How do you describe your neighborhood?

Gated Community
So, I’m curious how you describe your neighborhood to people from elsewhere.

Let’s assume for this post that you don’t live in Georgetown or Palisades or Spring Valley. Plus, I’m sure there are other blogs for you people.

Anyhow, I’ve always struggled how to describe my neighborhood to outsiders in a way that’s honest, but respects my neighbors.

For example, I’ve heard lots of people say they live in a “changing neighborhood.” Really? How do your long-term neighbors feel about that term? Do they feel like it’s a changing neighborhood? Or does using terminology like that make them feel like they are part of what’s being changed?

I live in Petworth, just north of Grant Circle. So I often tell people that the gentrification in the rest of the city is happening there, but at a slower, more comfortable, pace. But who knows, even that could be a stupid thing to say.

But I try to stay away from terms like “changing neighborhood” or “gentrifying neighborhood” because I wouldn’t want my neighbors to think I’m eager for them to leave (concerning 92% of them, I hope they stay a long time).

Am I being overly concerned about nothing? How do you describe it?

200 Comment

  • I live in Near Northeast and I am eager for most of my neighbors to leave.

    • all of them or the ones who have lived there for 40 plus years?

      • Just the local scumbag kids and their delinquent parents. I have no qualms with my elderly neighbors. Like myself, they want the neighborhood cleaned up too.

        One of my neighbors pulled me aside this morning to tell me that I need to be more vigilant in calling the police when I see “these hoodlums” sitting in front of our houses. He has lived on my street for over 30 years. He claims the problem lies with Section 8 tenants.

    • Gentrifier, I cannot wait for you to leave too.

      • Because I renovated a foreclosed dilapidated home? Plant flowers every spring? Clean up trash in front of my house daily? Interact with the long-standing neighbors on my street? Participate in my community association? Support local retail?

        Sir or madame, blow me.

        I’m gentrifying.

  • pennyworth

    I live in Hillcrest. I would describe it as, “Established.”

  • Gently gentrifying. We live a couple blocks south of Grant Circle.

  • Pleasant Plains=dynamic

  • I live in Petworth and I describe it with just one word: Great! I love my neighborhood so I believe that to be an honest answer.

  • We live in Brightwood, or I guess technically Brightwood Park.

    I call it the hood, which I and my neighbors (yes, long-term neighbors) are comfortable with. However over the last two weeks we’ve agreed we’re bordering on ghetto, which is completely different than hood. I’m comfortable in the hood, not in the ghetto. Last night’s gunshots may have sent us over the edge.

    Really, it’s lovely and full of mostly wonderful people. We have two “nuisance properties” nearby that create all the problems. Otherwise, it’s the friendliest place I’ve ever lived.

    • Hey Neighbor! I’m a new Brightwood Park resident. Didn’t hear any gun shots the other night, though… maybe I slept through it?

      Definitely love the neighborhood. Not sure if I would call it the hood. When I was searching for a home to buy I ventured into some neighborhoods waaaay scarier than this one, so by comparison I think Brightwood Park is pretty great.

      In a word, “mature” approximates how I feel most closely. Mostly old people, big trees everywhere.

      • Hi, neighbor! πŸ™‚

        My street is definitely hood. That’s what the people who’ve lived here a long time call it, and I agree. I don’t find the hood scary at all, I’m comfortable in the hood. Now the ghetto is a different story. The only two older people on my block are my 88 year old next door neighbor and my 95 year old grandma who lives downstairs.

        Though now I’m not even sure I live in BP because I read something yesterday that says Kennedy is the border and we’re south of that. So I guess we’re on the BP/Petworth border? Feels too far north to be Petworth though.

  • I live at Georgia and Shepherd St. I describe it as “interesting.”

  • ghetto buffer – bloomindale.

  • I live north of sherman circle and i always describe it as “transitional” meaning from bad to good.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I live in Adams Morgan and I describe it as mixed. It’s not just bars, and there’s a great mix of people.

    • Yeah, I live in Adams Morgan and tell people I live in the “quiet, sane part.” Apologies to the folks who live in the loud, insane part.

  • I call it a “divided” neighborhood. The homeowners are fantastic, and on the rise. But the sheer numbers of the public housing will never be overcome, and the two populations will never want the same things. Hence the division.

