Friday, November 23, 2012

Case Study 5.4: Georgetown

Welcome to the final Washington, D.C. case study, Georgetown. This is the oldest neighborhood in the city. In fact, Georgetown dates to 1751, some 40 years before the federal capital was moved there. It remained a separate town until they merged in 1871. It is therefore no surprise that Georgetown doesn't follow the L'Enfant street grid, nor contain any of his wide boulevards. The town has survived relatively unscathed through the decades, suffering neither from white flight or urban renewal nearly as much as other areas. It has been allowed to age organically, with many old buildings and a mix of scales. It is not unusual to see a small 18th century cottage adjacent to large 19th century rowhomes. This is partially due to preservation efforts dating back as far as the 1920's. 

The neighborhood's organic character also contributes to a range of housing types. While one can easily live in an urban rowhome, several streets have an almost suburban character and in fact some large mansions indeed on very large lots are a common sight on the north side. In general, the area east of Wisconsin Avenue (sometimes called East Village) is the more desirable, being closer to downtown, while the west, abutting Georgetown University, is slightly less so. Regardless, both rank among the upper echelons of DC real estate markets. 

Though largely residential, Wisconsin Avenue and M Street are popular commercial corridors, with a wide selection of shops, bars, restaurants, and services. A few popular cupcake empires had their start in Georgetown. There are even a few embassies, though not nearly as many as in Dupont Circle. Notable residents have included and include Franis Scott Key, JFK, Bob Woodward, and John Kerry. As an exclusive area, larger single-family homes often sell for over $2 million, sometimes much more. The historic Evermay mansion, dating to 1801, was recently purchased by a Japanese couple for $22 million, although that's much less than the original $49 million asking price. 

To read more about Georgetown, I have provided a few links at the bottom of the post. On with the images.

