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Favorite thing: The city police force in Washington is called the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. The police department has over 4,000 officers in seven districts, making it the 10th largest city police force in the country.
In addition to the city police, nine universities have police departments with jurisdictions inside Washington DC including American, Catholic, Georgetown, George Washington, and Howard.
The federal buildings and parks also have their own police presence, most notably the Secret Service at the White House, the National Capitol Police at the Capitol Building complex, and the US Park Police at the Mall, Rock Creek Park, and all of the other national parks in the city.
Updated Jul 7, 2009
Favorite thing: The Federal Reserve System (or the "Fed") is headquartered in the Eccles Building in downtown Washington DC near the Mall. This building was completed in 1937 and dedicated by President Roosevelt. The building was named after former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Marriner S. Eccles, in 1982. The building was originally constructed as a four-story building in the shape of an H, with the fifth story in the center section added in the 1970s.
The Federal Reserve is headquartered here in Washington, with twelve regional banks throughout the US. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 to help create financial stability. Just 22 years later the US found itself in the Great Depression.
Today the Fed has a broad role, serving as the US central bank, managing US monetary policy, and balancing public and private interests of bank and the government to protect consumer interests and the health of the economy.
Written Jul 7, 2009
Favorite thing: The J. Edgar Hoover Building is the FBI's headquarters. Construction of this monstrous building in central Washington DC began in the 1960s, and it was officially dedicated in 1975. Located at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, it was open for public tours until 1999. Some 7,000 employees are said to work at this building.
Besides this headquarters building, the FBI has 56 field offices and offices in many US Embassies overseas.
The building is named after J. Edgar Hoover, who served as the first director of the Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. He served in this capacity for some 48 years during the fight against organized crime and the struggle against Communism in the 1950s.
Updated Jul 7, 2009
Favorite thing: River East -- those areas of Washington DC that are located East of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers -- are seldom visited by tourists. Many people who are unfamiliar with the city's geography consider the entire area east of the rivers, Anacostia, but there are actually about 30 neighborhoods here, with the largest being Anacostia, Capitol Heights, Benning, and Deanwood. This area, like other parts of DC, also includes numerous parks including Kenilworth Gardens, Fort Dupont Park, Fort Stanton Park, and Anacostia Park. The area also has several major city and federal offices such as Bolling Air Force Base, Anacostia Naval Station, the Naval Research Labs, the city sewage treatment plant, and St. Elizabeth's Hospital.
The Anacostia neighborhood of DC has a terrible reputation as the city's most crime-ridden area, but it does have a historic district, as well as several historic sites and parks. This neighborhood was established in the 1850s as an inexpensive working-class residential area. Until the 1950s its inhabitants were mostly white, but since then the balance has shifted making this area predominantly black. Since the 1980s Anacostia helped make DC the "Murder Capital of the World" as this neighborhood accounted for about half of the city's murders. Anacostia is home to Frederick Douglass's former home, which is a National Historic Park.
On the plus sides, the River East neighborhoods are getting wealthier. A report in 2007 showed the three River East zip codes all had 20 to 30 percent increases in the average value of homes sold compared to the previous year while the rest of the city was mostly static in home values.
Updated Mar 13, 2009
Favorite thing: Foggy Bottom is famous for two of Washington DC's most well-known institutions: George Washington University and the US Department of State. Other significant landmarks here include Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the infamous the Watergate complex that was central to the Nixon scandals.
Foggy Bottom is bounded by the Potomac River and Rock Creek Park to the west, Pennsylvania Avenue to the north, the White House and its Ellipse to the east, and the National Mall to the south... it would be hard to find an area of DC bounded by more well-known landmarks. On the edge of Foggy Bottom near the White House you will find the United States Department of the Interior, the World Bank, the Office of Personnel Management, Constitution Hall, the American Red Cross, the Federal Reserve Board, the Pan American Health Organization, and the Organization of American States.
This neighborhood is also home to the Foggy Bottom Historic District, consisting mainly of row houses built from the 1870s to the early 1900s (the entire historic district is only perhaps three blocks, all squished between GWU and Rock Creek Park. Also in Foggy Bottom you will find Washington Circle, with the centerpiece being a statue of our first president, George Washington.
That being said, Foggy Bottom is an altogether boring neighborhood with very few bars and restaurants, and virtually no nightlife. This might be a place you pass through on your way to Georgetown or the White House, but probably not a destination if you are visiting DC on a short trip.
Updated Mar 12, 2009
Favorite thing: Old Town Alexandria is one of the most historic and quaint neighborhoods in the Washington DC area. It is famous for is historic buildings as well as high-end boutiques, fine restaurants, antique shops, theaters, and bars. Alexandria has about 140,000 residents, many of whom are associated with the federal government.
Old Town was originally laid out in 1749. Market Square was once a major slave market, and is now known as the oldest continually operated market in the US. King Street is the heart of Old Town's business district and is serviced by a trolley that runs between the water and the Metro station 17 blocks away. The waterfront area features Founders Park as well as several other green spaces all interconnected by the Waterfront Walk.
In 1791 the Federal City, now known as Washington DC was laid out along the banks of the Potomac, half in Maryland and half in Virginia, including Alexandria. The new city/territory was officially recognized in 1801, but in 1846 congress authorized retrocession of Alexandria back to Virginia, mainly because the local citizens feared the city would soon outlaw slavery. Sure enough, Washington DC outlawed slave trading in the city in 1850, the Confederacy broke off in 1861, and soon the Union re-occupied Alexandria, again ending the slave trade.
Updated Feb 24, 2009
Favorite thing: Arlington is a huge area just outside of DC that includes huge government offices in the Pentagon, major tourist and historical draws such as Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Monument, the area's only dense area of high-rise office buildings in Crystal City and Rosslyn, famous shopping in Pentagon City and Clarendon, and renown nightlife in Ballston. All of these areas have undergone massive development and growth with the establishment of the DC Metro.
