The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Brightwood

Photo courtesy of
’1329 Missouri Ave., NW’
courtesy of ‘rockcreek’

There are some neighborhoods in the District that residents just love.  Southwest Waterfront has a very strong sense of community, Bloomingdale residents love nothing more than sitting on their stoops and talking to neighbors, and now we’ve got another addition to the super-passionate neighbors list: Brightwood.  I sent out a call for Brightwood residents to tell me about their neighborhood, and when I got an e-mail with the subject line “WHY I LOVE BRIGHTWOOD!” I knew this neighborhood was special.

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The Daily Feed

Where You Live

Photo courtesy of
‘Dupont Circle Storefronts’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Love where you live?  We want to hear about it!  After a year and a half and 32 neighborhoods, our Where We Live feature is nearing retirement.  But before it goes we want to make sure we’ve covered all the neighborhoods in the DC region that meet the following criteria:

  1. have both a commercial and residential component (what makes it worth a visit, and why is it a great place to live?),
  2. are within the Metro-served area of DC/MD/VA and/or inside the Beltway, and
  3. have someone that would like to talk to us about what it’s like to live there.

We’ve profiled 21 District neighborhoods, 7 Virginia neighborhoods, and 4 Maryland neighborhoods already, so check out what we’ve covered so far.  If your neighborhood hasn’t been covered and you want to talk to me about where you live, leave a comment here and I’ll get in touch with you.  Thanks!

Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: City of Neighborhoods

Photo courtesy of
’11th Street NW Rowhouses’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Washington DC is a city of neighborhoods, many of which the tourists who visit our fair city never really experience. But the unique neighborhoods of the District are what make it special– the beautiful rowhouses in Capitol Hill, the commercial centers in Penn Quarter and Georgetown, the arts districts in Logan Circle and U Street– these are the coolest parts of the city. But what do you really know about DC’s neighborhoods? How many neighborhoods do you think the District has?  Can you locate Kent, Swampoodle, or Twining on a map?  And how do these neighborhoods compare? Read on to learn more about the District’s unique neighborhoods.

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: College Park

Photo courtesy of
‘Moon Setting over Byrd Stadium’
courtesy of ‘pthread1981′

College Park is best known for the University of Maryland and its 36,000 students, but there is so much more to this community than just the university.  College Park is full of great restaurants, shops, running trails, arts and cultural opportunities, sporting events, and more.  Sure, it’s got a lot of students, but it’s not just riots and frat parties.  And since I’ve mostly only seen the riot/frat party side of College Park while visiting friends who attended the university years ago, I’ve asked our friends at the fantastic planning and development blog Rethink College Park to tell us what’s great about their community outside of UMD.  Read on to find out what College Park residents love about their community, and what you’ll have to check out next time you’re in the area.

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Old Town Alexandria

Photo courtesy of
‘View down King Street’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

Alexandria is an independent city in Virginia that measures 15 square miles and includes over 100,000 residents (which is much larger than the typical neighborhood that we profile in Where We Live), and includes distinct neighborhoods like Arlandia, Rosemont, North Ridge, Del Ray, and West End.  This profile will mostly focus on the civic and commercial heart of Alexandria in Old Town, but it should be noted that Alexandria is made up of charming neighborhoods outside of that area that are definitely worth a visit.

History: This is a town with a lot of history.  Here’s the short version– Alexandria was originally a Native American settlement, then a major port, then part of DC in 1789 (only to be retroceded in 1846), then a quiet southern town frequented by tourists in the early twentieth century, then a growing suburb, and finally in the 1960′s the Old Town area was reborn as a commercial center and civic heart of the city (though many original historic buildings were demolished to make room for this ‘progress’).  The long version can be found on the Lyceum’s website about Alexandria history.

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Bethesda

Photo courtesy of
‘Monday Afternoon’
courtesy of ‘SWP Moblog’

It’s time Where We Live ventured into Maryland. And where better to start than Bethesda, the DC suburb that feels more like a city than many parts of DC. Bethesda is the perfect balance of city life and access to suburbs for its residents, and it has so much to offer that it’s a destination for even downtown DC residents. Read on for Bethesda’s best kept secrets and what you should check out next time you’re in the neighborhood.

History: Bethesda originally was a small settlement along a trade route that connected to Georgetown.  It got its name from Bethesda Meeting House, a church built in 1820.  There wasn’t much in Bethesda until the streetcar system connected the neighborhood to DC in the early 1900s.  The streetcar encouraged a boom in suburban development in Bethesda, which continued throughout the twentieth century.  The area got its office boom during World War II, when the NIH and National Naval Medical Center relocated here.  Bethesda continued to grow, and in 1984 the Bethesda Metro station opened, which led to even more high-density development and redevelopment.  Building on the office and residential concentrations located here, Bethesda has recently defined itself as a retail destination and lifestyle center with projects like Bethesda Row.

