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Ivy City is a small neighborhood in Northeast Washington. It is primarily an industrial neighborhood, dominated by warehouses and the Ivy City Yard, a railroad coach yard and maintenance facility for Amtrak. The area has undergone some revitalization with the influx of a few dance clubs and the gentrification moving across the Northeast quadrant. However Ivy City still remains among the poorest parts of the city.
Ivy City is on a triangular strip of land in the central part of the Northeast quadrant, bounded by New York Avenue to the northwest, West Virginia Avenue to the east, and Mt. Olivet Road to the south. The neighborhood is unusual in that it is also surrounded on all sides by significant landmarks: Gallaudet University (across Mt. Olivet Rd.), Mount Olivet Cemetery (across West Virginia Ave.), and Amtrak's Ivy City yard (across New York Ave.).
Politically, Ivy City is in Ward 5.
Ivy City is outside of the boundaries of the original Pierre L'Enfant plan for the City of Washington within the District of Columbia.
In 1831, however, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad received approval of a plan to build its Washington Branch. Passenger train service between Baltimore and Washington began in 1835. As part of the construction, the railroad company built its last roundhouse (the current Amtrak yard) one mile outside the city limit. The railroad then worked with land speculators to develop the tract immediately adjacent to the roundhouse as Ivy City, a Washington suburb to house B&O employees and give a formal mailing address to the roundhouse.
Ivy City became part of the District of Columbia with the passage of the Organic Act of 1871, which extended the city to include Washington County.
Over the years, as railroads became one of the few industries to consistently give jobs to African Americans, Ivy City became an increasingly black section of town. In 1911, the firmly segregated city authorized the construction of the neighborhood's first colored school, Alexander Crummell School, at the heart of Ivy City. The school quickly became a symbol of civic pride in the neighborhood and a major community anchor.
Ivy City, being a major hub of activity on the B&O Railroad, had an uncanny knack for mirroring the railroad's cycles of economic success. This tendency proved unfortunate after World War II, when U.S. rail travel suffered terrible declines due to the rise of the commercial airline industry and the Interstate Highway System. In 1963, B&O was bought by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad; the two were combined in the Chessie System in 1973. Three years after that, the Ivy City yard was acquired by the newly created Amtrak, which leased it to commuter rail services.
Although Amtrak has brought some stability to the industrial tenor of the neighborhood, Ivy City had suffered immensely from the railroad industry's decades-long downturn. Moreover, even after Amtrak took over the train yard, Washington entered a period of poor city management and economic blight, which was particularly hard on low-income neighborhoods. Those who could afford to leave Ivy City did; its population decreased by a third in the 1990s.
Ivy City remains home to many of the poorest residents of the District and is largely occupied by old warehouses, abandoned and decrepit homes, and large expanses of parking lots, and crime. By mid-2005, the city's recent trend toward gentrification had only just begun to touch some parts of Ivy City.
Government and infrastructure
- Dilts, James D. (1996). The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio, the Nation's First Railroad, 1828-1853. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-8047-2629-0.
- Schwartzman, Paul. "Renewal Takes Root in D.C.'s Blighted Ivy City : Real Estate Investors Betting on Neighborhood," Washington PostSunday, July 10, 2005. Accessed May 16, 2007.
- "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2008 District of Columbia." Amtrak. Retrieved on September 16, 2009.
- Photos of Ivy City Yard (1997) - Amtrak Historical Society
- Area Map of Ivy City Yard, Union Station and approach tracks