Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user Blinkofanaye

A reader wrote in suggesting I reconsider the way I think of Chinatown and Penn Quarter. They suggest that the whole area except for H St, NW between 6th and 7th be identified as Penn Quarter.

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Most regulars of the site know that I’m not a strict adherent of specific neighborhood borders. It can drive people crazy but if I’m one block over from a neighborhood, I genuinely have no problem calling it either neighborhood’s name. I recognize that is upsetting to some people. I’m also comfortable with folks self identifying to a certain degree. For example if some one tells me they live in Columbia Heights but I know they are technically 1 block north – I have no problem accepting their identification with Columbia Heights.

Having said that, I do think the particular situation of Chinatown/Penn Quarter is worth exploring. And I’m sure one day we’ll debate Navy Yard/Capital Riverfront…

I know when I first moved to DC in 1997 I had never heard of Penn Quarter but I had heard of Chinatown. But I also realize that the streets/neighborhood I thought made up Chinatown have changed a lot over the years. If anything, as has been joked about before, there is now a China-block (if that.)

So I’m curious what you guys think are the proper borders of Chinatown? Do you think we should just call the whole area Penn Quarter? If so, what are the borders you would give to Penn Quarter? Ah, hell, and I know we’ve touched on it before – what happens when City Center is built where the old convention center used to be? What will that neighborhood be called?

And I’m not talking about city tax records or how wikipedia maps them out. I want to know what your impressions are. I realize that most people don’t obsess about this but for those that do – when you’re walking around 7th and F St, NW (for example) do you feel like you’re in Chinatown or Penn Quarter? Alright, I’m rambling now. Your turn.


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