Where We Live: Mount Pleasant

Photo courtesy of
‘Shrine of the Sacred Heart’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

The diverse and eclectic Mount Pleasant neighborhood is the topic of this week’s Where We Live.  It was once a streetcar suburb and is now a mix of housing types  with a main street of its own.  It has great access to downtown and is right in between Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights, two very developed areas, but it has retained a quieter residential character.  Read on to hear the very cool history of Mount Pleasant and what to check out next time you’re there.

History: The neighborhood dates back to 1727, when a large area of what is now Columbia Heights/Adams Morgan/Mount Pleasant was granted to James Holmead.  The area was named Pleasant Plains in 1750, and then became part of the District when it was established in 1791.  During the Civil War, the area was home to a hospital, and after the war the neighborhood became known as Mount Pleasant Village.  The area was separated from the rest of the District by rural land, as DC hadn’t grown into its 10-mile square yet, which is why Mount Pleasant doesn’t quite line up with DC’s orderly grid of streets.  In the 1870s, the area became the District’s first streetcar suburb, and many middle class residents moved in to take advantage of the quick commute to Washington City.

The area has changed a lot since then.  In the 1950s, the neighborhood became racially segregated, with many white residents leaving the city altogether.  The 1968 riots only made things worse, and the area entered a period of decline.  However, throughout the 1960s Spanish-speaking immigrants began moving to Mount Pleasant, establishing vibrant communities of El Salvadorean and Dominican Republic immigrants.  In the 1980s and 1990s, affluent professionals began moving into the area for its access to jobs downtown and its historic residential housing stock.  And today, the population is a mix of all those eras: approximately one third of residents are white, one third are African-American, and one third are Hispanic.

Neighborhood Character: Mount Pleasant has a strong historic residential character throughout the neighborhood and a pedestrian-friendly commercial strip along Mount Pleasant Street.  Rowhouses and smaller apartment buildings make up the neighborhood, and many historic structures from the early 1900s remain.  The area is very walkable, with strong transit access and a variety of neighborhood destinations.  In recent years, Mount Pleasant has been changing due to the nearby development of Columbia Heights.  Tim, author of the neighborhood blog The 42 and Mount Pleasant resident of six years, had this to say:  ” There obviously have been hundreds of changes, some from within and many from without.  We’ve been greatly affected by the development of Columbia Heights.  Most of that has probably been good for Mount Pleasant in terms of access to amenities.  On the other hand, we’ve seen stagnant development of out own commercial strip at the same time.”

Photo courtesy of
‘Fiesta DC Balloons’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Transportation: Mount Pleasant is one of those communities, like Logan Circle and Adams Morgan, that is awkwardly close to the Metro– you know, close enough that you can walk to it, but just far enough that it’s a pain to stumble home from after hitting a few bars.  Luckily, it’s served by great bus service, including the new Circulator that serves both Logan and Adams Morgan.  The 42 bus links the community with Metro Center via Connecticut Avenue and Dupont, and a number of other buses serve the area as well.  There are ten Zipcars in the area, and the area is full of walkers, bikers, and transit users: according to a 2004 study, nearly three-quarters of area residents don’t need a car to get to work.

Points of Interest: There are some great things to see and places to go next time you find yourself in Mount Pleasant.  Here are a couple:

  • Definitely check out the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays in Lamont Park from 9 AM to 1 PM.  They’ve got everything: fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, and flowers.  And everything was grown/made in the region, so you can feel good about supporting local food.
  • Mount Pleasant is right next to the Zoo and Rock Creek Park, so take advantage of it!  Ride your bike along Beach Drive through the park, especially on Saturdays when the road is car-free.  The Carter Barron Amphitheatre, with all its fantastic summer performances, is a short ride away.
  • Mount Pleasant Street has a number of very cool locally-owned businesses.  Pfeiffer’s Hardware is the place to go for home improvement supplies and housewares, 3 Por Tienda is the neighborhood thrift store, and Heller’s Bakery has great cupcakes and other baked goods.
  • There are so many great restaurants to choose from.  Tim says Korean restaurant Adam Express is “tiny in size but big on quality”, and also recommends Radius Pizza and Tikal Burritos Fast.  Favorite bars include Tonic and Marx Cafe, which are “about as locally owned and quirky as you can get,” according to Tim.

Neighborhood Links: Mount Pleasant has a large online presence, with a number of active neighborhood sites:

  • The 42 covers happenings from the windows of the 42 bus (and all over the city, really).  It’s the go-to place for neighborhood (and citywide) events, reviews, and news.  The blog covers happenings along the whole route of the 42 bus, so it’s a great source for information on Adams Morgan too.
  • The Mount Pleasant Forum is an active online forum with neighborhood news, events, and opinions.  It’s got a great neighborhood calendar, as well as classifieds, police resources, and ANC information.
  • Climbing the Mount is a (now inactive?) blog covering neighborhood events and attractions, with some great information on community gardening and the farmer’s market.

Why We Love Mount Pleasant: It’s a town within a town, with a very distinct character.  It’s close to downtown, close to Rock Creek Park, and it’s got some very cool homes.  Mount Pleasant has a great sense of history, a strong neighborhood identity, and great access to all the happenings in Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights.  There’s always something to do on weekends, and there are some very cool neighborhood stores within walking distance.  Most of all, it feels like a real neighborhood, with historic houses just blocks away from an old town Main Street.

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!

5 thoughts on “Where We Live: Mount Pleasant

  1. I miss living in Mt Pleasant. That’s where I grew up, as part of the Latino influx. I’m now relegated to the suburbs, but I still long to go back some day.

  2. To clarify- Mt Pleasant has always had a decent-sized white populace. It was the hippies, some remnants of whom still remain (now old and far less “laid back”). It was also the center of a “blue grass” music scene in the mid-1900′s- random, huh?

  3. No article about Mt. Pleasant would be complete without mentioning The Raven – My favorite, and ultimately DC’s most legitimate Dive Bar.

    Love you Raven and Love the Jukebox.


  4. I love the Raven, but @Patrick Lynch, I’ve got to beg to differ that it’s DC’s most legit dive bar. Tune Inn and Lil Pub over here on the Hill are both seriously legit dives.

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