In the late 1700s, it was decided that our country needed a capital city. Many people felt that it should be located in New York; others thought it should be in Philadelphia. Our first President, George Washington, finally picked a site on the Potomac River, midway between the northern and southern states. This spot would come to be called Washington, District of Columbia.
Pierre L'Enfant, a city planner from France, designed the new city. He decided to place the Capitol Building on one hill and the "President's House" on another hill. L'Enfant had many plans for building the city, but he lost his job after too many disagreements with landowners. The streets and parks that exist in Washington, D.C., today are the result of the work of two surveyors, Andrew Ellicott and Benjamin Banneker, who made maps and plans based on L'Enfant's original designs.
The original District of Columbia was like a wilderness, and the Potomac River caused the area to be marshy. Pigs roamed the streets, and mosquitoes made people sick from malaria. Conditions improved, however, when the marshes, creeks, and canals were drained.