Arlington is actually a county with numerous distinct neighborhoods, but no true cities. The entire county was once part of the Capitol City of Washington, but was retro-ceded back to Virginia in 1846. Today it is the smallest county in Virgina in terms of land area, as well as the smallest self-governing county in the United States.
Rosslyn, an unincorporated urban district in Arlington, VA is one of the densest areas of skyscrapers and office buildings in the DC metro area, really only comparable to nearby Crystal City. This neighborhood is accessible via Rosslyn Station on the Metro Blue and Orange Lines, making it popular for commuters coming or going.
During the day the neighborhood is packed with businessmen and military who frequent the area's dozens of cafe's and sandwich shops. While it gets quieter at night, there is still a lot of pedestrian traffic hitting a few of the big restaurants and handful of bars. This area has a surprising number of residential apartments and condos that actually make up about two-thirds of the Rosslyn area.
I have spent quite a bit of time in Rosslyn for business. In fact I worked here from 2008 into 2009... I have previously stayed in the Holiday Inn and the Residence Inn, and I have eaten at a few of the local restaurants including Ray's Hell Burger, Cafe Asia, Red Hot and Blue BBQ, Spice of Life Cafe, Cu Cu's Cafeteria, and Kanpai Sushi.
Rosslyn is home to the Marine Corps Iwo Jima Monument, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, and it borders Arlington National Cemetery. This is also the home to historic Fort Corcoran, numerous trails, lots of public art, and a few small neighborhood parks.
Crystal City is one of numerous Arlington County urban villages that grew up around the Washington Metro. Today this neighborhood is famous for its large underground shopping center, the Reagan Washington National Airport, dozens of high-end hotels, and tons of restaurants. The only housing in the neighborhood is generally high-rise condos and apartments, but some of the areas west of Jefferson Davis highway have small, single-family homes. For recreation you can track down Gravelly Point Park and the Mount Vernon running path that runs from Rosslyn to Mount Vernon.
The vast majority of Crystal City was once part of Abingdon Plantation, a a 2,700 acre farm granted to Robert Howson in 1669 and built in the 1740s. It was home to the Alexander family (after whom Alexandria was named), as well as George Washington's stepson John Parke Custis and Nelly, his granddaughter.
Today Crystal city is home to just 16,000 people, but it is said that 60,000 people work here each day. Many of the workers are part of the federal government's workforce, with jobs in the Department of Defense, US Patent and Trademark Office, and the Department of Labor.
Updated Feb 24, 2009
Favorite thing: Catholic University of America is the official national university of the Roman Catholic Church (take that Notre Dame and Boston College!) and the only catholic university founded by US Roman Catholic bishops. The school was established in 1887 and officially began undergraduate classes in 1904. Catholic University has some 6000 students participating in 83 undergraduate, 90 graduate, and 42 doctoral programs. CU occupies 193 acres, making it the city's largest school in terms of land area.
On Catholic University's campus is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Far off the beaten path, it is one of the most impressive structures in the city, certainly rivaling the more famous architecture on the National Mall. This massive church was completed in 1965 and is the largest catholic church in the US, and the 7th largest church in the solar system, perhaps even the galaxy.
The university and the basilica are located in the Brookland neighborhood of Northwest Washington DC. This area is home to some 60 Catholic institutions and is sometimes referred to a Little Rome.
Catholic University is located at 620 Michigan Ave NE and is accessible via the Brookland-CUA metro station on the Metro's Red Line.
Updated Dec 23, 2008
Favorite thing: Probably two of the most poorly named government bureaucracies of all time are Fanny Mae and (Fanny who?) and Freddie Mac (Freddie MacWhat?). Fannie Mae is actually the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), and Freddie Mac is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC)... how does that become Freddie Mac?
These organizations are both government sponsored enterprises. Fannie Mae was created by Congress in 1968, and Freddie Mac was created just two years later to provide competition. By 2008 these two entities held over half of the US's 12 trillion dollars in mortgages. While they have beneficial goals in expanding home ownership among the poor and minorities, this drove up home prices to an artificially inflated value as well as created numerous risky loans, both leading to the housing crisis of 2007/8.
Fannie Mae's HQ is at 3900 Wisconsin Avenue, NW in Washington, DC.
Updated Dec 5, 2008
Favorite thing: Gallaudet University, located in Washington DC's rough Northeast Quadrant, was the world's first university created for the deaf and hard of hearing. Even today it is the only university in the world where all programs are geared for these students. The school was founded in 1857 and was authorized by congress to grant college degrees in 1864. In 1894 the college was named after the Reverend Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who founded the US's first school for the deaf, and who also happened to be the father of the school's first superintendent. The school offers 40 undergraduate majors as well as about 30 graduate degrees. Up to five percent of each incoming class can be students who have their full hearing ability.
the campus has several notable buildings, all of which are located near the main entrance along Florida Avenue, either on Faculty Row or on the campus' main quad:
Chapel Hall is the landmark structure at the campus's main entrance, and it was completed in 1870 in a gothic revival style.
Edward Miner Gallaudet Residence was built in 1869 for the school's founder and first president.
Ballard House is on Faculty Row and was constructed in 1867.
Denison House was completed in 1875.
Peikoff Alumni House was the school's original gym and was built in 1881.
Kendall Hall was completed in 1885, and is named after the school's original founder who donated two acres on this site.
College Hall was completed in 1887 and sits near the university entrance.
Dawes House was built in 1896 and was designed by a a deaf architect who graduated from this school.
Fowler Hall is also at the main entrance and was built in 1918.
800 Florida Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002-3695
Updated Dec 3, 2008
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