Where We Live: Brookland

Photo courtesy of
‘snowy, icy, icky’
courtesy of ‘wageslaves’

Welcome to the first installment of a new feature on We Love DC! Every two weeks, we’ll introduce you to a different neighborhood in the city. This week: Brookland! Located in Northeast, Brookland is full of small-town charm with the amenities of being in the middle of a big city.  It’s walkable, full of history, and rich in community character.

History: The neighborhood gets its name from the 1840 Brooks Mansion, home of Colonel Jehiel Brooks (a veteran of the War of 1812).  In the 1870s, the B&O Railroad opened Brooks Station adjacent to the Brooks Estate, which provided commuter rail service to Downtown DC and Silver Spring.  In 1888, the city’s first electric streetcar line opened, and the area grew quickly.  Brookland developed as a streetcar suburb, and in 1889 the Catholic University of America opened on a 70-acre tract of land near the station.   In the mid twentieth century, religious groups were encouraged to buy property in the area to support the university, and thus the area became known as “Little Rome” with a high concentration of Catholic institutions.

In 1970, WMATA planned to purchase the Brooks Mansion and demolish it for parking (gotta love that 70’s era thinking on community development and transit-oriented development), but the citizens’ association put a stop to that.  Over thirty years later, the neighborhood is under serious development pressure, and the Office of Planning recently completed a Small Area Plan that will guide future development and redevelopment of the area.

Neighborhood Character: Brookland is home to a diverse group of residents who value the comfortable neighborhood feel.  Homes in this area actually have backyards (real ones! not just a sliver of land that’s barely big enough to hold a grill!), and the historic character of homes makes it a very attractive neighborhood.  Andrew F., Brookland resident of four years and creator of Brookland Blog, says,  “The three things we love most about Brookland are the big house, nice yards and the diversity of the residents.”  Brookland residents have access to a variety of stores on 12th Street NE, including the Brookland Hardware Store and the CVS pictured above in the Newton Theater.  This area also has great access to parks: Turkey Thicket Recreation Center is one of the city’s best recreation facilities, and residents can also walk to Fort Bunker Hill Park.

Today, Brookland is at a crossroads.  There are some areas that are ready for redevelopment, and the Office of Planning sees the station as an opportunity for new transit-oriented development.  But many longtime residents enjoy the neighborhood-focused (some would say ‘suburban’) development and want to keep the area just the way it is.  Read a pro-redevelopment viewpoint, and a pro-keep-things-the-way-they-area viewpoint.  However, at this point the argument is moot as the Brookland/CUA Small Area Plan was unanimously approved by the DC Council on March 3.

Transportation: The Brookland-CUA Metro stop (red line) opened in 1978.  Several Metrobus lines provide service to the neighborhood, including H6 and R4 along Michigan Avenue, B51, B52, and B53 along 12th Street NE,  and the G8 , H8, and H9 routes along Monroe Street.  The neighborhood has five Zipcars close to the Metro station.

‘Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

What To See:

  • Take advantage of the offerings at Catholic University.  Catch a show, attend a lecture or exhibit, or go swimming (memberships available to the public).
  • Visit the absolutely gorgeous Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  It is the largest Roman Catholic church in the country, and one of the largest ten churches in the world.  Tours are offered several times a day, so seriously, just go.
  • 12th Street NE is Brookland’s Main Street.  Go shopping, then try neighborhood hangout Cafe Sureia for coffee or San Antonio Bar and Grill for lunch.
  • Dance Place has been an anchor in the Brookland community since the 1980s– go take a class or catch a performance to see what it’s all about.
  • The Historic Brookland Farmers Market is open on Sundays and Tuesdays at 10th and Otis.  The Sunday market will open May 17th and will be open from 10am-2pm, and the Tuesday market will open in mid-June.
  • Check out the the Great Brookland Yard Sale, scheduled for May 9th from 10am-2pm.  Last year over 50 yard sales participated!

Neighborhood Links:

  • Brookland Blog: an attorney’s blog about neighborhood events and the annual yard sale, which he organizes.
  • Brookland Heartbeat: a monthly newsletter that brings together ANC news, development in Brookland, profiles of local businesses, and community events.
  • stop, blog, and roll: a now-inactive blog that focused on community events, crime reports, local programs, and some neighborhood development.

Why We Love Brookland:

Brookland feels like a quaint neighborhood– residents know their neighbors and visit local small businesses, kids play in the rec center, people walk their dogs in the nearby parks– but it’s right on a Metro line and has the resources of a major university right next door.  Residents think it’s the best of both worlds.  Sara T., a resident of Brookland for the past year and a half, says, “I like the quiet, residential nature.  There are some places to grab food, drinks, and general goods, and convenient access to the Metro, but the amount of foot and auto traffic isn’t terribly high, so it’s relatively calm and quiet most of the time.”  While parts of the area is projected to grow and redevelop in the coming years, residents hope to preserve the Brookland of today.

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!

7 thoughts on “Where We Live: Brookland

  1. Sorry I missed yours, Tyler. I love the historic photos on your blog! Thanks for letting me know about it!

  2. nice post, shannon! and thanks for using my pic at the top – though i feel obliged to point out that it’s brookland’s sister to the east, woodridge ;)

    also, if i hadn’t moved from woodridge, i absolutely would have kept up the now retired ‘stop, blog, and roll.’ i’m glad tyler and andrew are going strong.

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