  • My friends and I have come up with a system to describe neighborhoods:

    “Emerging” or “Up and Coming”: Still not a place you want to walk around in late at night, but has some good spots. (see: Petworth, Shaw, H Street)
    “Established”, “Vibrant” or “Active”: Mostly safe at all hours, pretty much gentrified. (see: Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant)

  • awesome, but gentrifiers are coming in and impeding on it, thus making it wack.

    • In what ways, would you say, is it wack? Also, where do you live?

    • Don’t know if this is the case here, but often it seems like the people who complain the most loudly about gentrification are the 20-something white hipsters who move into previously iffy neighborhoods, setting in motion the gentrification process.

  • I live in Fort Totten. I call it stable. We’re very small and surrounded on all sides by cemeteries or federal land… Which means I don’t expect anything to change. Pretty much ever. The people who live here are young families or have lived here since they were young families… pretty solidly middle class all the way through. It’s quiet and friendly and small and… stable. πŸ™‚

    • Didn’t someone just get shot outside the Ft. Totten stop this past weekend?

      • Fort Totten is between Fort Totten Drive and North Capital Street… There haven’t been any shootings there – not since I’ve been living there anyway.

        I think that the shooting you’re referring to was at 7th and Crittenden NE which is in North Michigan Park, I think.

  • saf

    I live in Petworth, very close to the metro station. I have been here quite a while now.

    When people ask me about it, I say that I am between Howard and Walter Reed, just off Georgia. When they ask me what it’s like, I say it’s a residential neighborhood with lots of older folks who are now moving on to retirement homes (or in the case of far too many of my wonderful neighbors, moving on to the next life).

    Yes, I’m also willing to talk about Georgia Ave, 14th St, and the aftermath of blockbusting, the riots, and the death of cities.

    I’ve been here long enough that I feel like the comments on the changing neighborhood refer to me. Also, I’m very uncomfortable with the the assumptions people make about my neighborhood.

    The fact is, because I am white, people assume that I want to see all my neighbors gone and this neighborhood turned into Dupont or Georgetown. And people are comfortable saying all kinds of things to me like, “Oh, it’s changing there, isn’t it? Bet you’re really happy!”

    Well, no. I like my neighbors. I’m sorry to see the old ladies dying off. I miss them.

    Yeah, I’d like to see some development come to Georgia Ave, but I don’t want it to become Generica. Yes, I enjoy having new restaurants and bars and shops in the neighborhood, but I don’t want it to become a destination neighborhood. I want it to be a residential neighborhood with well-developed commercial corridors.

    And yes, I care about crime, and other quality of life issues. And so do my long-time neighbors. Believe me, we’ve been working on those things all along, and they were working on those issues long before I got here. The assumptions that we sat here and did nothing are particularly insulting. Actually, even worse is the assumption that I’ve just been sitting here, waiting for new young folks to get here and make it a “good neighborhood.” It’s a great neighborhood already. It’s just got some challenges.

    So I say it’s a city neighborhood with all the good and bad that that implies, and that it has seen a lot of change in recent years. I think that’s accurate.

  • I Live between Georgia and 13th on Crittenden St, (oficially 16th street heights but more Petworth to me). transitioning will be my definition, 4 new neighbors on the street, all really nice, and can’t complain about the old neighbors, they seem to be good people. notice some old time busineses closing, and a few new hipster places opening.

  • I live in Parkview. I say it’s rebuilding and/or transitional.

    With the construction and buildings going up on empty lots, and houses going from abandoned to rebuilt, it’s definitely re-building. “Transitional” does imply from bad to good, which might be an oversimplification depending on your perspective, but hard to argue that new buildings, businesses and occupied homes aren’t an improvement over empty lots, broken storefronts and rat-infested shells of buildings. Impossible to argue that Parkview is changing.

    • Ditto from a neighbor on the border of Columbia Heights and Parkview. I describe my neighborhood either as transitioning or up-and-coming for the same reasons and look forward to changing that description as more crumbling buildings are resurrected, neighbors fill empty houses, and more businesses find a place to call home.

  • I live in Truxton Circle, so I describe it as “Truxton” (there is no circle, damn it!), or if I’m feeling lazy “South of Bloomingdale”.

    They might as well call it “Truxton Unicorn”. True story: we have more unicorns than circles here — although the pegasus population has been dwindling in recent years.

    I sometimes almost wish either Shaw or Bloomingdale would annex us, just so we’d finally have a sensical name. Mind you, I wouldn’t trade my place for one in B’dale. Maybe Shaw, but never Bloomingdale!

  • How would I describe my neighborhood in one word? Plump. Think about it.

