Library Blog

What Does the D.C. in Washington, D.C. Stand For?

U.S. Capitol Building

Our library likes to celebrate holidays. It adds a bit of cheer to everyone’s day. We decorate the circulation desk for celebrations like Halloween, National Library Week, and Graduation. It is a bit more challenging to decorate for Presidents’ Day. However, it is definitely easy to celebrate with this blog post! Today we are writing about the name of our capital, Washington, D.C.

In July 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act. The Residence Act stated the general location of the new capital and granted President George Washington the ability to choose the final site location. President Washington was also granted the authority to appoint three commissioners to oversee the capital’s development. In 1791, those commissioners named the capital Washington in honor of the President. (For more information on this process, see!) That is how Washington, D.C. became Washington, but it still doesn’t explain the D.C. part!

The commissioners named the new capital the Territory of Columbia. The Columbia part seems to have been an homage to Christopher Columbus and the name Columbia was as an early American patriotic reference for the new country. However, the name situation was unsettled as “federal statutes vacillated between calling the area a “territory” and a “district” for decades, with the latter becoming the official title in 1871.” 

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