Where We Live: Bloomingdale

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘mediaslave’

Thanks to your great suggestions telling me where you live, we have several more neighborhoods in the District, Virginia, and Maryland to profile over the coming weeks.  This week, we’re heading back in to DC to look at a very neighborly neighborhood: Bloomingdale.  It’s a beautiful neighborhood close to the center of town but it feels worlds away.  Read on to find out what makes Bloomingdale a great community, and the number one thing that residents love about the neighborhood.

History: Bloomingdale wasn’t part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan, and started out as a pretty rural area.  It was next to the planned suburb LeDroit Park, and didn’t really see much residential development until the 1890s when streets were paved and a streetcar connected through the area.  Bloomingdale quickly became home to rowhouses, churches, and schools, and it has remained a quiet residential neighborhood ever since.   More on the history of Bloomingdale over at Bloomingdale DC.

Photo courtesy of
‘Bloomingdale Banner’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Neighborhood Character: If you want to live in a neighborhood where everybody knows your name, this is your place.  The neighborhood consists of several blocks of tree-lined streets of Victorian rowhouses with porches and front stoops, and residents make use of them.  Elle, In Bloom writer and area resident of about a year, says that her favorite thing about the neighborhood is that “it can take over an hour to walk a block because my neighbors all want to say hello and have a chat.”

The heart of the commercial side of Bloomingdale centers on Rhode Island Avenue and First Street NW.  There’s yoga, food, and liquor here, but many residents head over to U Street or downtown for a larger selection of bars and restaurants.

Transportation: There’s no Metro station in Bloomingdale, and the closest Metro stations (Shaw-Howard University and New York Avenue) are both more than half a mile away.  But Bloomingdale has good bus access, with the G8 and 80 coming right through the neighborhood, and several other bus lines stop nearby too.  Capital Bikeshare will soon have a station in Bloomingdale, and Zipcar already serves it.  But because it’s a bit removed from the Metro and downtown, Bloomingdale really feels like a small town suburb, and residents like it that way.

Photo courtesy of
‘Crispus Attucks Park’
courtesy of ‘rockcreek’

What to See: Bloomingdale is a small neighborhood, so it doesn’t have a huge commercial district.  But there’s enough here that it is worth a visit:

  • Bloomingdale hosts a number of community events, including a fantastic weekly farmers’ market (Sundays from 10 AM to 2 PM) and an annual Halloween block party called the Thomas Street Spooktacular.
  • If you have visitors coming from out of town but just can’t find space for them in your studio apartment, tell them about the Bloomingdale Inn, a fantastic bed and breakfast in the neighborhood.
  • Hungry?  Big Bear Cafe is a local favorite, and Windows Cafe has good sandwiches.  But for a truly unique experience, try Thai X-ing.  It’s fantastic Thai food and a dining experience you won’t get anywhere else in the city.
  • Neighbors swear by Timor Bodega, an organic grocery featuring local produce.
  • Get outside (okay, maybe once this ridiculous weather calms down a bit)!  Bloomingdale is home to the lovely Crispus Attucks Park, a neighborhood park that Elle calls “a beautiful example of what a community can achieve together.”  And while the 25-acre McMillan Reservoir is just to the north of Bloomingdale, it is fenced off and inaccessible.  But what if it was reclaimed as park space?

What’s Nearby: Bloomingdale is northeast of Shaw, east of U Street, and southeast of Columbia Heights.

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘thomas.p’

Why We Love Bloomingdale: It’s a neighborhood where residents love their front stoops, where families, college students, long-time residents, and immigrants get to know one another, and where the small town suburban feel has remained despite significant development over the years.  Many District neighborhoods wouldn’t really quality as ‘communities’ as they’re full of residents who don’t really know their neighbors, but Bloomingdale is just the opposite.

Em of Metro-Venture, who has lived in Bloomingdale for three years, says it perfectly: “It sounds kind of silly, but you remember when you were a kid and watched Sesame Street and you wanted to live in the kind of place where people sit on their stoops and walk down the street and wave hi to each other?  Bloomingdale is that kind of place and what I like best is that it’s an authentic urban neighborhood where people genuinely care about each other.”

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!

15 thoughts on “Where We Live: Bloomingdale

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Where We Live: Bloomingdale » We Love DC -- Topsy.com

  2. Okay, I live in Bloomingdale and the sense of community is present here. But, it all depends on whether or not you choose to engage your neighbors.

  3. The photographer of the last picture considers it in Bloomingdale/Eckington, so that’s good enough for me. This feature doesn’t focus on specific neighborhood boundaries, but rather what residents consider to be part of their neighborhood. (Thai X-ing and McMillan Reservoir aren’t within the boundaries of the neighborhood technically, but they’re still cool things to check out when you’re there.)

  4. (First of all, let me apologize to Shannon, the author of this article, for what’s coming here. This is the outgrowth of a conversation on twitter between myself and one of the editors of this website. She encouraged me to write a comment here, as the author is not on twitter, and was not aware that I was discussing her article in that venue. If you wish to see what I said there, Shannon, please go here and look back through my tweets.)

