DC’s Great Streets: Part 1

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The District’s Great Streets Initative aims to revitalize selected corridors in the city by focusing funding on streetscape improvements, economic development assistance, and public safety initiatives.  The program was started back in 2005 and it’s probably too early to tell how successful it has been.  But that program really focuses on streets that need revitalization– areas with little pedestrian activity, not a lot of walkable attractions, and pretty bleak streetscapes.

What about streets that are already great?  Streets that are pleasant to walk down, with lots of shade and benches and a mix of uses to walk to– DC certainly has some pretty fantastic streets already.  I set out to ask our authors about their favorite streets, and here’s the first half of their picks for the District’s greatest streets:

Tom: Pennsylvania Ave SE & 7th Street SE.  From this corner, you can see so much of the city.  Just north of here on 7th is Eastern Market, to the northwest along Pennsylvania are the Library of Congress (my favorite DC Landmark) and the Capitol.  Large trees stand along the sidewalks, and in the medians, and while cars traverse the neighborhood, the sedate pace feels like that of a county seat, and not the nation’s capital.  Seward Square has beautiful residential spaces just a block away, and the small businesses that dot Pennsylvania and 7th are some of my favorite. Montmartre is a great place to get lunch, and Peregrine Espresso is one of my favorite cups of coffee in the universe, and Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery is just a couple blocks away.  Shade and comfort, right in the middle of our busy city.

Photo courtesy of
‘West End, Spring has Sprung!’
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’

Katie: Newport Place, NW is only a block long. Stretching between 22nd and 21st street in West End, about three blocks off of Dupont Circle  it’s hands down my favorite block in the city. You might walk down Newport and be unimpressed, there are no stores, no huge houses, not even really any impressive lawns. There are just simple, colorful row homes, and parked cars. But if that is all you saw, you’d be missing the beauty of it. It’s quiet, oh so quiet, save for the family, dog or bicycle, right in the middle of one of the best parts of the entire city. You walk north or east and you’re in Dupont, with Urbana, Firefly, James Hobans, the best farmer’s market in the city, our very most famous circle, and Kramerbooks. You walk west and you’ve hit Georgetown and Rock Creek Park. Walk south and you’re in Foggy Bottom and Farragut. Chances are, you’d be able to walk to work from Newport if you were lucky enough to live there. From Newport you have the Orange, Blue and Red Lines at your disposal. But on Newport, standing there, you feel calm, insulated from the hubub of the city. I love Newport because to me, it is quintessential DC – rowhomes, surrounded on all sides by fun and exciting things, but at the same time still classic, poised and and serene.

Photo courtesy of
‘p st.’
courtesy of ‘Tracy Clayton’

Shannon: P Street between 13th and 15th Street NW in Logan Circle is my definitely favorite street in the city.  This street is filled with people any time of the day or night, with people sitting outside Whole Foods, grabbing a bite across the street at one of the restaurants with outdoor seating, seeing a performance at the Studio Theater, or passing through for yoga, hardware needs, or groceries.  The street has a good mix of loft condos, retail, restaurants, and bars, meaning that there are always people walking around (particularly with dogs).  It’s pretty amazing that a decade ago the area was still considered shady, because these days that street is one of DC’s best examples of vibrant, active retail places.

Photo courtesy of
’14th Street, NW’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Max: 14th Street, between Rhode Island Ave and V Street NW, is home to some of DC’s best bars, restaurants, and art galleries.  My favorite nights are spent attending gallery openings at Irvine Contemporary, Curator’s Office, G Fine Art, or the Hamiltonian Gallery.  Afterwards I like to hang out with friends while we enjoy some delicious gumbo and BBQ glazed mahi mahi at Eatonville, an overpriced burger and sweet potato fries at Café Saint-Ex, or a tasty Manzo steak at Posto.  If we haven’t reached our alcohol limit we’ll head over to Cork for a crowded glass of wine, to The Gibsonfor a polite “Etouffer un Perroquet”, or to the Black Cat for a pint or three of Stella.  All of this within stumbling distance of home!

Photo courtesy of
’1600 Marion St’
courtesy of ‘justindc’

Rebecca: Tucked away in the heart of Shaw, you’ll find my favorite on Marion Street between Rhode Island & P Street NW.  Brightly painted Victorian era town houses line the sides of the streets giving this short stretch a character that’s both traditional and quirky.  This street keeps it real and simple; there’s no flash, no fancy cars, no pretentiousness, it’s cool done DC style.

Photo courtesy of
‘Friends catching up’
courtesy of ‘InspirationDC’

Acacia: Walking south from Maryland Ave and H St., there is no sight more beautiful than the Eastward stretch of East Capitol St. SE from Lincoln Park. There’s the Capitol building in all its glory, visible through a framing of the trees which line the street. As the sun sets, there’s a certain time where the sun can be seen directly behind and filtering through the building’s dome that is a near glimpse of paradise. Running down that street allows for a Rocky-esque experience as you jog around the newly opened Capitol Visitors Center, its marble columns and fountains flanking the building.  Not coincidentally, the Folger Shakespeare Library is located on East Capitol as well.

Photo courtesy of
‘just another day at the White House’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

Carl: Maybe it’s a little too obvious and tourist-like, but my favorite street is Pennsylvania Ave., right in front of the White House. Where else in the city, or even in the country, can you witness a protest of one form or other literally any time you are there? Things are rarely uneventful or boring in front of the White House. Sometimes it is fun to just stand there and test your visual acuity by spotting secret service agents hiding in the shadows of the lawn or watching from the roof. The open street with no cars is also a great place for EOB staff to have lunchtime touch football games. Yes I have really seen that. In addition, from time to time the running of the bulls takes place there, from what I understand.

Stay tuned for the second half of our author’s picks!  And let us know in the comments what your favorite street in the city is, and why.

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!

4 thoughts on “DC’s Great Streets: Part 1

  1. I love Riggs between 17th and 18th. I also love 17th from P to S. And Calvert Street from the bridge to Adams Morgan.

    Great feature!

  2. i used to live on Rosemount Ave in Mt. Pleasant. It was when i first moved here and didn’t even look at the house before signing the lease. I couldnt have been more lucky. It was a dead end street, across from Rock Creek Park with lots of young adults and families. It was a great retreat within the city, almost like living in the mountains.

  3. i have a certain fondness for F street between 23rd until 16th, It’s partly on the GW campus in Foggy Bottom and as a student it seemed like you were away from everything but still right there in the thick of things. I remember walking right out of my dorm on a weekend and students would just be walking in the middle of the street down towards 22nd where there were frat houses and it was just crazy energy. At the same time, early in the morning the only sound is that of the bus that comes to 21st and F in the morning and its the most peaceful place. Head the other direction towards 16th street and you are at the white house. Perfect Place to get away from everything. It was easy to appreciate the beauty of DC when you lived on F street.

  4. Katie – I love Newport Pl and was lucky enough to rent a tiny tiny apartment there my first 2 years in DC. I walked down the street the first time and decided I didn’t give a damn what the apartment looked like, I must live there! I still miss it in my new Alexandria digs – sigh.