Where We Live: Georgetown

Photo courtesy of
‘loves it’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Where We Live.  This week, we’ll be looking at a DC neighborhood that is older than DC– Georgetown!  Home to beautiful architecture, a thriving commercial district, and a major university, Georgetown probably draws more out-of-towners than any other DC neighborhood (except maybe Adams Morgan on Saturday nights).  Read on to find out what real Georgetown residents think of their neighborhood.

History: Lots of history to cover here.  Way back in 1632, an English fur trader documented a Native American settlement called Tohoga where Georgetown currently is, and he established trade there.  Fast forward to 1751 when the town was incorporated as part of Maryland (interestingly enough, it’s not named after George Washington as I had erroneously assumed– it’s either named after King George II or its founders, George Gordon and George Beall).  Because of its geographic location as the furthest point up on the Potomac River that boats could reach, it became a big port, and warehouses and buildings grew around the tobacco trade (and sadly, the slave trade too).

When Congress created the District of Columbia in 1791, Georgetown was included in the outline of the 10-mile square.  Georgetown continued to grow, with Georgetown University founded in 1789, and much of the area developed with commercial buildings near the water and residential buildings further north on higher ground.  Georgetown retained its identity for quite a while– that is, until its town charter was revoked in 1871, and when it was finally ordered in 1880 to conform with DC’s street naming structure.

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Georgetown was a diverse community– not the homogeneous neighborhood that it is seen as now.  But in the 1930s more government staffers moved to the area, and when Georgetown resident John F. Kennedy was elected president the area was the most fashionable in the District.  Since then, Georgetown has been among the most affluent neighborhoods in the city, and home to some of DC’s VIPs.  For more on the neighborhood’s history, check out Georgetown Real Estate’s post on history factoids or the National Register page on Georgetown.

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

Neighborhood Character: Now here’s a neighborhood that has just about everything you could want.  In addition to the gorgeous million-dollar rowhouses in Georgetown and Burleith, there’s a major commercial corridor right on M Street.  Topher Mathews, Georgetown resident of six years and author of The Georgetown Metropolitan, says his favorite part of living in the area is “the amazing amount of stuff that fits into just one square mile. It’s easy to see Georgetown as just an outdoor mall, with national chains and a few expensive restaurants. But the more you dig, the more you realize how varied and and abundant the neighborhood is. There are nearly 500 stores in Georgetown. 500! We’ve got all the ones you know about, but then we’ve got stuff like three used book stores, a professional photo lab, and the best gelato place in town.”  The buildings in the area are historic in nature and won’t be changing anytime soon– if you remember the Apple Store saga from last winter, preservationists are there to make sure that the urban design character of the area is preserved in any future development.

Transportation: Georgetown doesn’t have a Metro station (and not because they fought to keep the poor people out), but it still has a lot of great transportation options.  Driving along M Street is almost always stressful and aggravating, but Georgetown is great for pedestrians!  Brick sidewalks, benches, and hanging flowers from lampposts– it’s really a beautiful place to walk.  The residential streets north of Georgetown are also a pain to drive, with stop signs at every. single. intersection.  So walking, biking, or taking transit are highly recommended when heading to Georgetown.

Despite the lack of a Metro station, there are a bunch of transit options in the area: the DC Circulator, which connects Georgetown with Union Station; the 38B bus (“The Orange Line with a View!”) that connects Farragut Square and Ballston; the G2 bus that connects Georgetown University with Howard University; the D2 and D6 that link to downtown; and the 31/32/36 that head across town.  There are also non-Metro options, such as the Georgetown Metro Connection shuttle that connects the area with Dupont Circle and Rosslyn, and the Georgetown University GUTS bus that links the campus with various destinations in the area.

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘muohace_dc’

What to See: There is SO much to see in this neighborhood, that this section alone could fill several posts.  But here’s a selection of the greatest that Georgetown has to offer:

Neighborhood Links: Here are some Georgetown resources to check out:

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘dchousegrooves’

Why We Love Georgetown: There’s just so much here– Georgetown has just about anything you could possibly want or need in a neighborhood.  From beautiful historic architecture to a thriving commercial corridor to a revitalized waterfront area, Georgetown has so much to offer.  It’s got one of the busiest streets in DC, but it’s also just a short walk from several huge parks.  It’s home to the newest and best retail offerings in the District, but they’re housed in gorgeous historic buildings.  And the selection of restaurants and shopping absolutely can’t be beat.  Topher puts it best, “Recently developer Anthony Lanier said he wanted it to be true that the only reason for residents to leave Georgetown is to go to the airport. I don’t think we’re there yet but the more you know about Georgetown, the more you realize that we’re closer to Lanier’s dream than many would think.”

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!

9 thoughts on “Where We Live: Georgetown

  1. Billy Martin’s Tavern is another Georgetown institution! Best crabcakes & burgers. Plus tons of DC history: almost every president has been there. JFK went there every Sunday after Mass & the legend is he proposed to Jackie there. LBJ & Nixon also went. The friendly staff can point out all the presidents’ favorite tables for you.

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  3. Something special about Georgetown, an enclave created in part by topography.

    Some say it is snooty, but this week’s Georgetowner addresses that. Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee are interviewed and say that it is not as aloof as people say.

    And snow. Is there a more beautiful place in our area to soak up that magical mood?

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  5. Georgetown is a giant open air mall, with over priced property. So you say you want to live in the city, but don’t like actually living in the city with all its pesky litter, and other urban issues? Well George town is for you. Like Alexandria, but even less diverse.

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