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).
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.”
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:
- Hungry? Try Cafe Ole for some of the best Mediterranean tapas around, Masala Art for delicious Indian food, and Satay Club for good sushi. Catherine also adds, “Z Burger, while now chaining out to Georgetown, is still a Tenleytown original with the best. onion. rings. ever.”
- Two community institutions you’ve gotta try: Osman and Joe’s Steak ‘n Egg is a greasy spoon diner that’s best experienced in the wee hours of the morning, and Wagshal’s Market and Deli over in Spring Valley is a can’t miss deli with fantastic sandwiches.
- Even if you’re not a student, American University has a lot to offer. There are lectures, concerts, public events, and festivals that are open to the community. Keep an eye on their Events & Calendars page for upcoming events.
- There are some great shopping opportunities in the area. There’s the Best Buy, the Container Store, the Whole Foods, and a great local hardware store.
- Take advantage of the proximity to some great recreational facilities in the area! Go for a run in Rock Creek Park, play in the park at Fort Reno, or go for a swim at the Wilson Aquatic Center (which happens to be the best pool in the city).
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?