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: U Street

Photo courtesy of
’13th & U, NW’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

As we’re wrapping up District neighborhoods before moving on to the Maryland and Virginia ‘burbs, this week our featured neighborhood is U Street– one of DC’s greatest neighborhoods.  It has had its ups and downs, but today U Street is a vibrant urban community filled with one-of-a-kind restaurants, galleries, and bars.  Read on to find what you need to check out next time you’re in the area (including the bar where everybody knows your name), some surviving institutions from U Street’s heyday in the early twentieth century, and what makes U Street such a great neighborhood.

History: The U Street neighborhood was originally developed between 1860 and 1900, and it was filled with Victorian-era homes for the post-Civil War influx of residents. Then a streetcar came along and led to more commercial development along U Street. The U Street corridor became the most desirable area for African Americans to settle in the early 1900s, leading to the country’s largest urban African American community (until that title was claimed by Harlem in the 1920s). It was a major cultural center for the black community, and it was known as “Black Broadway”, with Lincoln Theater and Howard Theater in the area. And Duke Ellington grew up in the neighborhood too!

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Snowed In Edition

Photo courtesy of
‘Braving the Snowmageddon’
courtesy of ‘theqspeaks’

Here at Where We Live,  our focus is on neighborhoods and communities where people live, work, and play.  But recently, there’s not been a whole lot of leaving the house, so this week’s feature is focusing on the best places to be snowed in.  Sure, this may be the worst winter in history, but if you’re basing your next move on where you’d prefer to be snowed in, here are some ideas.

Best Neighborhood to Drink Away the Storm: Adams Morgan is the place to be if you don’t want to be snowed in your home.  With several bars within walking distance staying open during the storm, you’ll be able to drink away your sorrows.  On Friday night during Snowmageddon, the streets were empty but the bars were open and offering pretty amazing deals!

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Mythbusting DC, The Features

DC Mythbusting: To Rent or To Own

Photo courtesy of
‘Real Estate For Sale Signs’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Welcome to another edition of Mythbusting!  A while back, we tackled the myth of DC being home to a transient population, and found out that the District doesn’t really deserve its reputation for no one being from here.  But this month, as I’m moving out of the home that I own and into a larger house that I will rent, it got me thinking: does DC have more renters than the average American city?  Can people just not afford the high property values here?  And which neighborhoods have the most renters?

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: The Palisades

Photo courtesy of
‘dream house, pt. 4′
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Welcome to the last Where We Live of 2009!  It’s been a fun year exploring DC’s neighborhoods, and to close out the year I wanted to profile one of the lesser-known neighborhoods in the city: the Palisades.  This neighborhood is beautiful and scenic and has a real sense of community, but because there’s not great transit to the area it is a bit cut off from the rest of the city.  And since it is lesser-known, here’s where it is: it runs along the Potomac River, from the western edge of Georgetown University all the way to the Maryland border.  Read on to see why it’s worth a trip out there!

History: This is another neighborhood that was developed on a streetcar line.  The area was laid out in 1893 by the Palisades Improvement Company, and was developed as a streetcar suburb on the line that connected Georgetown and Glen Echo.  The residential character of the area grew, and by the twentieth century the area was being developed with large homes and estates.  The streetcar line was shut down in 1961, but the prominence of the area grew.  The post-war era attracted developers to fill the area with subdivisions and large homes, and today the Palisades is a mix of houses from many different eras.

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Neighborhood Superlatives

Photo courtesy of
‘Foggy Bottom NH Ave.’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

When I first started writing the Where We Live feature back in April, I didn’t know all that much about DC’s neighborhoods.  I’ve had a lot of fun exploring DC’s neighborhoods and learning more about how they evolved into the great places they are today.  So to wrap up the year (not this feature, don’t worry– we’ve got several more DC neighborhoods to profile and then we’ll be heading out to the suburbs in 2010!), I thought it’d be fun to share some of the most interesting parts of some of the seventeen DC neighborhoods I’ve checked out.  So read on to learn about the most controversial Where We Live, the bloggiest neighborhood, the one thing that every person I’ve interviewed tells me they love about their neighborhood, and more!

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Cleveland Park

Photo courtesy of
‘ladybridgev1c’
courtesy of ‘melody.a.thomas’

Cleveland Park is the focus of this week’s Where We Live.  This neighborhood has so much to offer, including great Metro access, proximity to major attractions, charming residential character, and some very cool neighborhood hangouts.  It’s one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city, with its views of Rock Creek Park and tree-lined streets, and it is a bit removed from the urban grit of downtown.  Read on for more information on Cleveland Park, including how it got its name and what to check out when you’re there.

