I went into this week’s Where We Live with limited knowledge about Takoma– I’ve visited a few times, swam at the pool, walked through the pretty tree-lined streets. I knew that Takoma was a beautiful neighborhood, filled with residents who really love living there. But the Takoma I discovered while writing this feature was just flat-out awesome: it’s a neighborhood that feels like a small town within a big city, with community events all the time, and even a neighborhood rooster. Seriously.
History: Takoma got its start back in 1883 as a commuter rail suburb of Washington, offering clean water, fresh air, and a semi-rural lifestyle with access to the city. Back then the community, which straddled the DC/MD line, was known as Takoma Park. The area attracted a good deal of residential growth with some smaller commercial areas. The area eventually took on two names– Takoma (a neighborhood in Washington DC) and Takoma Park (a city in Maryland). There’s a shared identity between these two parts, and the area has come to be known for its active residents. Residents successfully joined together to oppose the North Central Freeway Project in 1964, and they had a significant impact on the Takoma Metro station (which sits on the Washington DC side, thus the name) back in the 1970s. Initial plans called for high-density commercial and residential development around the station and a 500-space commuter parking lot, but residents organized a group called Plan Takoma that developed the alternative of what you see today: a public park, a 100-space parking lot, and the retention of medium-density houses and shops.
Neighborhood Character: Takoma really is a small town within a big city. Darren, a Takoma resident of six months, says, “The area right around the Metro station (‘Old Takoma’) is where most of the homes are old with large yards and you have a couple of 50s-ish ‘main street’ sort of shopping districts (with some great thrift/retro shops).” This is a neighborhood with tree-lined streets, a mix of beautiful Victorian and Sears bungalow houses, and a commercial district a short walk away.
Transportation: Takoma is centered around the Takoma Metro station on the red line, and there are a number of buses that connect the area to Montgomery County and Downtown DC. It’s a very walkable and bike-able area (no Capital Bikeshare stations nearby, though), and there are several Zipcars available in the neighborhood too. With all of these transportation options, there’s no need for a car– Darren says, “I actually sold my truck fairly soon after moving into Takoma and LOVE being car-free.”
What to See: For a ‘small town’ neighborhood, there sure is a lot to see and do in and around Takoma:
- There are community events going on all the time. Here’s just a taste: this Saturday is Takoma Park Play Day (featuring a parade, games for all ages, yoga, and tennis lessons), this Sunday is the 4th Annual Takoma Antique and Classic Car Show, and next Sunday is the 29th Annual Takoma Park Street Festival (featuring musical groups, lots of food, and crafts from around the world).
- Every Sunday from 10 AM to 2 PM is the Takoma Park Farmers’ Market, which Darren describes as “a slightly smaller version of Dupont’s with less people, no celebrity chef demos, and better prices.”
- Take advantage of the Takoma Aquatic Center, a fantastic indoor pool with a kiddie play area. But keep in mind that the facility is undergoing renovations and will be closed for a few weeks.
- Catch a show at the Electric Maid, stop by the VFW for a DC Bluegrass Union Open Jam on Mondays, or head over to Gazebo Park for an impromptu performance.
- Hungry? Darren’s got you covered. Here are his favorites: “I’d put Spicy Delight (awesome Jamaican takeout), Middle Eastern Cuisine and My Little Bistro at the top of the list personally. For dessert it’s Summer Delights and/or (I vote “and”) Capital City Cheesecake. For Happy Hour, The Olive Lounge ($3.50 drafts, bottle specials, half price dips) and Cedar Crossing Tavern Tavern ($4 drafts, $5 wine and rails) get my nod.”
- Roscoe’s Pizza gets a special shout out, if only for the awesome story of how it got its name: Roscoe the Rooster, a Takoma Park resident for ten years. Think I’m kidding? I’m not. There’s a statue of him.
Why We Love Takoma: It feels like a small town, with a weekly farmers’ market and a main street home to independent shops. But Takoma is also just minutes away from everything else in the city. Darren says, “I can go grab a great meal or happy hour in any of the cool areas of the city and return to my quiet little neighborhood at the end of the night.” When I asked Helen, a Takoma resident of three years, what she likes best about her neighborhood, she said, “Everything! The fact that I run into people I know all the time, the farmer’s market, the sense of community, the trees.”
Residents love Takoma and are passionate about preserving the quality of life in the neighborhood. And with a great community center, so many fantastic community events, really awesome restaurants and shops, and a statue of its most famous rooster, it’s easy to see why residents love it so much.