Planning Washington, DC

I’ve been doing general research on Washington, DC for my next contemporary fantasy, Hunger. Though I live in the area, I still think it’s important to make sure my facts are actually correct, and current.  I ran across a few interesting facts about DC and how it was designed.

The planning for Washington, DC, started in 1791 when George Washington hired Pierre Charles L’Enfant  to design it.  L’Enfant did the original design as a large grid, with the Capitol sitting on Jenkins Hill at the center.  But he didn’t get along with anyone and ended up being fired before the city could be built.  Another man completed it using L’Enfant’s design.

The city is divided up into four quadrants, divided up by the streets: South Capitol Street, North Capitol Street, the Mall (a 2-mile stretch from the Lincoln Monument to the Capitol), and East Capitol Street.  Everything ends/starts at the Capitol.

These quadrants make up the sections of Washington DC:

  • Northwest
  • Northeast
  • Southwest
  • Southeast

Northwest Washington is the one we’re all familiar with, even if we’ve never been there.  That’s where the White House is, along with half of the Smithsonian Museums.  It makes up half of the city!  Southwest Washington is the smallest section, at less than 1/8th of the city.  It has Fort McNair and what is now called Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.  When I was in the army, I knew the joint base as Anacostia Naval Station and Bolling Air Force Base.  It wasn’t an area anyone wanted to break down at.  One time I made a right turn onto South Capitol Street and saw the taped outline of a body on the ground.  Yikes!

Northeast includes Gallaudet University  and the National Arboretum.  It has mainly middle and upper class houses.   Southeast includes the Washington Naval Yard and the Anacostia River.  Residential is middle and lower class.

Have you been to Washington, DC?  What did you think about finding your way around?

With Christmas coming up in about a month, I hope you’ll drop in to read my story “Grateful for a Gift to ‘Any Soldier'” in The Washington Post.

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