History: Back in 1793, an aide of George Washington named Uriah Forrest built an estate called Rosedale.  More estates were constructed in the area, a suburb of Washington City, throughout the nineteenth century.  This was considered an upscale suburb in that era, as the higher elevation and breezes were an escape from the hot, humid air of the city.  In 1886, President Glover Cleveland purchased a house in the area and remodeled it as a summer estate.  Even though Cleveland lost his bid for reelection in 1888, the name Cleveland Park stuck with the neighborhood.

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The Features, Where We Live

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. Continue reading

Five Favorites, The Features

Five Favorites: Circles, Triangles, and Squares

Photo courtesy of
‘Budding Tree’
courtesy of ‘FredoAlvarez’

DC has all sorts of weird land left over where the grid of street meets up with diagonal avenues. In many places, these intersections have been altered to create circles, triangles, and squares. Pierre L’Enfant originally envisioned these squares to be focal points of nearby neighborhoods, providing a place for residents of a particular state to set up shop in the Nation’s Capital. Today, many of these circles and squares fulfill L’Enfant’s vision of neighborhood focal points. Here are our five favorites:

Number 5: Stanton Park. Stanton Park is located in the Near Northeast part of town, at the intersection of Maryland Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue NE. It was another original L’Enfant creation and was originally called Reservation 5. The park was named after Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edward Stanton, after the Civil War (though interestingly, the statue in the center is not Stanton but Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero).
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All Politics is Local

Meet Your Local Government… on the Internet

Photo courtesy of
‘A packed ANC 4C meeting in DC tonight’
courtesy of ‘Wayan Vota’

Doing what I do here at We Love DC, I am constantly looking for a way to keep track of what the heck is going on in the city. Don remarked once how grateful he is that he’s the one who actually likes reading the DC Register, since it’s basically a never-ending source of article ideas. Well, he’s welcome to it, because I don’t see myself developing that particular habit anytime soon. But I have run across three handy Internet/database projects of the DC government that help me dig up context on all the various bits of info constantly hurled my way.  Being a total nerd, this stuff makes me giddy:

DC Guide, which I prefer to refer to by the name referenced in its URL: Citizen Atlas. This database gathers all the random little bits of information you’d need to know as a District resident- what Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) do you belong to? Who is your specific representative to that ANC? What’s your voting precinct? You can see on their sample report that it also shows you a map of the address in relation to certain points of interest, like Metro stations. Handy also if you’re looking to buy a house in the District. Other methods of search will show you things like maps of neighborhood clusters, maps of zip codes and which ANCs and voting precincts serve them, etc. Continue reading

Five Favorites, The District, The Features, WMATA

Five Favorites: Metro Stations

Photo courtesy of
‘Woodley Station’
courtesy of ‘Tyrannous’

Hi, and welcome to a new feature called Five Favorites.  Our reader Jay suggested ranking favorite places in DC, and I’m going to start with five favorite Metro stations.  These are stations that are the best examples of vibrant, walkable, urban, mixed-use places in the District.  These are the Metro stations that you could emerge from at any time, and there’d always be plenty of people around.  This list is a mix of subjective factors and measurable data, so feel free to disagree and tell me which of your favorites I missed.

Number 5: Woodley Park/Adams Morgan. Ok, we all know that it’s annoying to have to walk across the bridge to get from the Metro station to the heart of Adams Morgan, but still– this Metro station is always full of people emerging from the ridiculously long escalators.  The Connecticut Avenue strip where you emerge from the Metro station is full of some great restaurants, and the 10-minute walk across the bridge to 18th Street puts you in the middle of it all.

The Adams Morgan neighborhood itself is a diverse, multi-cultural neighborhood with restaurants, bars, shops, and corner stores, and cute rowhouses and apartments mixed in.  While this stop just barely made it into the top five because of the distance to Adams Morgan itself, the vibrant, constantly-moving atmosphere of the area and the busy-ness of the Metro itself (residents and commuters in the mornings, people out on dates in the evenings, college students in the late evenings) make it one of the best mixed-use Metro stations in the city.  Walk Score: 95.  The Woodley Park Metro station has an average daily ridership of 8,000.
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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Georgetown

Photo courtesy of
‘loves it’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Where We Live.  This week, we’ll be looking at a DC neighborhood that is older than DC– Georgetown!  Home to beautiful architecture, a thriving commercial district, and a major university, Georgetown probably draws more out-of-towners than any other DC neighborhood (except maybe Adams Morgan on Saturday nights).  Read on to find out what real Georgetown residents think of their neighborhood.

