Dear PoPville – What are the Borders of “upper Northwest DC”

Photo by PoPville flickr user brunofish

“Dear PoPville,

When someone says “upper Northwest DC”, what are those boundaries?

As a geography major, I have always wondered where these boundaries are to people. To me, it would be anything northwest of the Zoo and north of say Columbia Heights, but I am not a local, so I have no idea.”

75 Comment

  • Upper Northwest DC = wealthier than those poor slobs in regular ol’ NW DC. These are important distinctions, dontcha know.

    • Agreed. “Upper NW” always struck me as more of class divider than a geographic one. Anyone who said they lived in “Upper NW” meant that they lived in the white and/or wealthy part of NW. This included nearly everything WoTP along the Wisconsin/Mass Ave/Connecticut corridors and certain monied neighborhoods EoTP very close to the MD border in the most northern reaches of NW DC.
      Petworth, Brightwood, etc are NOT “Upper NW” – too many poors, not enough multi-generational money.

  • Anything west of Rock Creek Park is socially, if not always geographically, upper NW. The term NW is skewed because so much of the city falls into that distinction because the Capitol is not centered. Those very cool people living in Shaw and Bloomingdale live in NW, but need a way to differentiate the very uncool people who live on the wrong side of the park. As you can probably tell, there is animosity and misunderstanding between some in those groups, while many are oblivious or could care less.

    • I love how west of the park is considered the “wrong side” now!

      • Among the younger and newer set, it is. Many who live East of 16th consider the other half with disdain, or otherwise, total ignorance. In this case, Cool is a quantity that outweighs more traditional socioeconomic factors. This blog is one example. The coverage is skewed to things east of Rock Creek Park. That is the It Zone.

        • I wouldn’t say that. You don’t see much coverage east of the river, or in any of the other neighborhoods that border MD. I’d say this blog is focused mostly on the densely populated core areas.

          • I agree, but those happen to be in NW, east of Rock Creek. I live on the other side and regularly interact with people under 40 who look at me like I’m a pariah and then assume I have a trust fund and/or am a Republican who dislikes minorities. It gets old. Resentment builds. And that’s without even going into the whole gentrification can of worms.

          • You have to admit though that upper NW is more convenient to those types because it’s close to the places that employ them (e.g. law firms, embassies) Most of us who work in tech, nonprofits, etc don’t live there simply because it would be a very long commute to our jobs.

          • Anything North of Dupont and WOTP as well as the Gold Coast (Shepherd park, Colonial Village, Crestwood). But i think of it in terms of money as well as geography.

        • I can’t imagine why a blog named Prince of Petworth would be focused on matters east of the park.

        • maxwell smart

          SO true! I think I’m one of the only people in my office who lives in “Upper NW” aka West of Rock Creek Park… I might as well live in Germantown to them. It get’s pretty irritating having to explain that my place is technically no further away from the office than H Street.

          • Geez, where do you guys work? I’m the rebel of my office because I don’t live outside the Beltway.

        • Or maybe because its mostly houses in upper NW….and we like to talk about the bars and restaurants?

    • i have no animosity for people because of where they choose to live.

      • Except for Virginia. I go out of my way to not spend my hard earned dollars on those troglodytes.

        • There are a few circumstances where it makes sense, but I generally question the judgement of anyone who decides to settle in Northern Virginia. It’s usually not a good idea if you weigh all the alternatives.

  • I’ve always wondered this too. Also, the borders for Petworth and Columbia Heights are a little blurry- according to Wikipedia, Kansas Avenue between Quebec St and Georgia Avenue (where I live) doesn’t belong in any neighborhood!

  • It usually means N of Cleveland Park, Van Ness and Forest Hills: Chevy Chase, Friendship, AU Park, Spring Valley. It’s as much about the Conn, Wisc, and Mass corridors as anything else, although it’s still a big part of Ward 3. Places like Palisades probably are too far W and out of most DCers consciousness to be included.

    E of the park including Shepherd Park/Colonial Village is usually considered as something separate, partly because people in “Upper NW” tend to be clueless about what’s across the park, and almost everyone forgets about places like Crestwood.

    Columbia Heights is too far East and South to be anything close to a boundary.

  • I consider it anything north and west of Dupont Circle.

  • I would say west of Connecticut and north of 18th.

  • I live in Petworth near Georgia Ave and I use Upper NW when I am selling on Craigslist. This is mostly to prevent people from SW realizing I am far away, and telling people in MOCO that I am fair close.

