophy (leading scorer), Lester B. Pearson Award (MVP as voted by players) and Maurice Richard Trophy (leading goal scorer) all in the same year. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau wins the Jack Adams Trophy, becoming the second Caps coach to earn the honor.

April 28, 2009: Sergei Fedorov's third-period goal gives the Caps a 2-1 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series and their first series win in Stanley Cup play in 11 years. It is Washington's first win in a Game 7 in more than 21 years.

May 4, 2009: Alex Ovechkin records his first Stanley Cup playoff hat trick -- and the first by a Capital in more than 16 years -- in a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh.

June 18, 2009: Alex Ovechkin is named winner of the Hart Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award and Maurice Richard Trophy, winning each for the second straight year.

How and When Did New York Become the First Capital City?

By 1783 the federal government had no funds, and it had not paid the federal soldiers who fought in the British-American war. Therefore, on June 1783, the Congress met in the present day Independence Hall in Philadelphia to deliberate on various pressing issues affecting the federal government including the lack of funds to pay the federal soldiers.

In response, the frustrated and unpaid Lancaster Pennsylvania soldiers marched to Philadelphia to join their comrades and went to Congress and blocked the building’s door. After being locked out of the building, the Congress members sent Hamilton to negotiate with them. Alexander Hamilton met with their committee that evening and sent a note to the government of Pennsylvania asking for their militia to protect the lawmakers. Pennsylvania refused to offer their protection and fearing for their safety congress relocated to Princeton. From 1783 to the 1790s, the law-makers met in different cities including Trenton, Maryland, New Jersey, and finally New York City.

The Congress of the Confederation selected New York City as the new government's temporary seat in 1785. Federal Hall became the first US capitol building, as well as the location of the inauguration of George Washington as the first US President, the first assembly of the United States Congress and the US Supreme Court, and the drafting of the US Bill of Rights.

1903 – 1970

During the remainder of Woods's service, which ended with his death in 1923, no major structural work was required on the Capitol Building. The activities performed in the building were limited chiefly to cleaning and refurbishing the interior. David Lynn, the Architect of the Capitol from 1923 until his retirement in 1954, continued these tasks. Between July 1949 and January 1951, the corroded roofs and skylights of both wings and the connecting corridors were replaced with new roofs of concrete and steel, covered with copper. The cast-iron and glass ceilings of the House and Senate chambers were replaced with ceilings of stainless steel and plaster, with a laylight of carved glass and bronze in the middle of each. The House and Senate chambers were completely remodeled, improvements such as modern air conditioning and lighting were added, and acoustical problems were solved. During this renovation program, the House and Senate vacated their chambers on several occasions so that the work could progress.

The next significant modification made to the Capitol was the East Front extension. This project was carried out under the supervision of Architect of the Capitol J. George Stewart, who served from 1954 until his death in 1970. Begun in 1958, it involved the construction of a new East Front 32 feet 6 inches east of the old front, faithfully reproducing the sandstone structure in marble. The old sandstone walls were not destroyed rather, they were left in place to become a part of the interior wall and are now buttressed by the addition. The marble columns of the connecting corridors were also moved and reused. Other elements of this project included repairing the dome, constructing a subway terminal under the Senate steps, reconstructing those steps, cleaning both wings, birdproofing the building, providing furniture and furnishings for the 90 new rooms created by the extension, and improving the lighting throughout the building. The project was completed in 1962.

The Road to the Texas Capital: How Austin Became the State Capital

Though Austinites might be loath to admit it Austin has not always been the Texas capital. The state’s legislature heart has migrated around, depending on the government. Even when it was its own nation, the Texas capital wasn’t in Austin the entire time. Where was it? Why was it moved? And most importantly, why was Austin selected for the new site?

Six Flags of Texas

To understand how Austin became the capital, you need to understand the history of Texas. Since its creation by Europeans, Texas has had six nations rule over it, and each of these nations had its own capital. Under European powers, Spain and France, the Texas capital was in the old world. After Mexico won its independence, the capital of Texas moved to Mexico City. Things get confusing after that. During and after the Texas Revolution, the state capital moved around to eight different cities.

A Roving Capital During the Revolution

While still under Mexican rule, the Texas colony’s conventions met at San Felipe de Austin, until March 1, 1836. Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence met at Washington on the Brazos, which acted as the temporary capital during the early days of the revolution. At the time, Texans considered the capital wherever President David Burnet was. Due to fears from Santa Anna’s troops’ nearing them, the Texas government moved to Harrisburg for two short weeks in April 1836. There, the president waited out the revolution on a boat, which eventually landed at Galveston Island, making that the capital. Velasco became the next capital until October of that year. And after October, the capital migrated to West Columbia. In December, the newly-elected President Sam Houston moved the capital to Houston.

Houston as the Capital

Compared to the other cities that served as the capital of Texas during the revolution, Houston lasted the longest. Starting on April 19, 1837, until 1839, Houston served as the capital of Texas. But several things made the Bayou City less than ideal for the government seat. First, this town existed near the coast, but many of the larger settlements in Texas clustered in the Hill Country. Secondly, its remoteness made it a target for attacks from Native Americans. Additionally, its low-lying location and numerous slow-moving bayous made it a perfect breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Move to Austin

The new president Mirabeau B. Lamar wanted to encourage westward expansion in the state and pushed for the capital to move to the then town of Waterloo. Named in honor of the Father of Texas Stephen F. Austin, the town had enough open space to plan a street design which remains largely intact today. Though President Houston resisted the new capital after the people re-elected him in 1841, it remained in Austin, where Texas’ legislature still operates today.

Why isn't Washington, D.C. a state? It started with a drunken mob.

The movement for D.C. statehood just won a historic vote. Here's why Washingtonians have fought for representation for more than 200 years.

