DC Mythbusting: Everything You Thought You Knew About DC is Wrong

Photo courtesy of
‘The first Inch of winter 2010-11’
courtesy of ‘ianseanlivingston’

In the spirit of wrapping up the year with a nice little bow on it, welcome to a roundup of our favorite myths over the past year.  There are so many myths about the transportation, history, and culture of the District that we’ve dug into this year. So here are our favorites, all in one place! Read this through and you’ll know more about the District than most people out there.

Photo courtesy of
‘Empty Metro’
courtesy of ‘ewilfong’

Transportation Myths
Whether you love or hate Metro, you’ve got to admit it’s a fascinating system. Many of the most popular Mythbusting features concerned the Metro system, like why Metro can’t post “Stand to the Right” signs, how the bus routes were named, or why there’s no Georgetown Metro station. Oh, and while we’re at it– the Metro map isn’t to scale, so that’s why it takes so long to get from Rosslyn to Court House compared to Court House to Clarendon.

We’ve got a crazy set of streets here in the District, too.  There’s no J Street, but it’s not because the planner of DC hated John Jay.  The network of streets is so confusing that some people think that they were designed that way to repel armies and protect the city (it’s not true, but the myth just won’t die– I hear this one at least once a week on average!).

There are plenty of bike myths out there too.  How bike-friendly is DC?  Pretty bike-friendly.  It’s getting easier and easier to get around the city on two wheels.  But when you’re riding around in the bike lane, watch out– plenty of other vehicles are allowed in the city’s bike lanes too.

Photo courtesy of
‘The Mall (from the Washington Monument), Washington, D. C.’
courtesy of ‘Cornell University Library’

History Myths
The District is a pretty amazing city with centuries of really cool stories behind it.  Was the city laid out on a swamp?  Nope.  But was it planned by Pierre L’Enfant, who then died penniless and alone because someone essentially stole his plans?  Yup.

There are lots of amazing monuments and memorials out there commemorating important historical figures. The Lincoln Memorial has a whole host of stories about it (nope, that’s not Robert E. Lee’s face in Lincoln’s hair), but there are plenty of obscure monuments and memorials you’ve probably never even heard of.  And you know the Hoof Code of statues– the theory that the number of horses hooves on the ground correspond to how the statue’s subject died?– totally a myth.

Photo courtesy of
‘… vs spy’
courtesy of ‘christaki’

Culture Myths
There are all sorts of things you pick up about the city just by living here for a little while. But so much of what you hear is wrong! It’s not true that no one is from DC, DC doesn’t have more non-English speakers than other comparable cities (but it does have an international vibe), and not all the jobs in DC are based around the Federal government.

But there are some truths out there too.  It’s true that more than twice as many people work here than live here, and it’s overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning.  It’s also true that you’re worth about $4,500 for just filling out your Census form.

There’s so much culture and history here in the District that people come from all across the country just to see it.  Here’s what they all need to learn before setting foot inside our (originally) ten-mile square.

There you have it– the rundown of DC-related myths from 2010.  Stay tuned next year for even more Mythbusting!  And if you have a DC myth you’ve always wondered about, drop me a line at shannon@welovedc.com.

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at) WeLoveDC.com!

9 thoughts on “DC Mythbusting: Everything You Thought You Knew About DC is Wrong

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention DC Mythbusting: Everything You Thought You Knew About DC is Wrong » We Love DC -- Topsy.com

  2. I feel more stupid and less informed having read your article. Who the hell do you think you are to simply write that something is not true without backing up that claim with proof. You are a failure as a writer and a drain on society. Had you been in my classroom I would be ashamed to claim you as a student.

    Get real.

  3. Hi Richard,

    If you click on the light blue text in the post (they’re called ‘links’), they go to the original posts covering the myths. These posts also have ‘links’ that cite the sources to back up the claims.

    Enjoy the Internet!


  4. The ‘hoof code’ for military statues does actually exist, but only in Gettysburg National Battlefield.

  5. Hahaha, I think richard’s comment is one of the most hot headed stupid comments I have ever read in my entire life of trolling internet websites; thank you richard!

  6. I lost a minute of my life and at least four IQ points reading Richard’s comment. Seriously, did you read the article at all?

  7. Pingback: DC Link Roundup: Heard In The ‘Hood | Penn Quarter Living

  8. Nice summing up. And as someone who was born and raised in DC, it’s nice to know there are a few of us left after the great Marion Barry purges of the 1980s.

    Also, little known historical fact. Adolf Hilter actually worked for a brief time in DC as a tourguide and docent. I read it on the Internet!