  • According to Redfin, I live in Brightwood Park. I have always self-identified as Petworth though, wow, this is a major reality shift for me. Well, since I now live in Brightwood Park, I’ll have to change my delivery. But normally, I say I live north of Columbia Heights and south of Takoma, on a street of little old ladies and young professional families…with occasional open-air drug deals and shootings, and a feral cat issue.

  • I live in Takoma. I usually first have to explain that I live on the D.C. side and not in Takoma Park, MD. Then, I have to explain to everyone who lives on U Street/Dupont/ColHi that I don’t live “way out there”. And THEN I explain that my neighborhood is very established but with some newer businesses and family types moving in. My family types I mean that new-ish high density residential construction (e.g. apartments/condos) have brought more young single people and young families to my neighborhood which I think gives us a good balance.

    • You don’t think Takoma is “way out there” to people who live within walking distance to downtown? I guess it’s all in your perspective.

      • I guess I don’t think 5 miles is all that far – even in a city. Pretty much most places in the District aren’t too far, IMHO.

        • I live in Takoma, too, and I don’t think it’s “way out there” any more than Brookland or Nats Park are way out there. It’s not downtown, but if you live near the metro or drive, downtown is 15 minutes away and Columbia Heights is 5 minutes away.

          I describe my neighborhood to people by saying things like “they offer toddler Capoeira classes here!” And “it’s actually in DC.” And “the only way you’ll get shot here is if someone catches you not recycling.”

        • I don’t call Takoma and Silver Spring “way out there” either – people who do that simply don’t understand how transportation works. Downtown Silver Spring is more accessible than the vast majority of DC neighborhoods.

          • I grew up near Takoma… and when I lived there, it didn’t seem far at all… Now it seems like an eternity… lol! it’s not so far..

  • I live in Columbia Heights and I call it gentrifying because that’s what it is. I have mixed feelings about that. I’m glad I’m here, I’m glad I have lots of friends here, and at the same time I’m glad it’s not Dupont. I like the area’s diversity and hope it can maintain a stable equilibrium, but that seems unlikely.

    • I’ve been in CH going on 7 years. I think it’s actually fairly stable at the moment and will maintain its diversity for quite some time. You can’t discount that so much of the newer development in the neighborhood has been in-fill development as opposed to new people moving in and displacing old ones. (Plus, there’s a whole lot of housing that was paid for with public $$ that isn’t going anywhere in the short-term.)

      I’m tempted to say at this point that CH is “gentrified,” meaning that the economic process of redevlopment/influx of investment dollars largely has been completed. Sure there is still stuff coming in, particularly along 11th, but it’s the tail end relative to what already has happened. But “gentrified” is such a loaded word — for so many it conjures up the wrong image, something along the lines of Furious Styles’ monologue in Boys n the Hood. CH has gone through something more like Gentrification 2.0.

      But CH is about as diverse as it gets in the District, at least according to the 2010 Census data. So “diverse” is a pretty good word — racially, economically, educationally, culturally, etc.. With all the problems and benefits that come from that diversity.

  • I had a surreal moment while watching the jazz in the park at 8th & Taylor Saturday night. I was remembering how that corner was when I moved to Petworth in 2005 – the police there ALL the time and two very active drug houses within a half block. Just seeing the beautiful scene that evening reminded me of how much has changed – the drug houses are gone (both sold – one renovated, one under major renovation now). Meanwhile many of my older neighbors who have been in their homes for decades were out on their porches enjoying the music – it was really great.

    Then leaving the show I saw the 2 major drug dealers neighbors and police were battling for years standing at the corner of 8th & Taylor watching the scene. I don’t know where they live now (not far enough away I think) because their former house they got evicted from is being totally rehabbed. What they were thinking I’d like to know…

    • “What they were thinking I’d like to know…”

      Probably something along the lines of: “They took our neighborhood, and we want revenge.”

      • No, they were thinking, look at all these yo yos in the park, think of all the money we are going to make selling drugs to their kids, or better yet, selling grandma’s old rowhouse!

        • They mainly seemed to be checking out the music and to be really stoned.

          I was wondering if they realized they prevented this neighborhood from being this nice for so many years. But I doubt it…

  • There’s also NotYetWorth, a descriptor I read years ago in City Paper and still sometimes use…

  • I live in GA & Randolph. When people ask me where I live.. and is obvious they have never heard of Petworth before. I usually ask them if they know Columbia Heights – after they say yes, I tell them, not there – The neighborhood next to that one.

