16th Street NW

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16th Street Northwest
16th Street in the Dupont Circle neighborhood
Intersection of 16th and P Streets in Dupont Circle
Maintained byDDOT
Length6.4 mi (10.3 km)[1]
LocationNorthwest, Washington, D.C.
South endH Street at Lafayette Park
US 29 (K Street) in Downtown
Massachusetts Avenue at Scott Circle
North end MD 390 in Silver Spring
East15th Street
West17th Street

16th Street Northwest is a prominent north–south thoroughfare in the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. Part of Pierre L'Enfant's design for the city, 16th Street begins just north of the White House across Lafayette Park at H Street and continues due north in a straight line passing K Street, Scott Circle, Meridian Hill Park, Rock Creek Park, and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center before crossing Eastern Avenue into Silver Spring, Maryland, where it ends at Georgia Avenue. From K Street to the District line, 16th Street is part of the National Highway System. The Maryland portion of the street is designated Maryland State Highway 390. The entire street is 6.4 miles (10.3 km) long.[1]

The Washington meridian, a prime meridian once in use in the United States, follows the street. Part of the street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Sixteenth Street Historic District.[2] In June 2020, the section immediately north of the White House was renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.[3]


House of the Temple on 16th Street NW
The Republic of Congo Embassy at 16th and Riggs Place, NW

Early in the city's history, many foreign countries opened their embassies on 16th Street because of its proximity to the White House. Many religious denominations followed with churches, earning the street the nickname "Church Row." These include Foundry Methodist (attended by Presidents Hayes and Clinton), First Baptist (attended by Presidents Truman and Carter), the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church which was originally named the First Colored Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. (visited twice by President Barack Obama), St. John's ("Church of the Presidents"), All Souls Unitarian, Universalist National Memorial Church, St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral, founded in 1949 and built in 1958, and Third Church of Christ, Scientist, which was designed by an associate of I.M. Pei in 1971 and demolished in 2014.[4] Shrine of the Sacred Heart is located just off of 16th Street. After most of the embassies moved to Embassy Row and other parts of the city, the churches became more prominent in 16th Street's identity. Other notable buildings include the Scottish Rite Masons' House of the Temple, Carnegie Institution for Science, Robert Simpson Woodward House, the Warder Mansion, Carter Barron Amphitheater, the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center, and the Toutorsky Mansion.

The AFL–CIO, American Trucking Association, National Education Association, American Chemical Society, National Geographic Society, and Benjamin Franklin University have prominent buildings on 16th Street. The National Rifle Association was until the late 1990s headquartered on the street.

The northern and central portions of 16th Street—and the Crestwood neighborhood, in particular—have for a half century been the chosen neighborhood of accomplished African Americans in Washington. Known colloquially as "The Gold Coast", these sections of 16th Street are lined with early 20th-century Tudor mansions.[5] As 16th Street continues north through the Shepherd Park neighborhood, the street passes Tudor-style house at 7700 16th Street NW, the scene of a notorious crime, and several houses of worship including the Ohev Sholom synagogue and historic Tiffereth Israel synagogue, across the street from one another, and the Washington Ethical Society.

The street's proximity to Rock Creek Park and importance as a thoroughfare has made it a natural dividing boundary for Washington neighborhoods. Outside of the downtown area, no neighborhood in the city falls on both sides of 16th Street; the neighborhoods that surround it have 16th as either their eastern or their western boundary. For many years, the wide street was the de facto "boundary" between Caucasian and African-American neighborhoods of the city, especially in the tense years after the 1968 race riots.

A pair of similarly named streets, 16th Street Northeast and 16th Street Southeast, are three miles (5 km) away in the northeast and southeast quadrants of Washington. They are contiguous with each other and parallel to 16th Street NW. There is no 16th Street Southwest, as this space is occupied by the National Mall and the Washington Channel.

16th Street World War I Memorial Trees[edit]

In 1920, more than 500 trees were planted along 16th Street between Alaska Avenue and Varnum Street to honor fallen soldiers from World War I. Today, the 16th Street World War I Memorial Trees and their corresponding markers have largely been lost to history.

Ronald Reagan Boulevard 2005 proposal[edit]

In July 2005, just before Congress's summer recess, Texas Republican congressman Henry Bonilla quietly introduced resolution H.R. 3525[6] to rename 16th Street NW "Ronald Reagan Boulevard" in honor of the former president of the United States. Mayor Anthony A. Williams objected on the grounds that the proposal changes Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 design for the city and would have cost an estimated $1 million for new signs and maps. The plan was ultimately quashed by Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee and a fellow Republican representing Washington's Virginia suburbs.[7]

Black Lives Matter mural and renaming[edit]

Black Lives Matter Plaza

On June 5, 2020, during the series of George Floyd protests, riots and vandalism that were occurring in Washington D.C., the DC Public Works Department painted the words "Black Lives Matter" in 35-foot yellow capital letters on 16th Street NW near the White House and Lafayette Square, with the assistance of the MuralsDC program of the D.C. Department of Public Works. The D.C. flag accompanies the text.[8][9][10] Later that day Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that part of the street outside of the White House had been ceremonially renamed to Black Lives Matter Plaza.[11][12]

On Saturday, June 6, 2020, activists altered the mural. The stars were removed from the D.C. flag, changing it to an equals sign, and the words "defund the police" were added, resulting in the mural reading "Black Lives Matter = Defund the Police".[13][14]


  1. ^ a b Google (March 3, 2019). "16th Street NW" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  2. ^ Anne H. Helwig and Suzanne Ganschiuietz (January 30, 1978). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Sixteenth Street Historic District". and accompanying 17 photos
  3. ^ Nirappil, Fenit; Zauzmer, Julie; Chason, Rachel. "'Black Lives Matter': In giant yellow letters, D.C. mayor sends message to Trump". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  4. ^ Conroy, Sarah Booth (March 18, 1979). "16th Street—The Avenue of Aspirations; A Street Of Dreams". The Washington Post. pp. C01.
  5. ^ Lewis, Neil A. (May 19, 1985). "The Shifting 'Gold Coast'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2010.
  6. ^ http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:h.r.03525[permanent dead link]:
  7. ^ Hsu, Spencer (August 5, 2005). "A Roadblock for Reagan". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ Austermuhle, Mark; Cheslow, Daniella (June 5, 2020). "D.C. Renames Intersection Near White House 'Black Lives Matter Plaza,' Paints 35-Foot Message On Street". DCist. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  9. ^ Barnes, Sophie; Finch, Justin (June 5, 2020). "City of DC Painting 'Black Lives Matter' on Street Near White House". NBC Washington. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  10. ^ Willingham, AJ (June 5, 2020). "Washington DC paints a giant 'Black Lives Matter' message on the road to the White House". CNN. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  11. ^ "City of DC Names Street to White House After Black Lives Matter; Emblazons Name on Road". NBC Washington. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  12. ^ Wu, Nicholas. "DC renames street near White House 'Black Lives Matter Plaza' to honor George Floyd protests". USA Today. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  13. ^ "Black Lives Matter Adds 'Defund the Police' to Downtown Mural". MidCity DC News. June 7, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  14. ^ Samantha Schmidt; Jessica Contrera; Rebecca Tan; Hannah Natanson; John Woodrow Cox (June 7, 2020). "'Defund The Police' painted on D.C. street as tensions among protesters flare". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 7, 2020.