Where We Live: Tenleytown/AU Park

Photo courtesy of
‘Reservoir Watchtower’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

Welcome to another edition of Where We Live!  This week we’ll be taking a closer look at Tenleytown/AU Park.  Even though this neighborhood surrounds American University, it’s not just college students who live there– the beautiful tree-lined streets and great transit access attract people from all walks of life.

History: This part of town has a pretty cool history.  Tenleytown originally got its name back in 1790, when residents took to calling the neighborhood “Tenally’s Town” after tavern owner John Tenally.  Fort Reno, as the highest natural point in the District, was part of the Civil War Defenses of Washington.  After the Civil War, Fort Reno was a free black community, but you wouldn’t know it today– the remnants of this neighborhood were wiped out when several schools were built in the name of urban renewal.  The area became a commercial center in 1941, when Sears opened a huge store there (the site of the Sears was redevelopment and now houses the Best Buy and Container Store).  The area developed throughout the twentieth century with the help of the streetcar and its proximity to American University (which admitted its first class in 1914).

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

Neighborhood Character: With a major university right next store, you’d expect Tenleytown to be one huge frat party, but it’s actually a pretty quiet residential neighborhood.  I asked Catherine, an area resident of two years, to describe who lives in Tenleytown/AU Park and her response captured everything so perfectly that I’ll leave it to her to tell you about the neighborhood.  “Tenleytown/AU Park is a combination of American University students, some of the alumni that stick around to work at AU (a surprising number of them get employment at AU after they graduate) and families. AU Park tends to have more families, as well as some humongous homes (especially traveling west on Nebraska past American University…a large number of ambassador’s residences are tucked in there). Tenleytown, as well as the AU campus (and the apartments down Mass Ave from AU) tend to be largely AU students, while the condos/apartments down New Mexico (entering into the Wesley Heights area) tend to be young professionals/older couples. In general though, Tenleytown/AU Park residents tend to be environmentally savvy, politically Democratic and largely public transportation users.”

Photo courtesy of
‘Tenleytown, going north’
courtesy of ‘pdeonarain’

Transportation: The area has great transit accessibility, which is what Stef, a student at AU and area resident of two years, likes best about the neighborhood.  There’s the Tenleytown Metro station on the red line and the 31/32/36/37, H3/H4, N2/N8, and M4 bus lines.  There are several Zipcars in the area, a Capital Bikeshare station at the Metro, and it’s really easy to walk in Tenleytown.  And even though American University is a bit removed from the Metro station, it’s easy enough to get there either by walking (about a mile) or taking the AU Shuttle.

What to See: There’s plenty to see and do in Tenleytown, Spring Valley, and AU Park:

What’s Nearby: Tenleytown is south of Chevy Chase, northwest of Cleveland Park, and north of Glover Park.

Photo courtesy of
‘Old Sears’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Why We Love Tenleytown/AU Park: It’s the best of both worlds.  Thomas, an AU student and Tenleytown resident of a year, says, “It’s a very nice, quiet residential area but it’s also located right next to all these vibrant, cultural places in DC.”  It’s home to a major university, but it’s not overrun with tourists.  Catherine loves that: “Tenleytown/AU Park doesn’t have a big history, or monuments, or big shopping, to draw in the crowds. The people you run into in Tenleytown/AU Park are largely people who live there.”  A quiet neighborhood with great transit access, beautiful homes, access to a major university, and a thriving commercial strip– what’s not to love?

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!

5 thoughts on “Where We Live: Tenleytown/AU Park

  1. What’s not to love? I can help you with that:

    – spoiled obnoxious brats who can’t hold their liquor that ruin every public space with their loud, self-indulgent conversations
    – poorly designed traffic patterns along Wisconsin that create backups
    – chain stores only
    – no interesting restaurants or bars
    – unspeakably rude old rich jerks who honk their horns if forced to wait 5 seconds while driving
    – zero sense of community or place, unless you count whiny spinsters who complain about the whiny AU students peeing on their lawns.

    I spent a year in that boring, awful neighborhood and I’ll never set foot there again.

  2. Groundskeeper sounds like one of the spoiled obnoxious brats he’s railing against. I’ve lived in Tenleytown for five years and it’s a great neighborhood. Friendly people, beautiful homes in leafy areas and easy access to Metro. You want something less boring, Groundskeeper? Move to Trinidad. The gunshots are thrilling.

  3. hey groundskeeper: I’m a student (senior), and I’ll drink you under the table til you throw up, you punk. That being said, your other points about Tenleytown are more or less correct