Florida Avenue (9th to 15th Streets) in Photographs

Washington DC is a great city. It’s a place where dense, immutable history is intersected with a whirling landscape of constant urban change. Restaurants open and close, green spaces appear and recede, events are inaugurated and ended, and this constant movement is threaded around a city bursting with social, architectural, and historical significance. It’s overwhelming at times, but it’s also what makes DC great. The old and the new collide. Cracks are opened. And within these cracks, residents can lose themselves in an endless space of exploration.

I’ve lived in the DC area for almost my entire life, and I’m perpetually finding new places to explore. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’ll pick something – a neighborhood, a restaurant, a landmark, it doesn’t matter how large or small – and set out on an expedition. I don’t always stumble into the unforgettable, as I did along Florida Avenue, but more often than not, I see something new. These little exploratory experiences refresh me, and remind me that when you live in a city as diverse and expansive as DC, you can always find something you haven’t seen before.

The bell shaped stretch of Florida Avenue, between 9th and 15th streets NW, was recently the subject of my exploration. It’s a beautiful and meaningful strip of road, wedged between U Street and Columbia Heights, with a story to tell about the history of the city, the diversity of its population, and the speed of its change. My westward route started at the 9:30 Club, took me past The Blind Dog Cafe and the Florida Avenue Grill, stopped off at Pica Taco, and ended at Meridian Hill Park. I took a camera with me. Click below to see what I saw.

The 9:30 Club moved to its current location in 1996, when few people would have considered U Street a destination. This year, Rolling Stone ranked it the best “big room” music venue in the country.

The Blind Dog Cafe opened at 944 Florida Ave. a little over a year ago. You’ll know you found the right place, which is unmarked besides this clapboard sign, if you see a wooden outhouse and an old black wooden carriage on the small strip of lawn outside.

Everyone knows about Ben’s Chili Bowl, but the Florida Avenue Grill opened in 1944, 14 years earlier, and has been serving thankful, hungry patrons ever since. The diner’s walls are lined with photos of famous black visitors.

Pica Taco. This location opened in 2010 and is the sister location to the original in Columbia Heights.

Get the tacos. Or try El Toro Burrito Challenge

Meridian Hill Park is a place that many people know and love, but I just discovered. It’s one of Washington’s most stunning, and fascinating, public green spaces. Stumbling upon a place like this is unforgettable.

Just off of Florida Ave, the striking St. Augustine Catholic Church. The church’s founding group of black Catholics dates to 1858.

A mural from G. Byron Peck, painted in 1994.

See the entire photo set here.

See a map of the route here.

Max Meltzer

Although an itinerant past took him around the world, Max now writes from his hometown of DC. He began publishing travel stories during a post-graduate year spent teaching English in Bangkok and hasn’t looked back. Max is always looking for the next adventure, whether it’s a backpacking trip to Peru or a visit to the National Arboretum five minutes from his doorstep. He is also a fanatical Washington sports fan, a movie buff and film producer, and an outdoor sports enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “Florida Avenue (9th to 15th Streets) in Photographs

  1. When you wrote about Florida Avenue Grill, why did you say “famous black visitors”? Why not just famous visitors?