H-DC / DC History
Q. Where did D.C. get its name?
A. Residence Bill July 16, 1790 established a site along the Potomac
to be the Capital. It was not named until 1791.
From the Commissioners to Pierre LEnfant:
Georgetown, September 9, 1791
We have agreed that the Federal district shall be called the Territory
of Columbia and the Federal city the City of Washington.
The title of the map will therefore be, A Map of the City of Washington,
in the Territory of Columbia.
We have also agreed the streets to be named alphabetically one way and
numerically the other, the former divided into north and south lettes,
the latter into east and west numbers, from the Capitol.
Records of the Columbia Historical Society v.35/36 p.70
Thomas Jefferson and the National Capital p.74.
Busey, Samuel. Pictures of Washington in the Past p.35
Stephenson A Plan Whol[l]y New p.43, 76
Proctor Washington Past and Present, v.1, p.48.
Green Washington p.14
Bowling The Creation of Washington, D.C. p. 225
Arnebeck Through a fiery trial. p.61-2
Tindall Standard history of the city of Washington p. 121
Name changed to District of Columbia in 1793 [Busey, p.36]
The Commissioners left no record as to how or why the names