Cities and towns


The 1990 Census showed that some important demographic changes were taking place. Here are some results of the Census.
Re-ranking cities

1990 Census 1980 Census
1. New York City (1)
2. Los Angeles (3)
3. Chicago (2)
4. Houston (5)
5. Philadelphia (4)
6. San Diego (8)
7. Dallas (7)
8. Phoenix (9)
9. Detroit (6)
10. San Antonio (11)

The trend is clear. New York City remained the nation’s largest – about 7 million, but the Census said it lost almost 40,000 residents.

Among the USA’s next biggest – Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia – only the Sun Belt cities grew.

The USA’s fastest growing city in the top 50 was Fresno, California, a farm town turned high tech. It grew by 61 % and has more than 350,000 residents.

The Census figures show that the once sleeping giants of the South and West are the new power cities now. These figures also confirm the shift of the USA’s money from the North and East. And they underscore the importance of Sun Belt cities seldom heard from 20 years ago, handing them more federal dollars, a larger voice in Washington and – even more than before – the power to sway presidential elections.


The city of Washington was designed in the late eighteenth century. It is co-extensive with the District of Columbia. When George Washington was elected President of the United States, there was no permanent capital to house the government. Since members of Congress could not agree as to where the capital should be located, it was decided to choose a special place for the new capital. The State of Maryland agreed to allot a wild and marshy area on the Potomac River. The region was called the District of Columbia, after Christopher Columbus, and the capital was called Washington, after George. Washington.

Work on the new capital

began in 1791. The man who designed the city was Major Pierre-Charles L’Enfant. His grand geometric plan envisioned stately buildings as the city’s core and a grassy, park-like mall with uninterrupted vistas west from the Capitol Building to the Potomac River.

Yet, even by the turn of the twentieth century, Washington showed little of the grandeur of this vision. In the crowded area north of the Mall, factories and mills rubbed shoulders with stores, hotels, restaurants, and row houses. The Mall itself had been broken into segments and landscaped with winding carriage roads and varied plantings that destroyed its symmetry. For a time the Mall was also a transportation center, with railroad tracks crossing at Sixth Street that created an eyesore and safety hazard.

In 1901, as citizens sought to beautify urban areas throughout the United States, the Senate Park Commission (commonly known as the McMillan Commission after its chairman, Senator James McMillan) developed an influential new plan for Washington. This plan aimed to return the city to the formality envisioned in the late eighteenth century and to invest it with a grandeur reflecting the nation’s new sense of wealth and stature.

The Mall was to become a wide, formal lawn flanked by rows of trees, against a backdrop of classical buildings, many with domes. At the foot of Capitol Hill, a “Union Square” was to be built with mounted statues of Civil War generals Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan, facing down the Mall.

The McMillam Commission had anticipated the need for a complex of government office building, and with the government’s growth during World War I, the need was urgent by the 1920s.

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Cities and towns