    I tell them is the hood, but is lovely and as long as you are street-smart you will not have any problems. I also tell them how much I love that is a residential neighborhood, and that even though new construction is coming to the area, I am proud to see that it is not only condos and apartments, but also community centers.

    I really hope Petworth keeps its old DC neighborhood vibe!

    • “…I usually ask them if they know Columbia Heights – after they say yes, I tell them, not there – The neighborhood next to that one.”

      Why was it necessary to say “not there”? hope you are not disrespecting my CH

      • Don’t be so sensitive. She was only using Columbia Heights as a landmark. I have to do the same thing to describe my location in 16th Street Heights.

    • saf

      You live VERY close to me.

  • Depending on who I talk to I say that I live South of Takoma, East Brightwood, or Manor Park. I think it’s technically Manor Park but no one uses that name. I say that it’s a very sleepy part of town. Very residential, quiet, and pretty safe though still not taking walks late at night safe. I tell them that I like it because you can get a lot of house for not a lot of money. Lots of great old time neighbors, lots of new people moving in, and usually one problem house per block. And very easy to get anywhere by car, bus, or metro (we live a mile from takoma and a mile and a half from ft. totten).

  • sorry this is off topic, but does anyone know whats up with this incident:

    i am curious – maybe could make another post about it LoP?

    • Oh my. Yes, that needs some explaining.

    • I know it’s seriously f*cked up! And it makes me feel sick these are the people we entrust to “protect” us.

    • pennyworth

      Yeh, I’m surprised PoP didn’t post this. Then again, its not a teenager shooting or robbing someone so …

      • yea would love to see an open discussion about this on an individual post – it looks like alot of people witnessed this happening and at least a few people spoke up

    • It’s getting plenty of play over on DCist, Unsuck DC Metro, and some local news outlets, head on over there for more info.

    • I just heard this on WAMU. Explanation from police is that the guy was seriously drunk and disruptive and in his beligerence “fell” from the chair when they were trying to handcuff him.

      I’m still trying to figure out how that works. But I’m also trying to figure out how they would go about detaining a guy in wheelchair. Baton through his spokes?

      I think if it’s standard to take other perps to the ground for whatever reason, then it’s allowable here.

  • I live in Logan circle and I describe it as rich, progressive, full of annoying yogis, not very diverse, convenient to EVERYTHING β€” and in need of better shopping, more affordable housing, and more families and old people.

  • I live north of H Street. I describe my neighborhood as being a nice mix of people, being relatively safe, having lots of young people as well as families, and going through a development process / growth spurt.

  • I live in Columbia Heights. When people ask me about it I say it is probably the most diverse neighborhood in the city. It consists of Young professionals (many with families), long time black residents (many of which own their homes in the neighborhood and have for generations), Latinos (mainly Salvadorian)across a broad spectrum ranging from business owner to day laborer, hipsters, students, gangsters, thugs and prostitutes. The latter 3 categories are probably only 1% of the population but account for 99% of the problems.

  • I describe it as middle class. Has been and staying that way.

  • I also laughed once when I was on the metro and a college student pointed out to his parents when we passed the Columbia Heights stop that a bunch of guys he plays ultimate frisbee with live there.

  • I describe my neighborhood as “a block and a half away from Big Bear Cafe…”

    N.B.: From “A Hard Days Night”:

    Reporter: What do you call that hairstyle you’re wearing?

    George Harrison: Arthur.

  • bfinpetworth

    Petworth – the new gayborhood. Seriously, we now have at least 5 gay/lesbian households within a one block radius of us. And you know what they say about what happens after the gays move in…

    I call it transitional. But I am careful who I say that to. Would not say it to the long-term residents for fear of insulting them. I don’t agree that “transitional” implies bad to good. Just change.

    • Oh wow, 10 whole gays!? Isnt that nifty.

      • I think Bloomingdale is already a gayborhood, which isn’t surprising, given that it lies directly in the path of the Eastward trajectory. Gtown->Dupont->Logan->U->

        • Is CH considerd a gayborhood or not?

          • I don’t think so.

          • I’ll never forget the day that I went to close on my place in CH. As scared as I was about dropping every penny I had on my first house, that same day the Blade ran a story on how CH was the new gayborhood, which a friend forwarded to me, and suddenly this straight boy couldn’t sign those papers quick enough. I’m sort of sad that it doesn’t hold the title anymore, but there was nothing like reading that to make me feel like I had judged wisely about which direction property values were heading.

