Adams Morgan, a neighborhood on the hill adjacent to Dupont Circle, was built on diversity in the 1950s when residents rallied for the desegregation of its two elementary schools, John Quincy Adams and Thomas P. Morgan. Since then, it’s become known for its cultural diversity and as a welcoming place for all residents. While the neighborhood’s main strip developed into the raucous center of DC’s nightlife, it’s recently shown some signs of evolving.
Arlington was actually a part of DC until 1846, when it was given back to the state of Virginia. Named after General Robert E. Lee’s home that would become our national cemetery during the Civil War, the community of Arlington was later built along the trolley line from Washington. It fell into decline after the streetcar was removed, but this commercial corridor was revitalized by strategic development around the Metro, and has become a trailblazing model of how to transform older suburbs into pedestrian-friendly, vital places that attract the best and the brightest.
American University Park is perhaps a unique neighborhood for housing a major university and its cultural perks, but little of the associated noise. Groups of students head to nearby Spring Valley, Tenleytown and Georgetown for outings while AU Park’s small but steadfast crop of beloved restaurants maintains a reliable draw. Local celebrities including politicos and national TV news personalities make frequent appearances with little fanfare, eating and shopping shoulder to shoulder with residents. That’s the AU Park vibe: plenty of highlights, but more harmony than hubbub.
For much of the 19th Century, Bethesda was nothing more than a country crossroads named after a local church, but it grew steadily after the installation of a streetcar between the more prosperous towns of Georgetown and Rockville. After World War II, the National Naval Hospital and the National Institutes of Health were built in the area, and Bethesda flooded with federal workers, military personnel and contractors. Today it’s grown into a vibrant community in its own right with several corporate headquarters and a high-density downtown.
The neighborhood began over two hundred years ago at the same time as Washington DC, and was the first place to house members of Congress and their families. Today it’s one large historic district, filled with people experiencing the nation’s capital for the first time. And from Pennsylvania Avenue to Eastern Market and Barrack’s Row, Capitol Hill’s shops, restaurants and cafes continue to charm locals and visitors alike.
Chevy Chase was another of the early streetcar suburbs made possible by a rail line running up Connecticut Avenue from downtown DC In a few short years, a pastoral farmland was transformed into comfortable homes with front yards, sidewalks and a short distance to local shops and one of the areas first silent movie theaters. Today its residents still work in official Washington or nearby Bethesda, are politically engaged and cherish their neighborhood’s small town feel.
Developed at the turn of the century as a streetcar suburb of Washington, Columbia Heights began as a fashionable community with a commanding view of the city. The neighborhood has seen several demographic and economic shifts since then, but more recently it’s undergone a dramatic renaissance of development and revitalization, making it one of the city’s most diverse, energetic, and livable neighborhoods.
Cleveland Park draws its name from President Grover Cleveland, who built a summer home here and started a long tradition of Washingtonians moving up Connecticut Avenue for the cool summer breezes. When the streetcar arrived and connected the area to downtown, the neighborhood grew quickly and filled with stately early-20th-century houses.
Dupont Circle was developed during the Gilded Age as a home for Washington’s elite and moneyed class. Stately mansions built around the elegant circle and along Massachusetts Avenue were showpieces for many of the nation’s wealthiest industrialists, earning the stretch the nickname “Millionaires Row.” It became Embassy Row after the stock market crash emptied the mansions and foreign governments moved in. The neighborhood next became a center of the city’s bohemian and alternative scene, and it still knows how to let its hair down today with a mix of popular galleries, restaurants, bars, and clubs.
Georgetown was founded more than fifty years before Washington, DC as a tiny port town in what was then the colony of Maryland. Although it was later absorbed into the federal District, it has always maintained its own sense of individuality with a strong community. In more recent times, this fashionable neighborhood on the Potomac has become world-renowned in culture and film. Yet for the people who live here, it’s an enchanting place they call home.
The Logan Circle neighborhood started as Civil War-era encampments and was developed in earnest during the exuberant post-war period. Grand row homes and mansions sprung up around the new Circle, and 14th Street later developed as a major commercial corridor known for its new auto showrooms. After a period of economic decline, Logan Circle has bounced back at a breathtaking pace, and today it’s one of the city’s most desirable and vibrant neighborhoods.
Shaw was mostly developed in the early 1900s with urban residential streets and bustling commercial districts, side by side. It was the home to cultural luminaries before the Harlem Renaissance and has held on to that proud heritage despite economic decline in the 1980s. Today’s Washington residents are experiencing a renaissance of their own here thanks to Shaw’s combination of historic and modern homes alongside revitalized retail, trendy restaurants, and pulsing nightlife.
Silver Spring was a bucolic and sprawling countryside when the first large estate was built on the site of a small spring infused with shiny mica. Suburbanization of the area began in earnest in the early 20th century, anchored by new office buildings and major department store retail; it continued with the Beltway’s construction and the extension of the Washington Metro. Public and private building projects along with major new tenants like Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute have turned Silver Spring into a vital, humming downtown with ample suburban housing just blocks away.
Woodley Park was first developed as a sylvan for Washingtonians and federal workers, taking advantage of the streetcar line along Connecticut Avenue that connected the old city to its leafier northern heights.
Woodley Park is a refreshing residential hideaway with easy access to neighboring nightlife. With Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo running through its center, it attracts nature lovers who still want to live close to all that the city has to offer.
Known as Washington’s cultural center at the turn of the century, U Street has long been a backbone of the city’s homegrown jazz, arts, and civil rights movements. Once bearing the scars of riots and protests, today it has regained its rightful place as the street to showcase DC’s vibrant cultural life, from music and food to activism and art.