  • There are no boundaries. It is not a real thing. It just depends on the perspective of the person using the term. Just look at all the different responses in the comments. Next time someone says “upper NW”, just block it out of your mind.

  • jim_ed

    Personally, anything WOTP above Georgetown + the upper 16th St Gold Coast area is ‘Upper Northwest’. For the northern reaches of NW that are EOTP like Petworth, Brightwood, etc I refer to as Uptown DC.

    • That’s funny, because I refer to the northern reaches of NW that are EOTP like Petworth, Brightwood, etc as Uranus.

  • I’ve always thought of upper NW as points north and west of Rock Creek park with Woodley Park as the southeastern boundary.

  • Related question: what do people usually mean when they say anacostia? Anything in SE? Anything east of the river? Ward 8? Just the historic district?

    • anything east of Georgia Ave. LOL!

    • The actual neighborhood of Anacostia. To call everything east of the river or all of Ward 8 “Anacostia” would be incorrect.

    • Locals mean the actual neighborhood. Transplants seem to mean EOTR.

      • that’s so not true.
        most people that grew up in dc called EOTR “anacostia”. hell, even some locals east of the river call it all anacostia.
        inaccurately or not, neighborhood divisions were not all that cared about for locals. intersections were more commonly used.
        thats changing, but its mostly the transplants that are making that change.

        • Yeah, in terms of the original “upper NW” discussion, I was going to say the people in upper NW are the ones who call it upper NW because they’ve been here longer and therefore aren’t obsessed with neighborhood boundaries like the newcomers.

  • To me, it’s all parts west of the Park that require climbing a steep hill to get at – by bike or by topological map, “upper” makes perfect sense.

  • Interesting discussion. Personally, I tend to think of it as anything not Metro accessible, which really has nothing to do with true geography. For instance, Tenleytown has always seemed “close” to me, while Glover Park feels “way out there.” Red line jokes aside, it really makes a difference.

    • I tend to think of it similarly. Anything that takes at least an hour to get to from where I live (Capitol Hill) via public transit. That’s basically the western leg of the red line and anything else that’s in that general direction (Adams Morgan gets a pass because the 90 buses go there, and Dupont because I usually just walk there from Farragut West).

  • I rarely hear longtime residents use the term “Upper NW”… usually it’s just “Northwest” or the specific neighborhood.

  • i think of everything above missouri/ military.

  • I would say northwest of, like, Cleveland Park along Connecticut, Wisconsin and Mass. Avenues. It’s where you go when you go to Politics and Prose.

  • I generally think of it as most areas WOTP, with the exceptions of Georgetown, Burleith, and Woodley as they’re relatively urban. Other areas WOTP are fairly suburban, if only in a North Arlington sort of way.

  • We used to refer to anything from National Cathedral west to MD and north to MD as “Upper Causcasia”.. guess that has gone by the by.

    “Upper NW”… didn’t use it.

    “Uptown” was anything in NW after midcity / P St.

    • Oh wow, Upper Caucasia, I had totally forgotten about that. As a fourth-generation Upper NWer, I always thought it was just Chevy Chase, DC. That way you could say something other than Chevy Chase so people didn’t think you were from MD.

    • when was the “used to”?

      • Well, I still do to my friends… but I don’t here it often anymore outside my circle. 1971 onwards, if you mean timewise.

        We never broke it down beyond UC – anything from the richy-schools areas (Cathedral School, Maret, Sidwell) to the MD line was Upper Caucasia.

  • I’d categorize it as far up near Maryland… Shepherd Park, etc… near (former) Walter Reed and such… Northern most tip of the city

  • As a native of Upper Northwest, born in Sibley Hospital and raised in Tenleytown/Friendship Heights, I know live in Park View, still NW but way further South and way further East. When someone asks me where I am from, first they are shocked that I am a native, they then assume that I mean one of the suburbs, then I explain Upper Northwest but still (just barely) in the city and tend to point in the general direction. Other natives or long time residents tend to understand but most transplants look at me like they have know idea what I am talking about until I explain up by Mazza Gallery and Chevy Chase Pavilion. While there might be a class divide, there is also a geographic divide. West of the park doesn’t cut it, Georgetown is not upper northwest, Glover Park prob the border, maybe even the Cathedral but there are some areas east of the park north of Military going out 16th that I would consider Upper Northwest. I the best way to look at it would be to based on density, single family detached vs. Row Houses. While that might have some elements of class in it they don’t hold particularly true in DC, Georgetown, DuPont, and now Logan are all more expensive than Tenleytown/Friendship Heights

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