Dear PoP – What is a Unit Block?

“Dear PoP,

Have you already addressed why so many street signs have a little green tag at the bottom that says UNIT when it is not the 400 block or 500 block or whatever …. why bother with the UNIT designation?”

This is a great question. Unit block is designated for blocks where the house numbers are less than 100. For example T Street between 1st Street and North Capitol is a called the Unit block of T St. From 1st to 2nd street is called the 100 block of T St, between 2nd and 3rd is called the 200 block of T St, etc. Unit blocks occur on both sides of North Capitol NE and NW and you will also see them in Circles like Logan Circle, Grant Circle etc.

Do you guys know how this originated? Was it for emergency response purposes?

18 Comment

  • Well, since the blocks marked 100 start at 100, the UNIT blocks would have a 0 at the bottom, which seems like it could create confusion. I really appreciate the extra sign with the block number as it helps when driving decide whether to take a left or a right. I assume everybody knows the east/west streets are alphabetical and by syllables, right? (I.e. letter, to syllable, three syllable.)

    • I know the alphabetical, but what’s the syllable thing?

      • As you move north, the east-west streets go by letters, then two-syllable words, then three-syllable words, then trees. The last east-west street before you leave the District is Verbena St.

        • Yep, Verbena and E Beach Drive NW, the northernmost point in the District.

          For a long time I thought 16th exited at the very northernmost point in D.C. It’s close, but not quite. You go just a little distance SW on North Portal from the Circle as you enter Maryland, turn right on Tamarack, right on Verbena, climb the hill and drop down to see the intersection with East Beach Drive.

          Someday I’m going to run from there to the tip of Hains Point in one go.

        • Makes sense now…I knew the letters to names, but didn’t connect the syllables.

          Why are some streets like Columbia road not in order?

      • Just looking arbitrarily at the map near 12th street… After the alphabet, it goes: Belmont, Clifton, Euclid, Fairmont, Girard… All two syllables. After the first set of alphabetical names finishes, it goes Allison, Buchanan, Crittenden, Decatur.. All three syllables! That’s crazy, I didn’t realize that until I was trying to figure out what nloewen meant!

  • So what are we going to call the first decade of the century?

  • When my little brother first visited DC, we were walking around Union Station, and he just loved the G UNIT sign. The reference was slightly less dated back then.

    The English have already taken to calling the previous decade the Naughties. Really.

  • is there a G Unit?

  • as a unit block dweller, i have to admit that i am always surprised at the number of folks who don’t really understand the grid system in DC, and its related quirks (unit blocks, two-syllable and three-syllable street names as discussed above, etc).
    Indeed, it really sucks when you call 911 ask the operator to send police to, for example, the alley between the unit blocks of r street ne and quincy place ne, and have the operator ask, ‘whaddya mean unit block? that’s not in my system!’

    that’s my whinge of the day.

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