Living in Georgetown, Washington, D.C
Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times
The pair of mules looked happy, snacking on hay, carbo-loading before their appointed stroll down the leafy towpath of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.
Built in the 19th century to extend shipping routes west of the Appalachian Mountains, the canal is a ribbon of tranquillity in Georgetown, Washington D.C.’s oldest neighborhood. Until 2011, mules regularly towed a barge from lock to lock as an educational spectacle for schoolchildren and tourists. By then the boat, locks and canal had deteriorated badly. Last month, the animals were harnessed one more time to inaugurate the renovation of the mile-long Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
A picturesque district of cobbled streets, historic homes and power brokers, Georgetown is where Kevin Plank, the billionaire founder of the sportswear company Under Armour, is renovating a $7.85 million Federal brick house with a ballroom at 1405 34th Street NW, which he bought in 2013.
But the neighborhood wasn’t off limits to Greg Miller, 25. In May, he moved in with three friends living at 3262 N Street NW, a 2,450-square-foot 1880 rowhouse with a working gas lamp out front, which they rent for $5,200 a month.
2445 P STREET NW A four-bedroom three-and-a-half-bath house built in 1889, on .06 acres, listed at $2,149,000. (202) 271-1701Credit…Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times
Mr. Miller now lives three minutes by bicycle from his job at Georgetown University’s Office of Sustainability. Last month, he was in the final stretch of a campaign to be his district’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, an elected official who communicates local concerns to government leaders.
“I am interested in making sure that our community continues to develop as a sustainable urban village in D.C.,” he said. His vision for Georgetown is of “a healthy environment and safe and convenient transportation options and vibrant public spaces.”
“Develop” is the operative word. Preservationists have a solid footing in Georgetown, and change comes mincingly. The neighborhood is low-key, small-scale and postcard-pretty. But its pedestrian-friendly streets are crowded. Proposals to relieve congestion include widening bicycle lanes, improving access to public transit (Georgetown lacks its own Metro station) and building an aerial gondola across the Potomac River between Georgetown and Rosslyn, Va.
Thomas Anderson, the president of Washington Fine Properties, a residential real estate firm, noted that Georgetown has more pre-1900 homes than any other District of Columbia neighborhood. These include the circa 1794 house at 3017 N Street NW that Jacqueline Kennedy briefly occupied with her children after her husband was assassinated. The six-bedroom building with cupola views of the river is on the market today for $8,995,000.
“Georgetown is finite,” Mr. Anderson said, referring to the dearth of vacant land for new construction.
Which is not to say that it is frozen. A building with 70 condominiums managed by the Four Seasons hotel is planned at 1051-1055 29th Street NW, where a disused Art Deco heating plant now stands. The project’s designer, David Adjaye, was lead designer of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in September on the National Mall. The condo’s landscape architect, Laurie Olin, redesigned the grounds of the Washington Monument.
Developers also seek to replace a gas station and auto repair shop at 2715 Pennsylvania Avenue NW with a building that has seven condo units and a restaurant. And plans were recently released for a mixed-used development with 225 residences at the site of a former Holiday Inn at 2101 Wisconsin Avenue NW.
What You’ll Find
Georgetown is bounded by the Potomac River to the south, the Burleith neighborhood and Dumbarton Oaks Park to the north, Georgetown University to the west and Rock Creek to the east. It has many green spaces, not least the 10-acre Georgetown Waterfront Park, which was completed in 2011 and has bike paths and boating facilities.
The neighborhood is known for its 18th-century Georgian and Federal architecture and, to a greater extent, 19th-century Italianate, Second Empire, Romanesque and Queen Anne styles. Residents describe the area west of Wisconsin Avenue as the West Village and east as the East Village. Both offer stretches of vintage rowhouses and parks and are comparably priced, said Michael Brennan Jr., a vice president of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.
Below M Street, buildings are bigger and more contemporary. At 2900 K Street NW, for instance, the 10-year-old House of Sweden is the sleek quarters for the embassies of Sweden and Iceland. Washington Harbour, at 3050 K Street NW, is a postmodern mixed-used waterfront development with restaurants, offices, luxury condominiums and an outdoor ice skating rink.
Another notable Georgetown landmark is the 1876 Mount Zion United Methodist Church. Founded in 1816 and eventually located at 1334 29th Street NW, it is the oldest African-American congregation in the District of Columbia and recalls a period from the late 18th century through the 19th century when Georgetown was a vibrant center of black culture.
What You’ll Pay
According to data from Urban Turf, a local blog, the median sales price of a home in Georgetown from January through June 2016 was $1,200,000, an increase of only .08 percent over the same period in 2015.
As of Nov. 2, a total of 66 properties were on the market in Georgetown, as advertised by Coldwell Banker Homes, using multiple listing service data. Single-family houses ranged from a three-level 1900 brick townhouse condo with two bedrooms and one and a half baths at 1072 Paper Mill Court, listed at $779,000, to a 1960 Georgian-style townhouse with six bedrooms, four baths and two half baths at 3245 N Street NW, listed at $9,995,000.
Apartments ranged from a one-bedroom condo in a 1932 building at 3120 R Street NW, listed for $379,000 to a four-bedroom penthouse with extensive terraces at 3150 South Street NW, listed at $13,950,000.
The heart of Georgetown’s commercial district is the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street. On a recent Tuesday morning, residents, tourists and students were dipping into the many national chain retailers, from Abercrombie & Fitch (1208 Wisconsin Avenue NW) to Urban Outfitters (3111 M Street NW).
Unique establishments are also to be found. Martin’s Tavern has operated at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and N Street since the Great Depression and served every president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush. (In August, President Obama celebrated his 55th birthday at nearby Fiola Mare, an Italian seafood restaurant on the waterfront.) Snap, which bills itself as “Georgetown’s cutest cafe,” occupies a chartreuse townhouse at 1062 Thomas Jefferson Street NW. Stachowski’s Market, at 1425 28th Street NW, specializes in pastrami and meatloaf sandwiches you can eat at a worn vintage dining table parked near a bay window.
Hyde-Addison Elementary School, a public school at 3219 O Street NW, has 332 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade. On 2015-16 state standardized tests, 61 percent met standards in English, versus 26 percent in the District of Columbia, according to District of Columbia Public Schools data; 73 percent met standards in math versus 24 percent districtwide. The school is preparing a two-year renovation project to update its facilities. The students will be sent to a temporary location, not yet determined.
Hardy Middle School, a public school at 1819 35th Street NW, has 374 students, Grades 6 through 8. On 2015-16 state standardized tests, 40 percent met standards in English, versus 26 percent in the District of Columbia, and 31 percent in math, versus 24 percent districtwide.
Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a public high school specializing in the performing arts at 2501 11th Street NW and 2001 10th Street NW, has 525 students. On 2015-16 state standardized tests, 38 percent met standards in English, versus 27 percent in the District of Columbia, and 9 percent in math, versus 12 percent districtwide.
The Foggy Bottom-GWU metro station is about a mile from the center of Georgetown and three stops from Metro Center in downtown Washington. The Circulator bus ($1) goes between Georgetown and Union Station; travel time is about 20 minutes when traffic is light.
Georgetown was founded in 1751 as part of Colonial Maryland and was absorbed into the District of Columbia in 1871. Said to have been named for George II of England, it evolved from a tobacco trading post to a busy port and industrial center. It went into severe decline in the early 20th century, but began to be revived at the time of the New Deal in the 1930s. The Georgetown historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1967.