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Venerable is the perfect word to describe Capitol Hill, the largest neighborhood and one of the oldest in Washington, D.C.
Developed around the iconic congressional building after which it was named, Capitol Hill is home to many politicians and their staff, as well as many other professionals involved in the workings of federal government. Empty nesters and recent college graduates also make up part of the neighborhood’s diverse population.
With the Capitol Hill building looming in the background, and with other significant landmarks like the Supreme Court Building and the Library of Congress, the neighborhood is enveloped by an air of vitality and vibrancy. But its tranquil residential areas also exude a small-town charm, with picturesque streets lined with brick sidewalks and mature trees, and residents engaging in activities like weekend community fairs and daily street runs.
A Brief History
Capitol Hill had its beginnings in 1791 when DC architect Charles L’Enfant decided to locate the house of Congress on what was then Jenkin Hill, which overlooked the city. The neighborhood’s earliest residents were members of Congress who occupied a group of boarding houses built especially for them, as well as merchants and builders who lived near the Navy Yard southeast of the neighborhood.
In the 1870s, the area saw a construction boom that led to the rise of several Victorian houses, which remain one of the neighborhood’s most distinctive structures to this day.
Living in Capitol Hill
The Capitol Hill territory has been gradually expanding as more and more people make their home here. The historic district, however, still makes up the largest part of the neighborhood.
The majority of the housing stock in Capitol Hill is historic row houses with eclectic features, reflecting the personal preferences of their original builders and owners. The most popular architectural styles are Italianate, Federal, Romanesque, Queen Anne, Second Empire, and Classical Revival.
While a number of these houses are available as luxurious single-family homes, many have been converted into condominiums, apartments, and town homes that combine old-world charm with modern comforts.
In addition to these houses, other historic structures include commercial buildings, schools and churches, some of which have been turned into gorgeous loft properties.
There are also a number of newly constructed multi-family buildings outside the historic district, with more expected to be built in the near future.
Lifestyle, Nightlife, Shopping and Dining
- Walkability is one of Capitol Hill’s most prized features. Shops, restaurants, and offices are mostly within walking distance of residences.
- In addition to the U.S. Capitol building and the Supreme Court, other important landmarks in the area include the U.S. Botanical Garden, The Library of Congress, Folger Shakespeare Library and Theatre, Union Station, the Navy Museum, the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, and more.
- The neighborhood has several historic commercial and retail hubs. Barracks Row inside Union Station is home to dozens of shops and restaurants. Eastern Market, a neighborhood staple since 1873, is a permanent farmer’s market that offers fresh produce, meats, dairy, prepared foods, and arts and crafts.
- The top dining and lounging places in the area are patronized by prominent politicians and famous celebrities. Some of the best restaurants here areBarracks Row’s Belga Café and Levi’s Port Café, Art and Soul Restaurant, Monocle on Capitol Hill, and Capital Grille. Popular pubs, bars, and lounges include Bistro Bis, Bistro Cacao, The Dubliner Restaurant & Pub, and Sonoma Restaurant + Wine Bar.
- Capitol Hill offers plenty of recreational activities with 59 parks and a swimming pool that’s open for free to residents.