Near Northeast, Washington, D.C.

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Map of Washington, D.C., with Near Northeast highlighted in red

Near Northeast is a neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C.. It is bounded by North Capitol Street to the west, Florida Avenue to the north, F Street to the south, and 15th Street to the east.

History[edit]

Douglas Memorial United Methodist Church on H Street NE

Once a patchwork of several different landowners' claims, most of the land had been ceded to one landowner, Notley Young, under the name of Youngsborough by the 1790s. Youngsborough was included shortly thereafter in the original survey of land for the new national capital, and Young and a few other landowners gave the land to the Federal government in exchange for a promise that Congress would divide the land into lots and return half of those lots to the original landowners.

Once the capital was created, streets were laid out in the grid system that Pierre L'Enfant had designed, with Florida Avenue (then known as Boundary Street) forming the northern border of the city. However, nearly all of the land remained undeveloped, used as farmland to cultivate fruits and vegetables for the fresh market in the more developed sections of the city. The land lots that were used for non-agricultural purposes in the early 19th century were mostly cemeteries.

19th Century[edit]

In the 1830s, the B&O Railroad constructed its Washington Branch, which entered the city of Washington at roughly 9th and Boundary Streets and proceeded through the neighborhood to the downtown area. Its presence gradually led Old City to evolve into a working-class neighborhood: wood and coal yards appeared to serve the railroad and its terminals, with houses subsequently built for the employees of the railroad industries.

The neighborhood remained undeveloped and sparsely populated through the end of the 19th century, although by the 1890s, H Street NE was the eastern terminus of the Washington streetcar system (at 15th Street). Some minor commercial development therefore began to develop along H Street.

The area was also the site of Swampoodle Grounds, a baseball stadium which was the home of the Washington Nationals baseball club from 1886 to 1889, when the team folded.

20th century[edit]

800 block of H Street NE

Near Northeast evolved into a major center of black population in the first half of the 20th century. There was also a significant immigrant population (from Ireland, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Eastern Europe). Union Station's construction cleared most of the slums that had begun to occupy the western edge of the area, allowing for development to increase. That area around North Capitol Street had been known as Swampoodle, and had a large Irish population.

Over the years a high concentration of working-class African Americans moved into Near Northeast, with a number of important institutions developing in the area. Of particular note were Uline Arena, built in 1941; Northeastern Market, an indoor marketplace, built in 1896; and dozens of movie theaters.

During this same period, a twelve-block strip of H Street (from 3rd Street to 15th) became one of the most important shopping corridors in Washington. It catered primarily to a working class clientele, but was densely commercial, with restaurants, theaters, banks, grocery stores, clothing stores, and Ourisman Chevrolet, one of the most prominent car dealerships in the city. It was the location of the very first Sears Roebuck store in Washington. In addition, two of the most recognizable and popular locations were the whites-only Moderne style Atlas Theater at 1331 H Street and its black counterpart, the Plymouth Theater, down the block at 1365 H Street. Like the theaters, most of the businesses in the H Street corridor (and elsewhere in Old City) were strictly segregated, but some businesses (an unusual number of which were black-owned) catered to both black and white customers. By 1950, however, approximately 50 percent of the residents of Old City/Near Northeast were African American.

Ironically, the emerging Civil Rights Movement touched off a decline in the H Street corridor and other commercial areas of Near Northeast; the upscale downtown businesses, taking advantage of the ambitions of the movement, began specifically targeting an integrated clientele and even a predominantly black one. This meant that even the growing black population of Old City/Near Northeast began patronizing the prestigious department stores of downtown Washington, and the neighborhood businesses suffered as a result.

The neighborhood was devastated by the race riot that ripped Washington for the three days following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in April 1968. Looting, vandalism, and arson made Near Northeast one of the worst casualties of the riots, with many burned out or otherwise destroyed properties burned out for decades.

Present day[edit]

Construction of the DC Streetcar's H Street NE/Benning Road Line

H Street, so long the center of the neighborhood's life, is being structured as an arts district. Theaters, jazz clubs, performance spaces, and exotic restaurants are appearing in the neighborhood. In 2005 and 2006, a substantial number of venues and bars opened in the H Street corridor, including the Argonaut, Sidamo, Showbar Presents the Palace of Wonders, the Red and the Black,[1] Rock & Roll Hotel,[2] and Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar, among others. Business owners in that area are calling the area the Atlas District, after the movie theater (now a dance and performance studio) that has been its most prominent landmark for half a century.

The newcomers are rapidly gentrifying the area with sit-down restaurants, hip bars, more upscale retail establishments, but the older residents note that this process seems inherently to freeze out businesses owned by and targeted towards working-class long term residents. [3]

Neighborhood Landmarks[edit]

The Uline Arena, more popularly known as Washington Coliseum, has long been an important anchor of the community. It was the site of the first Beatles concert in the United States on February 11, 1964, and also hosted the Washington Lions of the old Eastern Hockey League; speeches by Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X; and pro-American rallies during World War II. The building still stands; however, it is currently used as an indoor parking lot.

Of the many movie theaters in Old City/Near Northeast, two of the most prominent still stand on H Street, although both are now used for different purposes. One, the old Moderne style Atlas Theater, has been renovated Atlas Performing Arts Center,[4] as a center for dance and the performing arts. Its neighbor, the Plymouth Theater, is now the H Street Playhouse,[5] home of an experimental theatrical company called the Theater Alliance.[6]

DC Farmers Market, on 5th Street near Florida Avenue, is a warehouse-style wholesale market with varieties of food from all over the world as well as all parts of the U.S. It has been named one of the world's Great Public Spaces by the Project for Public Spaces.

Nomenclature[edit]

The neighborhood has taken on a variety of unofficial nicknames, most with little success. Realtors tried to introduce the portmanteau "SoFlo" (a combination of "South of Florida Avenue"), hoping to attract an affluent, younger demographic. Residents tried to introduce the term "Capitol Hill North", hoping to benefit from the higher market values of properties directly to the south on Capitol Hill. Businessmen responsible for the economic revitalization of the western section tried to introduce the term "Atlas District", a reference to the Atlas Theater. Residents have been slow to embrace any of these terms and instead identify themselves as "living in Northeast", "living off H Street", or "from Near Northeast".

Infrastructure[edit]

Near Northeast is served by two stations on the Red Line of the Washington Metro: Union Station and the NoMa – Gallaudet University station which was renamed in June 2012 from the name New York Ave–Florida Ave–Gallaudet University Metro station.

Politics[edit]

Politically, Near Northeast is the northeasternmost section of Ward 6.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 6A and 6C, respectively covering the eastern and western halves of Near Northeast, consider a wide range of policies and programs affecting the local neighborhoods, including traffic, parking, recreation, street improvements, liquor licenses, zoning, economic development, police protection, sanitation and trash collection, and the District's annual budget.
  • The H Street Guide - A directory of local businesses and calendar of events
  • H Street DC - A guide to the neighborhood's major commercial corridor
  • A Study of Capitol Hill North/Near Northeast - History published in Voice of the Hill, 2003.

Coordinates: 38°54′05″N 77°00′12″W / 38.9013°N 77.0032°W / 38.9013; -77.0032