Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Case Study 5.0: Washinton, D.C.

By now you've probably seen the Washington historical photos, so on with the case study. To many, Washington is all politics, lobbying, and wide boulevards, but there's much more to the city. Away from downtown, there are actually many historical residential neighborhoods full of Federal and Victorian rowhomes, lively local shops, and strong community organizations. Many Congressmen and staffers walk to work from their homes in Capitol Hill, and some of the most expensive homes in the city are to be found in Georgetown. It wasn't always like this, however. The city suffered heavy population losses following the race riots in the 60's, events from which it has not yet fully recovered. However, slowly but surely gentrification is occurring, and once crime ridden streets are once again full of life. 

Washington is one of the youngest cities on the East Coast, but it grew quickly and plenty of fine homes were built in the 19th century. Luckily, unlike the downtown office district, residential areas were largely sparred the scourge of modern redevelopment. 

I'm busier these days than before, so I won't spend anymore time summarizing the city's history. That kind of information is readily available on Wikipedia and other websites and I'll provide more links about specific neighborhoods in the case studies. 

The case study:


Be sure to click on each to view the full case study.


For many years an enclave of the upper-middle class African-American population, Logan Circle suffered more than most during the riots, but today is on a steady trajectory upwards. The recent opening of Whole Foods has added credence to its hip reputation, and there are many nice homes on the tree-lined streets. 

This is a neighborhood whose boundaries no one is quite sure about, as they keep expanding alongside gentrification. The streets closest to the Capitol building are nicest, but there are parks scattered throughout and its a popular area for young staffers. 

Home to embassies and other institutions, this is one of the most upmarket neighborhoods in the city. Location of the city's first LGBT community, today there are many cafes, stores, and restaurants. 

The oldest area in DC (it was actually around before the city's founding), it has the most beautiful streetscapes and many historical homes. Popularized as a wealthy enclave by JFK, it's widely considered the most exclusive neighborhood in which to live, but it has a vibrant urban scene due to the presence of more than one university and a large shopping area. 

In the concluding post, I'll feature some streets from neighborhoods such as Foggy Bottom and Adams Morgan. 


  1. Is there any reason you aren't looking at any neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, like Historic Anacostia or Hillcrest? Or even any neighborhoods in NE, like Ledroit Park, Bloomingdale, or Eckington?

    As a 5-year resident of the city, I can say that this is a very limited scope of Washington, DC.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Allie. It is never my intention to feature any and all of a city's neighborhoods. Besides my limited time, my focus is on beautiful, historic, urban, residential areas. Neighborhoods with mainly single-family homes like Hillcrest do not interest me, and some of the other neighborhoods you mention could do with some gentrification or do not have streets and architecture as beautiful as the others. I hope you understand.

  3. I understand that you had to be selective about how many neighborhoods you feature, but I'm curious as well how you chose these four, especially two of which (Dupont and Logan) are extremely similar. I'm sure there was some thought behind this, do you mind sharing?

    There's some very charming architecture, streets, and well defined edges in neighborhoods such as Mt. Pleasant, Cleveland Park, and Historic Anacostia (AKA Uniontown), as well as others. It would have been interesting if you had included at least one area that exemplified some of the District's more eclectic character.

  4. Hi Ann, please see my previous comment above. I chose neighborhoods which to me are the most beautiful and charming and have the best streetscapes. Some of the neighborhoods you mentioned are simply too suburban, and the aim of this blog is to promote urban inner-city living. In most cases this means still intact late 19th century, early 20th century neighborhoods, and yes, usually those which are gentrified. For better or worse, gentrified areas tend to be less run-down and more photogenic, if you will.