In the 1760s, furious American colonists protested against “taxation without representation”—British-imposed taxes that didn’t come with any rights of self-determination for British colonies.

Centuries later, the phrase rings true for another group of Americans: The 705,000 residents of the District of Columbia, who for centuries have also fought for representation and self-governance.

But Washington, D.C. residents’ longstanding grievances could soon come to an end. On June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that set D.C. on the unprecedented road to potentially becoming the 51st state. The statehood bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, passed in the Democratically controlled chamber 232 to 180. It now will advance to the Republican-led Senate, where it is unlikely to succeed. President Donald Trump has also indicated that he would veto the bill if it reached his desk.

This modern push for self-determination is fueled not by anti-British sentiment, but frustration about the United States federal government. In early June, federal officers and National Guard members from out of state entered the city at the behest of the U.S. Attorney General—and without D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser’s permission—to crack down on demonstrations against police brutality. The show of force was met with frustration and fury by city residents. “We are subject to the whims of the federal government,” Bowser told the New York Times. “Sometimes they’re benevolent, and sometimes they’re not.”

Though Washington, D.C. is the seat of the federal government, it’s also home to residents who, despite obeying U.S. laws and paying taxes, have had no voting representation in Congress since February 27, 1801. Why not? The answer dates all the way back to the nation’s founding.

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress had no permanent home. While penning the U.S. Constitution, the founders quibbled about the location of a permanent capital. They did agree on one point: they didn’t want to repeat the events of June 1783, when a group of drunken soldiers angry about back pay converged on the Philadelphia state house. Local authorities failed to act, and the mob chased Congress out of town.

To prevent a redux of the disastrous protest and establish the new nation’s control over the seat of government, statesmen agreed on the idea of a federal city. In Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution, they gave Congress power to exercise legislation in a seat of government that didn’t exceed 10 square miles. But they tussled over which slice of land should become the capital—and who should benefit.

Northern states wanted the capital to be in the North and for the federal government to assume their debts from the Revolutionary War, but southern states that had already paid off much of their debt objected. The issue deadlocked Congress and provoked bitter arguments until then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson hosted a pivotal dinner with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who sided with the northern states, and Virginia Congressman James Madison.

At the meal, the men made a deal that became known as the Compromise of 1790: In exchange for a capital along the Potomac River in the South, Madison agreed not to block the federal government’s assumption of northern war debt.

Presidential Election of 1789

George Washington&rsquos cabinet included just four original members: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. Washington set the precedents for how these roles would interact with the presidency, establishing the cabinet as the chief executive's private, trusted advisors.

Mount Vernon Collections

The Material Culture of the Presidency

Aware that he would be closely scrutinized, Washington self-consciously chose clothing and household furnishings that would convey a particular message about his style and character.


The Inauguration

Historian Edward J. Larsen discusses Washington's first inauguration in this video from Mount Vernon on Vimeo.

In 1789, the first presidential election, George Washington was unanimously elected president of the United States. With 69 electoral votes, Washington won the support of each participating elector. No other president since has come into office with a universal mandate to lead.

Between December 15, 1788 and January 10, 1789, the presidential electors were chosen in each of the states. On February 4, 1789, the Electoral College convened. Ten states cast electoral votes: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. New York, however, failed to field a slate of electors. North Carolina and Rhode Island were unable to participate because they had not yet ratified the Constitution. After a quorum was finally established, the Congress counted and certified the electoral vote count on April 6.

Washington was both an obvious first choice for president and possibly the only truly viable choice. He was both a national hero and the favorite son of Virginia, the largest state at the time. Washington ascended to the presidency with practical experience, having served as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and president of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

According to Article II of the Constitution, each elector in the Electoral College possessed two votes. The candidate who received a majority of the votes was elected president. The candidate with the second most votes in the Electoral College, whether a majority or a plurality, was elected vice president. Behind Washington, John Adams, who most recently had served as the first U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, finished with 34 electoral votes and became the first vice president of the United States. Being from Massachusetts, Adams&rsquo election provided the administration a regional balance between the South and North. Other candidates receiving multiple electoral votes were John Jay (9), Robert Harrison (6), John Rutledge (6), John Hancock (4), and George Clinton (3). Five candidates split the remaining seven votes. Upon hearing the news of his decisive election, Washington set out from Mount Vernon to take his place in presidential history. Though filled with great anxiety, Washington reported for duty "in obedience to the public summons" and explained that "the voice of my Country called me."

On April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City, the first capital of the United States, Washington took the presidential oath of office. With a hand on the Bible, a "sacred volume" borrowed from a local Masonic lodge and subsequently known as the "George Washington Inaugural Bible," he said, "I, George Washington, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." At that moment, the Chancellor of the State of New York, Robert Livingston, the person who administered the oath to the first chief executive, exclaimed, "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!"

D. Jason Berggren
Georgia Southwestern State University


Boller, Paul, Jr. Presidential Campaigns. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Greenstein, Fred I. "Presidential Difference in the Early Republic: The Highly Disparate Leadership Styles of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson," Presidential Studies Quarterly 36, no. 3 (September 2006): 373-390.

Landy, Marc, and Sidney M. Milkis. Presidential Greatness. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2000.

McDonald, Forrest. The Presidency of George Washington. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1988.

Michaelsen, William B. Creating the American Presidency, 1775-1789. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987.

Washington was named after the first U.S. President George Washington. “D.C.” stands for “District of Columbia”. At first, it was made up of a piece from Virginia south of the Potomac River and a piece from Maryland north of the Potomac River.

Washington DC is the capital city of the United States of America (USA). “D.C.” stands for the “District of Columbia” which is the federal district containing the city of Washington. The city is named for George Washington, military leader of the American Revolution and the first President of the United States.


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