Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Capitol Hill, Washington, DC
Capitol Hill, aside from being the common nickname for the United States Congress, is the largest historic residential neighborhood in Washington, DC, stretching easterly behind the U.S. Capitol along wide avenues. It is one of the oldest residential communities in Washington.
The Hill itself rises in the center of DC and extends eastward. The hill, which in 1790 was called Jenkins Hill or Jenkins Heights, was the site chosen by Pierre L'Enfant for the placement of the "Congress House," a site which L'Enfant characterized as a "pedestal waiting for a superstructure." In accordance with this plan, the Capitol was situated upon the crest of the hill facing the city.
The Capitol Hill area has grown from a small boarding house community for members of Congress to an area of more than 150 squares embracing a number of separate neighborhoods. In the early years of the Republic, few Congressmen wished to establish permanent residence in the city. Instead, most preferred to live in boarding houses within walking distance of the Capitol. Nothing remains of this original community however, and the area closest to the Capitol presently contains the Library of Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court Building, and the House and Senate Office buildings. Recent estimates in Capitol Hill newspapers suggest as many as a third of all Members of Congress live on Capitol Hill while in Washington.
Almost every street of the Capitol Hill neighborhood is composed of rowhouses of different stylistic varieties and periods forming a continuous wall broken only by street intersections and the occasional church. Side by side exist early 19th century manor houses, Federal townhouses, small frame dwellings, ornate Italianate bracketed houses and the late 19th century press brick rowhouses with their often whimsical decorative elements combining Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Eastlakian motifs.
The two main non-residential areas of Capitol Hill are along Pennsylvania Avenue, which contains a lively commercial corridor with shops, restaurants and bars, and around the 1873 Eastern Market, a brick public market where vendors sell fresh meat and produce in indoor stalls and outdoor tents. Eastern Market is an anchor point for other nearby stores and restaurants, and is the site of an outdoor flea market every weekend.
Capitol Hill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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