    • houseintherear

      Everything is the new gayborhood. πŸ™‚ I am literally surrounded by gay couple-owned households in Bloomingdale.

      But I’m not sure mentioning the gayness is the best way to “describe” a neighborhood, at least in my opinion.

      • +1 Every “up and coming neighborhood” full of gay couples. Diversity rules, but I’m also not sure you can describe any of the non-Dupont/Logan/U areas as “gay” for want of gay nightlife.

        Let’s hear it home-making on all fronts: for certain Princes and gays in hoods all over DC!

        • Town and Nellies lie at the intersection of Shaw and Ledroit/Bloomingdale and sort of southern Petworth. Not sure how or if that affects things but just putting it out there.

          • Im sorry… you think Town and Nellies are “sort of in southern petworth”. If you also consider that area Northern Arlington, than yes you’re right.

          • Town and Nellie’s are pretty much just on U Street. You could say they’re in Shaw as well, but considering Nellie’s is right on U St, one block from the U Street metro, and Town is one block away, that’s pretty much the title I’d go with. Ledroit doesn’t really start until you go further down Florida Ave and get onto the other side of Howard.

    • There is no true gayborhood anymore– we’ve scattered throughout the city while increasing in numbers. πŸ™‚

  • MtP –

    Old and grumpy, and we like it that way…Hrumph!

  • Eckington – “Where Bloomingdale Gets Its Possums”

  • Tenleytown – stable, safe, convenient, greenspace, almost in MD, and unexciting. And nary a hipster to be found.

  • Shaw – The little neighborhood that could.

  • Dupont. I call it too freaking convenient. I also call it a worry-free neighborhood good for someone just moving to DC. Finally, I call it a neighborhood that will spoil you with its convenience and make it very difficult to move to less monotonous (a good thing) but more hassle (not necessarily a bad thing) neighborhoods.

  • i just say i live “way out in bloomingdale, dc’s most overrated neighborhood”.

    that usually shuts them up so we can talk about more important things, like beer and crabcakes.

  • Cathedral Heights – Quiet.

  • I live on 1300 block of Belmont NW and I describe my hood as convenient siting between two metro stops and tons of buses. Close enough to shopping, restaurants, bars, night life, and park, but far enough from nightlife related problems. Close enough to Columbia height shopping, but far enough from the craziness.

    • Ditto this for Biltmore St. Though it does deserve to be called beautiful in the Spring. Stunning flowers all the way down the block.

  • Eckington – “way less crime than you think”


    Eckington – “just like bloomingdale, but with fewer whiners”

    • Eckington – where we’ll steal your heart, and your trashcan

      • I want one of those stickers! (Also, my trashcan got stolen last week, for the second time. It’s funny ‘cos it’s true?)

  • I have lived at Logan Circle for nearly 25 years. I used to call it changing. Now I call it way too gentrified and way too expensive. I liked it better before.

    • No you don’t. You’re telling me you miss the hookers on 14th?

      • i’m sure some people do miss the hookers. i miss being able to find a parking spot.. though the trade off is that it’s much safer to walk to now.

        i also miss never ever seeing flip flops. but i miss that about dc in general.

    • Ah, you must’ve really savored human misery! Mmmmmmm!

  • Well, we just bought a place in one of those neighborhoods you’d rather not bother describing, but I’ll reply anyway. Wesley Heights may seem at first like an isolated neighborhood, but then one discovers the many woodsy hiking trails, the community garden and the great neighborhood restaurant on New Mexico.

    • I’ve never heard of Wesley Heights before. A quick look a Google Maps and Redfin tells me why.

      (Not judging; just an observation. I would probably really enjoy living there.)

    • Are you referring to Chef Geoff’s?

      Also, Wesley Heights is a great neighborhood. I walk through there all the time on the hiking trails on my way to Georgetown or Rock Creek Park.

      • I seem to get lost trying to pick up the trails on the other side of new mexico coming away from the cathedral/cathedral ave. I may enjoy the ‘quiteness’ more if I could just figure out where the trail connects lol. Cheff Geoff’s is a great place to grab a post work springtime beer.

  • I live in the TC (Truxton Circle) or I’ll say Shaw because I’m going with the NCPC borders. Been here 11 years and my description has changed over time. Right now at 3:21pm on Monday 5/23/11 it is “close to work and I love my neighbors.” The Help likes to point out it is right on Route 1, straight shot to PG.

