The District of Columbia was carved out of regions from both Maryland and Virginia in 1791 for the purpose of building the nation's capital between the North and South. The cornerstone of the White House was laid on October 13th 1792, and gradually the city developed into a small Federal City. The city was raided during the War of 1812 by British troops and much of the capital, including the White House, was looted and burned. The Civil War saw a massive influx in population due to the surrounding residents seeking government protection and benefits. The towering Washington Monument was opened in 1888, and paved the way for future monument building in the city and the construction of the National Mall in the early 20th century. The geography of Washington DC is largely one of low-lying swamp land located along the banks of the Potomac River. The Anacostia River and Rock Creek form tributaries which flow into the Potomac. There are a few islands on the Potomac which are part of the District of Columbia, the most notable being Theodore Roosevelt Island and Columbia Island.
The District of Columbia's peak population was in the 1950's with over 800,000 residents. Since then, the city has seen a major decline in population, and is currently losing approximately 3,500 residents every year. Due to suburban commuters working within the city, it is estimated that the population nearly doubles in the daytime to over 980,000 people. Over 60% of the resident population is African American, and the city has wide disparities in wealth. Although having the highest per capita gross domestic product in the nation, some 18.9% of the population is below the poverty level (only New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi have higher percentages). While some areas of the city have very low crime levels, other isolated sections have some of the highest crime rates in the U.S. The city is also consistently in the top 5 in most murderous cities in the nation. The economy is largely derived from tourism and federal administration. The District of Columbia is firmly Democratic, voting for Democratic Presidential candidates since 1964.