    This is all going to be pedantic, but if facts are important, and accuracy is paramount, and if we bloggers are going to hold ourselves up as paragons of good journalism, especially when compared to traditional media sources like the Washington Post, then I feel like addressing these things should be second-nature for us, and it shouldn’t lead to hard feelings, fights, or stupid arguments that lead to nowhere.

    All that said, the What to See section here is somewhat misleading. It states:

    Bloomingdale is a small neighborhood, so it doesn’t have a huge commercial district. But there’s enough here that it is worth a visit:

    (emphasis mine)

    That sets the stage for what’s to follow, by saying pretty explicitly that the bullet points are about what’s “here” in Bloomingdale.

    The farmers’ market, Thomas Street, Bloomingdale Inn, Big Bear, Windows, Timor, Crispus Attucks, and McMillan are all inside of what is generally accepted today as Bloomingdale. West of 2nd Street and south of Rhode Island was platted as LeDroit Park, but since it is not part of the LeDroit Park Historic District, many prefer to lump it in with Bloomingdale. I believe that’s OK.

    Now, the only location in those bullet points I didn’t list in the above paragraph is Thai X-ing. It’s in the 500 block of Florida Avenue. That’s definitely in LeDroit Park, no debate necessary. Someone unfamiliar with the neighborhood wouldn’t know that by reading this.

    I think it could be easily remedied with a simple phrase, like “…try Thai X-ing in neighboring LeDroit Park.”

    Again, it’s a small thing, but we bloggers have been known to rip the Washington Post for similar things. I just think it merits an update here.

  5. Hey IMGoph, thanks for the comment. But as I said before, I’m not much for neighborhood boundaries here. I’ve never done a Where We Live for LeDroit Park, and thought that Thai X-ing was such a destination in the Shaw/LeDroit/Bloomingdale area that it was appropriate to include here even though it was a bit outside of Bloomingdale. I think someone in Bloomingdale would be willing to walk 3 extra blocks to try it!

  6. Shannon: Oh, I agree that Thai X-ing is worth making a trip to. I think people from Falls Church should try it, and people from Bowie as well.

    If neighborhood boundaries aren’t your thing, that’s fine. Clearly, it’s a big deal to me. But I just thought that, if it is “a bit outside Bloomingdale,” there’s no harm in pointing that out. More information is always better than less.

  7. its funny how you say “authentic urban neighborhood” and “small town suburb”.

    uh. one of them is what it is, and one isn’t.

    i live in bloomingdale and don’t really get the “suburban” vibe. it just feels like a neighborhood to me.
    it’s like you’re surprised to find community on the cold hard city or something.

  8. it is always funny how people that didn’t grow up here have a very rigid idea of what a neighborhood is and people that grew up here have a more fluid one that is based on what’s nearby and who our neighbors are.

    not that it matters all that much, but it is a pointed difference in the way people think about geography.

  9. Well even the official Bloomingdale website calls it a suburb, so I’m not alone– it was developed as a suburb and it still remains primarily residential, with just a little neighborhood-serving retail.  I’m not saying there can’t be great communities in the city– I was just pointing out two different things: a.) there are suburban elements to Bloomingdale, and b.) there’s a really strong sense of community in Bloomingdale.  I think the sense of community, which both residents I talked to really focused on, isn’t too common in a lot of other neighborhoods in our area. Either way, it really sounds like a lovely place to live.

  10. As for being far removed from the metro…
    I actually think one of the main pluses of Bloom is it’s proximity to the shaw/howard metro (under 10 minutes walking distance – and for some, just as far as Thai X-ing) which serves both yellow and green lines so you can literally get just about anywhere (including national airport) faster than driving!

    PS the metro happens to be across the street from the new library! :))

  11. Great article. But I agree that since the article is about defining a neighborhood then the neighborhood boundaries should be made clear. Bloomingdale has had a history of being labeled LeDroit Park largely because LeDroit Park was more known. Only recently, say in the last 10 or 12 years, has Bloomingdale developed recognition across the metro area in its own right. Now that Bloomingdale is known, there’s no need to appear to be claiming restaurants that are clearly not in Bloomingdale.

    As for the surburban vibe, I moved from Bloomingdale to Bowie MD (a real surburb). Bloomingdale is without question the more neighborly of the two. The greatest thing about Bloomindale is the sense of community.

  12. i would like to add a few things:
    two art galleries, Noa Art, and 87Florida
    a terrific Jamaican place, Jam Doung.
    Soul Day Spa
    the 90/92/X3/P6 buses also serve bloomingdale.
    if it happens, three future streetcar lines will serve bloomingdale.
    Rustik Tavern will be opening this year.

    all within our porous and artificial borders.

  13. I live across North Capital from Bloomingdale and realtors are starting to call my neighborhood (Eckington) “Bloomingdale” so while I enjoy a discussion of what a neighborhoods boundaries “technically” are, isn’t a neighborhood just a group of people who live near each other and work together when needed? I think we’ve lost that in the comments when that was part of the original essay. Good work Shannon! Can’t wait for Baraki and Boundary Stone to be on this list.