Old Stone House, from 1765, on M Street, the oldest unchanged building in DC
Shops on M Street
PNC Bank on corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street
Apple Store on Wisconsin
Wisconsin is the more high end of the two shopping streets, with brands like Ralph Lauren
Small rowhomes on 26th St
I like the little podiums each rowhome stands on
27th St
Large home on 28th St among lush greenery
As in many of the best neighborhoods on reCities, we can be thankful for brick sidewalk paving
Color is a regular sight in Georgetown, especially on rowhomes
There's a delightful mix of home types, colors, sizes, as here on 29th St
A nice example of Second Empire Victorian on 30th St. The left half sold for $4.15 million last year
Avon Place
31st St
This is among one of the most upscale streets, with large lots and plenty of greenery. This home sold last year for $4.5 million
On a large corner lot, this  home sold for $4.6 million in May. It's since been painted white
Built in 1803, this house has a country feel to it. On the market for $4.3 million
How much more plain would this sidewalk be without the bushes bordering the road
Although modest here in the front, this home stretches far back, totaling nearly 4400 sq ft on a quarter acre lot
Love this corner. Charming architecture, vibrant greenery, and all human scale
32nd St
Caton Place is a narrow off the grid road
Potomac St
Olive St
These homeowners definitely had an aim to select complimentary paint colors
N Street
If only most modern cars weren't so ugly
A very nice 1850's Greek Revival home, it sold for $4.6 million earlier this year
From the side this home gives a hunchback impression
While the windows may be a bit low for comfort, the overall impression is very elegant
The vine covered home center-right, built in 1868, is on the market for almost $6 million, one of few to have a pool
Georgetown is another of those neighborhoods which must be a delight to just take a walk in
Wonderfully decorated bay windows and in perfect harmony with the trees and greenery of the site
Dumbarton St
Henry Foxhall House, built around 1819
O St
The home seems almost as one with the brick sidewalk
Naturally derived materials like brick compliment very well with nature
Just that small strip of planting between the home and sidewalk is enough to lend an almost pastoral quality
Christopher Alexander would probably consider the small steps as a reasonable entrance transition, given limitations
Delightful trio, and again that small strip of greenery doing wonders for the streetscape
It's usual in Georgetown for trees to be surrounded by further planting, and its a great solution
A strong crown can really transform a modest building, something the rowhomes above lack
P St. See the little house tucked back behind the tree?
Climbing those stairs, through the greenery, is a bit like passing through a different world to prepare for the serene environment of home
Same here. Once you climb those stairs to the elevated level, you forget the public realm and enter the private
This is one of the grandest homes in Georgetown. Built in 1875, it was recently listed for $9.8 million before being delisted
This townhome is on the opposite corner, on the market for $2.6 million. It's very nice on the inside, too, on photos
Q St
Magnificent Victorian duplex, semi-detached, two-family dwelling, whatever you want to call it
There's a group of three of these semi-detached homes in a row, all in a different style
Once the home of DC mayor Henry Cooke, the 1868 8500 sq ft home on the left is on the market for $5 million
Another good image showcasing the lush streetside planting
Cambridge Place, another of the off-the-grid roads
R St, the northernmost street of Georgetown proper
This is as suburban as Georgetown gets, but the saving grace is that these homes are still within easy walking distance of shops, etc.
Up until this point all the images were of the East Village. Now we'll be looking at the western half
This is 33rd St, west of Wisconsin Avenue
In general the west side is not as old, with more modest homes
There are still many large, expensive homes here, too, with the same high standard of landscaping, brick sidewalks, and history
34th St
Charming, and you'll never see me complain about a white picket fence
The little rowhome just left of the tree, built in 1938, is available for $1.125 million
JFK lived here around 1950. It sold for $4.2 million in 2008
It's unusual to see a home deviate from neighboring setbacks
35th St. The picket home is smaller than it looks, around 800 sq ft. It recently sold for $700k
The mix of styles of this terrace gives a pleasing effect. The turreted home sold last year for $2.25 million
Built in 1894, the tan home center-right recently sold for around $3 million
A grand home with wonderful regency detailing
Whether with siding or a stucco finish, the Victorian detailing shines through and completes the design
Great little group of rowhomes, with appropriately scaled front lawns. 850 sq ft, they go for around $500k
36th St, just a block from the Georgetown University campus
On the left, 1851 building of Holy Trinity Church, on a very pleasant street
Group of homes on 37th St, which directly face Georgetown University
Reservoir Rd
Georgetown residents should really be commended for their dedication to landscaping. Sometimes it seems every possible nook has greenery
Dent Pl
Notice the string of pots in front of this home, the planting over the driveway, and the vine-covered wall of the far-right townhome
Q St. In moderation, that blue might just pass
The red rowhome center-left, 940 sq ft, recently sold for $735k 
Volta Pl
I really like the understated simplicity of these homes, and again the brick matching the sidewalk
P St, and this is the first time we see cobbled streets. I had hoped to see much more cobbles
A sophisticated pair on O St
How great are those cobbles. Normally I avoid getting too much asphalt in an image, but the cobbles actually enhance the composition
N St
Built between 1870-80, the left half recently sold for $1.725 million, while the right half is currently on the market for $2.2 million
Historic Cox's Row, built around 1805 by Colonel John Cox. The townhome to the right of the white one is available for $7.9 million
The yellow townhome, built in 1816, is available for $4.6 million
Prospect St
While my Capitol Hill post was the longest to date, this one is even larger, with over 180 images. I think Georgetown is well deserving. I've made no secret of the fact that it's my favorite DC neighborhood, with an unparalleled collection of historical homes on pleasant streets and perhaps the nicest sidewalk planting I've seen. 

I think the true success of Georgetown lies in the balance it strikes between walkable inner city urbanism and the pastoral qualities of the country. There's no lack of shops and services in easy walking distance of pretty much any residence. Many residents have commented they can go about their daily errands entirely without a car. Best of all, the neighborhood achieves this without resorting to the tiny backyards that are common in Dupont Circle, for example. Land is still precious, so no, most homes don't have the palatial yards of the suburbs, but they're entirely sufficient for a BBQ, outdoor dining, a small vegetable garden, or for children to run around.

Public transit is one area which could use improvement, however. As you may have seen in a few of the images, there used to be a streetcar before it was removed in 1962. With its congested streets, buses are not a good solution, and the Metro does not serve Georgetown. Bringing back the streetcars seems like a no-brainer, and in fact the city is working towards that purpose. Furthermore, many roads are far too wide, especially M St and Wisconsin Avenue, leaving just a few feet for sidewalks. M St especially has 6 lanes, crazy for the noble residential area it is. It would be nice to see Georgetown released from the scourge of the automobile. With America's ongoing urban renaissance, I'm sure we'll see that happen sooner than later. And oh yeah, I wish there were more cobbled streets, but that's a minor niggle. 

Here are a few links:
Business Improvement District
Living in...

My next post will wrap up the DC case study.