  • Mt P – I say north of Adams Morgan and west of Columbia Heights. Or a couple miles north of the White House. Or diverse, residential, with high property prices and excellent neighbors. Or just plain old awesome. I adore it.

  • Living on the border of Shaw and Mt. Vernon Square;

    its a great community i love my neighbors. Many people in the area know each other. It helps to be friendly especially for someone like me, a gentrifier.

    I describe it as a here and there neighborhood. We have nice places and bad places here and there. Gorgeous townhouses next to boarded up churches and empty lots.

    You just have to have a good head on your shoulders to live outside yuppie-neighborhoods like dupont or gtown.

  • Van Ness – quiet, peaceful, convenient, relatively boring.

  • We live in Petworth Heights. Not to be confused with Lower Petworth. Now teaming with young professionals and their newborns, stroller central, and the Clark Elementery Proving Grounds is now site to the daily dog play sanctuary and the new kiddie playground.

  • Park View: Uncontainerized Solid Waste ™.

  • Crittenden west of Sherman Circle here. I don’t really mention it unless the person I’m talking to knows the area, then there’s lots to talk about. I think of the area as changing, but the long time neighbors have been here 50 years. It’s good to have them around. It seems that me and the other newbies have kids and they keep an eye out for us.
    It seems that we are close enough to GA Ave for some of the bad stuff to find its way here, but by and large its quiet.

  • We live in the Capitol Riverfront. However, that’s a mouthful and doesn’t have alot of awareness with people, so normally I just tell them I live down by the Ballpark.

    I like my neighborhood. it’s relativley convenient to everything yet blissfully quiet at night. Only downside are the trust fund kids who treat it like an additional year of college, but there’s less of them than you’d think.

    • Your home is built on the memories of 1,385,642 anonymous gay hook ups. Twas built on top of all the bath houses.

      Don’t walk barefoot in your basement.

      • I remember the neighborhood before they flattened everything. We used to come down to Nation for shows in high school every once in a while. the change in the neighborhood is stark, to say the least. Acutally, a funny story. One night I was out walking the dog at like 2 am, and a woman pulled up in an suv next to me and asked “excuse me, do you know where the nexus gold club is?” I about fell over laughing in explaining that it had closed over 5 years ago and that those kinds of places were long gone from the hood.

    • i prefer “navy yard” as dc has over 30 miles of “riverfront”.

  • Cathedral Heights – lots of families with small, noisy, ill-behaved children overrunning all of the neighborhood restaurants.

  • Mt Pleasant – an historic neighborhood with a cute downtown, lots of latinos and the leftover communists.

  • I live in Dupont, which my friends (who live in some of the other wonderful neighborhoods you’re all describing) jokingly refer to as Upper Caucasia, haha… So I would describe it in one word: homogeneous.

    Despite the fact that it can be boring and expensive (though I lucked into an unheard-of good deal), I can’t beat being able to walk to work/almost everywhere else I want to go and I have become very close friends my neighbors.

    • Uppper Caucasia is not Dupont.

      Lower Caucasia is Glover, Upper Caucasia is Cathdral Heights to the Palisades, and don’t forget Little Whiteytown is Friendship Heights.

  • I go with the Washington Post description: The Devil’s Playground.

  • Rosedale– A rapidly changing, surprisingly quiet and friendly neighborhood just around the corner from H Street and a block over from Capitol Hill.

    It is changing. I’m not afraid to say it, and my long-term resident neighbors aren’t afraid to say it. It’s odd that you think change means neighbors moving away.

  • This is what I wrote about my neighborhood of Columbia Heights in 1987 while living at 14th & Columbia – looking out my window at what is now Highland Park & Metro.

    “The building to one side of us has already been evicted. Soury pigeons huddle in the missing bricks. Out the window into the world, to the east and west are more crumbling buildings, some with billboards of future glory. To the north is an empty lot, then another, one cracked asphalt, one dirt. Old men bums sit rowed by the chainlink, passing their days in the shade of the weed trees.

    The mudlot twinkles in the sun. Every day, all day, for years and years, bottles smash out here; clear pints of Velikoff vodka, brown malt liquor bottles, the occasional green of a Heineken; hundreds and thousands of bottles. No one ever clears away the broken glass. It seems it ought to have piled up a mountain by now but it is mysteriously always the same. Maybe the glass has all been pounded down into the mud by the slow constant troddings of the winos as they cross from shade to liquor store and back all day. Maybe there is an underground strata of glass out there, pressed into diamonds by now. Yes, this world is squalid and in no way beautiful but on some days, when the sun hits the glass a certain way, there is a certain fetid glory to it all

    Already the street is busy, the few businesses rolling up their riot shutters, women wheeling carts into the laundromat, children squirming away from hands at the bus stop, bums staggering out from the alleys searching for a morning smoke.

