Pennsylvania Avenue

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Pennsylvania Avenue is a street in Washington, D.C. that joins the White House and the United States Capitol. Called "America's Main Street",[1] it is the location of official parades and processions, as well as protest marches. Moreover, Pennsylvania Avenue is an important commuter route and is part of the National Highway System.



The avenue runs for a total of 5.8 miles (9.3 km) inside Washington, but the 1.2 miles (1.9 km) of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the United States Capitol building is considered the most important. It continues within the city for 3.5 miles (5.6 km), from the southeast corner of the Capitol grounds through the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and over the Anacostia River on the John Philip Sousa Bridge. Crossing the entire width of Prince George's County, Maryland, it ends 14.5 miles (23.3 km) from the DC line at its junction with MD Route 408 at Waysons Corner near the Patuxent River, for a total length of 20.3 miles (32.7 km). At this point, as a limited-access highway, it becomes Southern Maryland Boulevard. In addition to its street name, in Maryland it is designated as Maryland Route 4. Northwest of the White House, Pennsylvania Avenue runs for 1.4 miles (2.3 km) to its end at M Street NW in Georgetown.


Laid out by Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant, Pennsylvania Avenue was one of the earliest streets constructed in the Federal City.[2] The first reference to the street as Pennsylvania Avenue comes in a 1791 letter from Thomas Jefferson. One theory is that the street was named for Pennsylvania as consolation for moving the capital from Philadelphia.[3] Both Jefferson and George Washington considered the avenue an important feature of the new capital. After inspecting L'Enfant's plan, President Washington referred to the thoroughfare as a "Grand Avenue". Jefferson concurred, and while the "grand avenue" was little more than a wide dirt road ridiculed as "The Great Serbonian Bog", he planted it with rows of fast-growing Lombardy poplars. From 1862 to 1962, streetcars ran the length of the avenue from Georgetown to the Anacostia River.

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