Quito, a city of Ecuador, capital of the republic, and of the province of Pichincha, in a district of its own name formed by a valley in the Andes; lat. 0° 13' S., Ion. 78° 43' W.; pop. about 70,000. Built upon the slopes of several hills on the E. flank of the volcano Pichincha, at an elevation of nearly 10,000 ft. above the sea, it has but two approaches from the south and one from the north, the eastern and western portions being hemmed in by precipitous mountains. The streets are narrow and mostly unpaved, and the houses, owing to the frequency of earthquakes, are generally of one story. Many houses are built on arches over two deep ravines which traverse the town from E. to W., through which rush down torrents of melted snow from the neighboring volcanoes, and which here and there present dangerous precipices. Water is distributed by pipes in the houses of the rich, and by handsome stone fountains embellishing the public squares. The principal public edifices are the cathedral, archiepiscopal palace, city hall, and government house, all in the Plaza Mayor, one of the finest public squares in South America. Most of the churches are attached to large convents.
There are three hospitals, one being for elephantiasis, asylums for the blind and the insane, a university once famous for the number of its students, a seminary, a college, and a number of public and private schools. An academy of arts and sciences, and schools of agriculture, obstetrics, and sculpture, were to be organized in 1873. Quito has several libraries, chief of which is that of the old Jesuit college, with about 20,000 volumes. The mint occupies part of the same structure as the university. The climate is salubrious; the mean annual temperature is about 60° F., and the extremes 45° and 75°. Elephantiasis is very common. The foreign commerce is mostly in produce sent to Central America, and some precious metals to Peru, all by the port of Guayaquil. The manufactures include coarse cottons and woollens; there are a few silk-weaving establishments, the raw material for which is mainly imported from France, but recent attempts to acclimatize the silkworm bid fair to prove successful. The women make very fine gold lace, and excellent embroidery, needlework, and lace.
Quito communicates with Bogota by a good road, the only one worthy the name in the republic before the commencement of a carriage road to lead from Guayaquil to Quito, save in the space between Sibamba and Pueblo Nuevo, over which a railway is to extend. There is a telegraph from Quito to Guayaquil. - The history of Quito goes back to a remote antiquity. Of its primitive rulers, tradition preserves the names of a number who were called Quita. About A. D. 280 the city is said to have been captured by certain foreign invaders, who, under the name of Siris, maintained their dominion until the invasion of the inca Huayna Capac, who subdued the entire kingdom. At his death he divided his kingdom between his two sons, Atahuallpa and Huascar, leaving to the first the sceptre of Quito, and to the second that of Cuzco. War ensued between the brothers, in which Atahuallpa obtained control of all the provinces. But his triumph was of short duration, and he lived to find himself the prisoner of the Spanish adventurer Pizarro. Taking advantage of the capture of his king, Ru-miñagui, one of the inca generals, usurped regal authority in Quito, but fled to the mountains on the approach of Sebastian Benalcázar. Under the Spanish dominion Quito, erected into a presidency, first formed part of the vice-royalty of Peru; afterward it was attached to that of Santa Fé, and subsequently restored to that of Peru, to which it remained attached until the independence of the country, when it was aggregated with Venezuela and New Granada in the republic of Colombia. On the dissolution of that republic in 1831, it was organized, with the districts of Asuay and Guayaquil, into a new republic under the name of Ecuador. The modern city was founded in 1534 by Benalcázar; it was incorporated as a city in 1541, and erected into a bishopric four years later.
Several disastrous earthquakes have occurred here, especially those of Feb. 4, 1797, and March 22, 1859.