    Bottles sparkle in the gutters, newspapers flutter along, dancing on the breeze, a confetti of failed lottery tickets decorates the sidewalk outside the liquor store, like ticker tape in a passion play. Gobs of spit glisten in the bright sun. What a grand street this is with its guts always spilled open! There is one shoe, a washing machine control panel, a piece of door, a box of frozen chicken wings, (still frozen but melting, with two dogs licking) chunks of wall, two nylon nightgowns, pastel blue and flowered, a crushed-open box of Miss Clairol hair color, light reddish blondish brown.

    Lined up on the edge of the mud lot, like porcelain daffodils sprouted overnight, are seven sinks. Who knows where they came from, or how long they will sit there but the bums will be playing cards on them before long, hiding aces in the soap dish.

    • Sounds like Kinshasa.

    • That is so on point. Great writing. I remember witnessing similar type of situation going home from the CH metro up north on 14 to Newton.

    • I enjoyed that. It was such good writing but didn’t have the problem of seeming to try too hard – which is perhaps the dividing line between good writing and aspiring to be good writing.

      On an unrelated note, I think your description is what bothers me most about the anti-gentrification debate. Ok then, you prefer that it stay a sh*t-hole?

  • I live in Capitol Hill and would have no qualms about describing it as a changing neighborhood. It seems every time I walk the dogs I see a new “for sale” sign up, and every time I walk to work I see a new “coming soon” sign for a restaurant or some other business. Something’s ALWAYS changing here.

  • “in foreclosure”

    columbia heights/park view

  • 14th Street Heights/Northern Columbia Heights: No its definitely not Petworth because its west of 13th. No, it’s not Columbia Heights either because we’re north of Spring Rd. Not exactly 16th Street Heights because we’re south of Upshur. Still confused? We’re three blocks north of Red Derby… “Oh, I know where that is”

  • I live in Southwest. I would describe it as quiet, like a small town within DC, with a lot of racial and economic diversity. I tell people it went through urban renewal in the 60s and there hasn’t been a lot of building since–but the new Safeway and Arena Stage, plus the Wharf development, are likely to change it a lot.

  • andy

    How about awesome?

    I love my neighborhood and nobody should drive a wedge between me and my neighbors just because I’m a yuppie.

  • I’m in Shaw, and I call it “almost gentrified”. More often I just call it “Logan East”.

    On my block is one “family” that’s from the “old guard” of the neighborhood. She died years ago and left the house to her son and his “friends”. They sit out on the front porch and start drinking and smoking weed at 10 or 11am *every day*. So I don’t really care if they know I want them out. I don’t want them selling pot and coke to ten year olds either. And I don’t want them pissing on my flowers at 2am or having sex on the hood of my car at 3:15.
    I don’t want them shooting people (one of the “friends” associated with this house recently got arrested for this….) two blocks from my house.

    I live my life with a decency and respect that is sorely lacking among – yep, I’m about to say it – poor black (and white and hispanic and asian) people. So do I feel bad when they *finally* lose a half a million dollar house they refused to sell to forclosure? NO!! In fact, I welcome it πŸ™‚

    If the “old guard” residents of these neighborhoods bore a stronger resemblance to a poor Margaret Cho or a poor Huxtable or Cleaver family, I doubt anyone would care. It’s that in civil society, some people blend in and behave, and others…. don’t…..

    • I don’t want you in my neighborhood, you elitist f*ck!

      • Elitism is defined in the dictionary as: “pride in or awareness of being one of an elite group”.

        If you perceive my “group” as “elite” because I DON’T sell crack to ten year olds, or because I HAVE a job so I’m not out doing drugs in broad daylight (or at any other time), or because I have sex in my HOME and not on the hood of cars in an alley, or because I choose to settle disagreements with words instead of handguns, then elitist I am HAPPY to be labeled.

        Other accurate labels you may also choose from include “law-abiding”, “tax-paying”, “civil”, “human”, “well-behaved”, “able to speak proper English (among other languages)”, and “always respectful of my neighbors and anyone else who is abiding the laws set by our local government without regard to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, and income”. And I’d say those same labels apply to most of my neighbors in Shaw.

