DC Mythbusting: Takoma or Takoma Park?

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘Hoffmann’

Welcome to another edition of DC Mythbusting.  This week we’ll be tackling a myth about nomenclature– is the town on the other edge of the boundary with DC called Takoma or Takoma Park?  If it is Takoma Park (which is the name you hear more often), why on earth is the Metro station just called Takoma?

Because there are two different places– Takoma Park is a city in Maryland, while Takoma is a neighborhood in NW Washington DC.  They’re right next to each other, and they used to both be part of a suburb called Takoma Park, until the District of Columbia grew up to its current boundary.  Takoma Park was founded back in 1883 as a Washington garden suburb with “clean air, pure water, and no mosquitoes.”  The area grew as an attractive estate-filled suburb with streetcar service connecting it to Downtown DC.  In 1890 Takoma Park was incorporated as a town by the Maryland General Assembly. However, the northeast boundary line of Washington DC ran right through what was formerly known as Takoma Park. Pierre L’Enfant probably wouldn’t have been too happy with someone messing with the boundaries of his orderly 10-mile square, so the part of the suburb that was within DC remained under District control.

Photo courtesy of
‘Takoma DC Retail Strip’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Even though they area under separate laws and governed by different municipalities, Takoma and Takoma Park share a common identity.  The area is known for its social activism; residents successfully joined together to oppose the North Central Freeway Project in 1964, and they had a great impact on the Takoma Metrorail station (which sits on the Washington DC side, thus the name).  Initial plans called for high-density commercial and residential development around the station and a 500-space commuter parking lot, but residents organized a group called Plan Takoma that developed the alternative of what you see today: a public park, a 100-space parking lot, and the retention of medium-density houses and shops.  If you’ve never been up that way, you should take a day to check it out: there’s a cute historic main street, a fantastic recreation center with a great pool, and a very cool cohousing project.

So, now you know– Takoma and Takoma Park are two different places, in two different jurisdictions, that share a common boundary and community identity.  The Takoma (DC) Metro station is not in Takoma Park, Maryland.  And for goodness sake, it is not spelled Tacoma– that happens to be a city in Washington (the state, not the city).

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!

3 thoughts on “DC Mythbusting: Takoma or Takoma Park?

  1. It’s not so simple as you describe. For instance, the Washington DC branch library on 4th Street NW is the Takoma Park branch and you do occasionally hear the not-incorrect usage, Takoma Park, DC.

  2. they used to both be part of a suburb called Takoma Park, until the District of Columbia grew up to its current boundary.

    No, the DC boundary hasn’t changed since the 18th century. Much of the District was suburban for most of its life, yes, but the boundary has always been there.