Where We Live: Petworth

Photo courtesy of
‘1304 Monroe Street NW’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Welcome to this week’s Where We Live!  So far, this feature has taken us to every quadrant of the District, and soon, we’ll be expanding to include Maryland and Virginia suburbs.  But first, let’s look at a DC neighborhood that has a real sense of community: Petworth.  Read on to explore this fantastic community in Northwest DC.

History: Petworth was originally two country estates in Washington County, DC (not part of L’Enfant’s original city) owned by John Tayloe.  The city eventually expanded up to this area, and in the 1880s these two estates were purchased for development.  Seemingly overnight, a neighborhood popped up, with thousands of similar-looking brick rowhouses developed in the 1920s and 1930s.  This area was promoted as an ideal place to live, with the convenience of a streetcar (which ran from downtown up through Silver Spring and stopped in Petworth) but the parks and quiet residential nature of the suburbs.

This area is also home to two historic sites: the Rock Creek Cemetery, established in 1719, and the Old Soldiers’ Home (now Armed Forces Retirement Home), a retirement home for the armed forces established in 1851.  The Old Soldiers’ Home is also the site of President Lincoln’s Cottage, a summer home for several presidents.

Photo courtesy of
’13th Street NW at Emerson’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Neighborhood Character: Petworth still retains its residential character, even after the building boom that happened after the Metro station opened in 1999.  The area is still dominated by residential development, with both single-family homes, rowhouses, and a small number of recently-built condos.  But the area is finally attracting some commercial development too.  Dan, author of Prince of Petworth and neighborhood resident of over six years, says, “When I first moved to Petworth there were very few sit down restaurants, I’m happy to say we have options now and even a couple of bars and a coffee house!”

What this neighborhood is really known for is its community character and porch culture.  Last year’s City Paper Neighborhood Guide said that while there’s not much of a selection for eating or shopping, but “it’s about family and friends down the block. None of the bad stuff comes to mind when you’re sitting out on the front porch on a nice night, listening to a Nats game on the radio and waving to neighbors and passersby.”  Dan agrees– his favorite part of living in Petworth is “the people and community feeling.  Lots of folks, including me, enjoy drinking a beer in the warmer months and chatting it up with the neighbors.  I’ve said it before, but to me it feels like my vision of the 1950s.”  Now that sounds like a great neighborhood.

Photo courtesy of
‘bus convergence’
courtesy of ‘rjs1322’

Transportation: The Petworth neighborhood is well connected to the rest of the city. There’s the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station on the green and yellow lines, which opened in 1999.  And there are a bunch of bus lines that serve the station, like the 62/63/64 buses that connect downtown and Silver Spring, and the H8 that runs east-west to Mount Pleasant and Rhode Island Avenue.  Petworth has about 7 Zipcars, and there are bike lanes on 7th Street NW and 5th Street NW.

What to See: There’s a lot to see in and around Petworth!

  • Check out the historic side of Petworth.  Take a tour of the Lincoln Cottage (where he spent weekends during the Civil War, and where he  spent a quarter of his presidency), and wander through the Rock Creek Cemetery.  While you’re at the cemetery, visit the famous Grief Statue.
  • Head to the Looking Glass Lounge (formerly Temperance Hall) for a happy hour or their Thursday night trivia, the Hitching Post for fantastic soul food, Moroni and Bros for some of the city’s best pizza, or El Limeno for great Latin American food.
  • The historic Petworth Library is definitely worth a visit.  And if you feel like playing outside, there’s Grant Circle, the Petworth Playground at 8th & Taylor, Upshur Recreation Center (complete with outdoor pool and playground), and Parkview Recreation Center at 8th & Otis, all within walking distance.
  • Columbia Heights and Brookland are nearby, and both offer plenty of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options.

Neighborhood Links: Here are some good resources for neighborhood news in Petworth:

  • Dan’s blog, Prince of Petworth, originally started out just documenting Petworth neighborhood life three years ago.  But today, Dan is a full-time blogger who covers neighborhoods all across the District.  PoP is a go-to site for neighborhood events and development updates.
  • Petworth News is a neighborhood-focused blog that covers neighborhood events and meetings, like this adorable Petworth Halloween Block Party.
  • Just to the south of Petworth lies the Park View community.  The Park View DC blog covers community events, ANC meetings, and development in the area.

Photo courtesy of
‘Georgia and New Hampshire’
courtesy of ‘dannyfowler’

Why We Love Petworth: If you’re looking for a neighborhood with countless nearby restaurants and bars, or a huge neighborhood shopping district, look elsewhere.  But if you really want to be a part of a community, where you get to know your neighbors, and you’re a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown DC, Petworth might be the place for you.  It’s a real neighborhood, and it’s close to plenty of open space, and it has a growing number of restaurants and bars.  And residents just love the community that is central to Petworth.  When I asked Dan where in the neighborhood I’d find him on some weekend afternoon, he said, “Sitting on my porch with the newspaper and coffee and chatting with my neighbors.”  Who wouldn’t want that?

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: Petworth

  1. I have been enjoying this serious. I hope that you talk about all the DC neighborhoods before jumping into Maryland and Virginia. Also, this post tags Brightwood as the same as Petworth- they are neighbors. It maybe be nice for the future to include in this series the “borders” of the neighborhoods.

  2. Prince of Petworth is a waste of your time. If you were under house arrest and all you had in your home was a computer, and you were obsessed with the Petworth neighborhood, you would still be wasting your time reading Prince of Petworth. Unless you like fancy doors.

  3. You forgot the delicious jerk chicken at Sweet Mango Cafe! It’s literally right off the metro and they serve up fantastic food. I walk past there on my way to the metro every morning and I can smell them smoking the chicken at 7:30am. I never thought I’d crave jerk chicken that early, but Sweet Mango has proven me wrong.

  4. @Jason: Prince of Petworth isn’t a waste of time if you, you know, live in Petworth… and I gather you don’t.

  5. @Michelle While I don’t think we’ll exhaust each and every neighborhood in DC before we stray beyond the borders, we’re certainly covering as many DC neighborhoods as we can before focusing on a few of the cool Maryland and Virginia spots. Don’t expect to see Where We Live: Reston any time soon.

  6. @MissBiscuit Thanks for the recommendation on Sweet Mango Cafe, I’ll definitely check that out!

    @Michelle Don’t worry- I’ve got plenty of DC neighborhoods still left to feature: Cleveland Park, Tenleytown, Navy Yard, Mount Vernon Square, and Palisades. Any others that you’d like to see? And I love the idea on including border neighborhoods, I’ll start doing that in the next Where We Live. Thanks!