        Class and income are not always related. Please see Mother Theresa (classiest lady in a long, long time, but dirt broke) and Snooki of Jersey Shore (low-class multi-millionaire) for reference if that concept confuses you.

  • Woodley Park- Adams Morgan-Zoo (I don’t know what neighborhood I live in, the metro signs confuse me).
    Old upscale neighborhood with the occasional stabbing – you know, a safe part of DC. Minimal hipsters, mostly homogenized, good starter neighborhood for someone from a small town wanting to be in the city (safety wise, not price wise).
    No seriously – explaining my neighborhood can be tough too as I’m actually at the south end sandwiched between the hotels – not really like the rest of WP as its mostly tourists and the few shops at Calvert and Conn. Plus I frequent Adams Morgan more than the rest of the neighborhood since thats where most of the residential amenities are (or dupont or Columbia Heights)- actually I tend to describe my location as Adams Morgan light more than WP to anyone outside of the city (and it is more like being on Calvert St east of Ellington Bridge than WP proper). Actually, mostly I tell people I’m “west of the park” and their first impressions are often accurate.

    • Used to live in Woodley Park; I described it as “too rich for me.”
      Now own a home in Petworth; still not sure how to describe it.

  • I live in Brightwood. My family have lived here for over 55 years. It was a quiet well kept suburban type neighborhood. Within the last 10 years, the Central American population into Brightwood has increased because this group was priced out of Columbia Heights.

  • I live in Carter Baron East (16th St. Heights and above), and I’d call this neighborhood “disappearing”. We were an established neighborhood, but now thanks to the Zoning Board, the churches have gone beyond the tipping point. Lost:people who actually live here, raise kids, and support local stores. Replaced by: Va. and Md. cars on weekends.

    • 16th Street Heights Civic Association is in Brightwood, but it’s a class issue with many residents. Some don’t want to be considered in Brightwood.

  • I went to Wordle and created a word cloud of these comments. See for yourself:

    Bigger sized words = more mentions. Biggest word is “Like”

    Others: “Big, good, holiday,” also “hypothetical, comments, figured” (are a lot of comments reflecting what you think your neighbors think about you or say about you, or what friends and relatives think about your neighborhood?).

    Lots to do? Many seem to comment on “mall, weekend, playing, downtown.”

    Homey or contentious? People mention “neighbors, parks, weekends,” but also “ass, bastard.”

    Dig below the biggest words and you’ll see lots and lots of positive descriptions:

    “Untold, witty, laugh, folks” and on and on. I hope you enjoy exploring the word cloud of these comments.

    I am surprised at how big “mosquitoes” come up.

  • Park View = Mount Pleasant in the 90’s.

    • I recently bought a place in Park View and had never heard of the neighborhood name until then. (The name listed in the D.C. tax records is “Columbia Heights.”)

      I’ve been kinda distressed at how much litter there is… I try to pick it up regularly, but there’s always more the next day.

      I know a lot of people talk about “gentrification” as though it’s a bad thing, but if it can bring me more neighbors who give a damn, who don’t litter, and who keep up their properties, then I’m all for it. Oh, and more retail that’s not mini-marts selling junk food, beer, wine, cigarettes, and lottery tickets; that would be nice too.

  • Petworth = the good life.

  • I live on the Hill. I describe it as calm, quiet, full of dogs and kids… occasionally the words cute or quaint come up.

    I’ve also described it as “Stars Hollow in the middle of the city” to people who might understand that reference.

    • +1 Lorelai

      although I don’t see the resemblence. Stars Hollow didn’t have nearly as many pretentious out of staters who pass their days denigrating the city they live.

      • I don’t count that part of the Hill as my neighborhood πŸ™‚ (Interesting fact, particularly in light of all the redistricting chatter these days: the Capitol Building is in Ward 2 and not Ward 6 like the rest of the Hill, despite Ward 6 stretching all the way to Penn Quarter)

        Plus, really, those 435 out of staters remind me a lot of Taylor…

  • i recently moved from bloomingdale and loved it. i hate to call it “transitioning” b/c, to me, it’s sort of demeaning and trivializes many great things about the place, but, as a new landlord, the pragmatist in me has to characterize it in a way that’s easily digestible for those unfamiliar with the area.

    i think so long as ‘gentrifiers’ are mindful of long termers and are careful stewards of their homes for the next set of folks to the hood, i see no reason why the term has to remain a bad word.

Comments are closed.