History: Lots of history to cover here.  Way back in 1632, an English fur trader documented a Native American settlement called Tohoga where Georgetown currently is, and he established trade there.  Fast forward to 1751 when the town was incorporated as part of Maryland (interestingly enough, it’s not named after George Washington as I had erroneously assumed– it’s either named after King George II or its founders, George Gordon and George Beall).  Because of its geographic location as the furthest point up on the Potomac River that boats could reach, it became a big port, and warehouses and buildings grew around the tobacco trade (and sadly, the slave trade too).

When Congress created the District of Columbia in 1791, Georgetown was included in the outline of the 10-mile square.  Georgetown continued to grow, with Georgetown University founded in 1789, and much of the area developed with commercial buildings near the water and residential buildings further north on higher ground.  Georgetown retained its identity for quite a while– that is, until its town charter was revoked in 1871, and when it was finally ordered in 1880 to conform with DC’s street naming structure.

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Columbia Heights

Photo courtesy of
’11th Street NW Rowhouses’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Another Friday, another neighborhood.  This week’s Where We Live focuses on a neighborhood that has reinvented itself over the past ten years, Columbia Heights. Columbia Heights has a lot to offer, from beautiful residential areas to the massive new DC USA development, and it’s got a pretty neat history too.  Read on to learn all about Columbia Heights.

History: Columbia Heights was originally a horse track and farmland directly outside the boundary of the City of Washington, and it was also the original home of Columbian College (which eventually became George Washington University).  In 1881, Senator John Sherman purchased a whole bunch of land in the area and named the development Columbia Heights, in honor of Columbian College.  In 1904, the college moved down to Foggy Bottom.  The federal government purchased some land and built Meridian Hill Park, and the area became an upscale neighborhood that attracted federal workers and military officers.  In the early 1900s Columbia Heights was one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city, and attracted a number of notable residents.  By 1914, four streetcar lines connected Columbia Heights to downtown DC.

The neighborhood began to transform from a suburban neighborhood to an urban center in the early part of the twentieth century, with the construction of larger apartment buildings and the Tivoli Theater in 1924.  Columbia Heights was adjacent to the thriving black communities of Shaw and U Street, and became home to more African Americans during the first half of the twentieth century.  Then, of course, the 1968 riots happened.  Residents moved out, stores remained vacant for decades, and Columbia Heights lost its luster.

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Glover Park

Photo courtesy of
‘Glover Park hawk’
courtesy of ‘Julie Lyn’

Welcome to another installment of Where We Live. This week we’ll look at Glover Park, a neighborhood that often gets overlooked because of its two loud neighbors: Dupont Circle and Georgetown. But there’s a lot of charm in Glover Park, and it offers residents a perfect balance: living on a quiet, tree-lined street while being just five minutes from restaurants, shops, and attractions. (And, for the record, it seems that no one is quite sure how to pronounce the name of this neighborhood, but it’s actually Glover– rhymes with lover, not clover — Park.)

History: Glover Park gets its name from Charles Carroll Glover (1846-1936), who donated much of the land that became Rock Creek Park and is responsible for the Washington National Cathedral’s construction. Glover Park started developing in the 1920s, with mostly residential rowhouses. The commercial district along Wisconsin Avenue developed in the mid-1930s, attracting corner stores and even a movie theater, while retaining the feeling of a small town. The Glover Park neighborhood was considered upscale compared to the “squalor of Georgetown” during this time, and through the years the neighborhood has preserved its residential nature and small-town character. Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Shaw

Photo courtesy of
‘so d.c.’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Welcome to the latest edition of Where We Live.  This week we’ll be covering a DC neighborhood with a storied history– Shaw!  Shaw and the surrounding neighborhoods of Eckington and Bloomingdale have seen a great deal of reinvestment over the last decade, and many people are discovering the charm and history in this beautiful urban neighborhood.

History: Now this is a neighborhood with a great history.  Shaw was named after Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, and originally started as a freed slave encampment just outside the original Washington City.  The neighborhood thrived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a center of black culture.  Howard University opened in the area in 1866.  The area was the hotbed of jazz in the 1920s and 1930s, with its most famous resident Duke Ellington. In the 1960s, the area was hit hard by the riots, and hit again in the 1990s by the crack epidemic.  But new residents started moving in in the 1990s, drawn by its central location and reasonable housing prices, and the area began to redevelop.  Today, Shaw is one of the District’s most-loved neighborhoods, with beautiful housing, a great location, and civically-engaged residents.

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