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THIS VOLUME is one of an extensive series of American Guides,
I compiled and edited by the Federal Writers' Projects of the Works Progress Administration. In plan and scope, this series goes beyond the general concept of the conventional guidebook. Its objective is to present as complete a picture as possible of American communities, their political, economic, industrial, and cultural history, their contemporary scene, as well as the specific points of interest ordinarily sought out by the tourist.
The main series of regional, State, and local guides will be supplemented and reinforced by a number of separate publications dealing with American folklore, architecture, education, bibliography, Indian culture, and numerous other subjects concerning which a vast store of valuable first-hand information has been assembled by the Nationwide organization of the Federal Writers' Projects.
This organization was formed under pressure of a great national emergency, and included of necessity many persons without previous experience in the sort of specialized research and writing required under the program laid down. To train these workers in the shortest possible time, to organize and direct this work, to sift, classify, coordinate, unify, revise, and condense for publication the results of that work, undoubtedly constitutes one of the largest and most difficult editorial tasks ever undertaken in this country.
The volume on Washington herewith given to the public differs in at least one important respect from the guides to other large cities now being prepared. Washington is predominantly the Capital of the United States. Visitors to the city are commonly interested as much in the machinery of national government as in the great buildings which house that machinery. Therefore, a considerable portion of this volume is given over to detailed accounts of the functional activities of all Government departments, bureaus, and independent agencies. The development of Washington's basic plan has also been treated in detail, since an understanding of L’Enfant's original scheme, its temporary abandonment, and its rehabilitation after nearly a century, is essential to an understanding of the city itself.
Any book descriptive of Washington must necessarily stress the city's notable architecture—its magnificent public buildings and monuments, its many important churches and fine private homes,