Adams Morgan

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Adams Morgan
Neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
A dozen three to four story townhouses painted bright colors line a street
Stores and cafes along 18th Street NW
Adams Morgan within the District of Columbia
Adams Morgan within the District of Columbia
Country United States
District Washington, D.C.
Ward Ward 1
 • Councilmember Brianne Nadeau
 • Total 0.47 sq mi (1.2 km2)
Population (2010)
 • Total 15,830
 • Density 33,601.3/sq mi (12,973.5/km2)

Adams Morgan is a neighborhood in Northwest Washington, D.C., centered at the intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road, about 1.5 miles north of the White House. It is well-known for its broad mix of cultures and activities, including having a noted Hispanic community. Adams Morgan contains, together, both residential and entertainment areas, and has a vibrant night-life section with many bars and restaurants, particularly along 18th Street. Columbia Road also holds a busy stretch of shops and businesses.[1] As a distinct, named area, Adams Morgan came into being in the late 1950s, when it drew together several smaller and older neighborhoods which were first developed in the latter 19th- and early 20th-centuries. It is today composed primarily of well-made row houses, and classically-detailed mid-rise apartment buildings, many of which are now co-ops and condos; along with various commercial structures.

Adjacent to Adams Morgan are: Dupont Circle to the south, Kalorama-Sheridan to the southwest, Mount Pleasant to the north, and Columbia Heights to the east. The neighborhood is bounded by Connecticut Avenue to the southwest, Rock Creek Park to the west, Harvard Street to the north, 16th Street to the east, and Florida Avenue to the south.


Before the colony of Maryland was established in 1632, the area of today's neighborhood was home to Native American people, with the local tribe being called the Nacotchtank. When the District of Columbia was created in 1791, the land beneath Adams Morgan was then owned by two prominent colonial-era landowners, Robert Peter and Anthony Holmead. At that time, these local tracts sat just above the original planned City of Washington; and were either undeveloped, or being only lightly farmed. As the population of D.C. expanded, this area's land was at first broken up into several estates, purchased by wealthy residents. These estates included: Meridian Hill, Cliffbourne, Holt House, Oak Lawn, Henderson Castle, part of Kalorama, and the horse farm of William Thornton.[2] After the end of the Civil War, these estates started being subdivided, and the area slowly grew. Once the city's general-layout plans were finalized in the 1890s, these various subdivisions, using modern construction techniques, were able to proceed and develop at a more rapid pace. The area of Adams Morgan then quickly grew into several attractive and largely upper-class, and middle-class, neighborhoods.

Into the 20th century, the area was home to a wide range of people, from the very wealthy living along 16th Street, to the white-collar professionals in Lanier Heights, to the blue-collar residents east of 18th Street; all classes, and with a mix of races. But it was, of course, wrongfully segregated. After World War II, the modern development of the nation continued, and racial desegregation came into effect. This caused several events locally: Some whites abruptly left the area; other whites stayed, and worked to properly and cooperatively integrate the neighborhood; and some new African Americans, and Hispanics, moved into the area. The neighborhood, along with the city, was evolving. Additionally, with its housing then less costly, the area become home to some artists and other socially-activist individuals.

The name Adams Morgan – once hyphenated – is derived from the names of two formerly segregated area elementary schools — the older, all-black Thomas P. Morgan Elementary School (now defunct) and the all-white John Quincy Adams Elementary School.[3] Pursuant to the 1954 Bolling v. Sharpe Supreme Court ruling, District schools were desegregated in 1955. The Adams-Morgan Community Council, comprising both Adams and Morgan schools and the neighborhoods they served, was formed in 1958. The city drew boundaries of the neighborhood through four pre-existing neighborhoods – Washington Heights, Lanier Heights, Kalorama Triangle, and Meridian Hill – naming the resulting area after both schools.[4]

Throughout the 20th century, the Adams Morgan community has also stood on behalf of social justice, political activism, and inclusive, progressive values. Nearby All Souls Unitarian Church, the Potter's House cafe and bookstore, and Meridian Hill Park have all served as gathering places for activists dedicated to social change, and also function as civic centers of the greater community. [5]

In the late 1960s, a group of residents organized and worked with city officials to plan and construct a new elementary school and recreational complex that was conceived as a community hub, a concept that 40 years later has become a standard in public school facilities design. The development was named the Marie H. Reed Learning Center after Bishop Reed, a community activist, minister and leader. It featured a daycare center, tennis and basketball courts, a solar-heated swimming pool, health clinic, athletic field and outdoor chess tables.

From 2010 to 2012, one of the neighborhood's main commercial corridors, 18th Street NW, was reconstructed by the city[6] with wider sidewalks, more crosswalks and bicycle sharrows; this resulted in a more pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare for the area. In addition, the Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District (AMPBID) has been active in the community since 2005; its stated mission is to promote a clean, friendly and safe Adams Morgan.[7] Currently it sponsors local events such as summer concerts and holiday decorations, and provides helpful information to the area residents.

Cultural diversity[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
Lively music often accompanies Adams Morgan Day festivals.

Along with its adjacent sister communities to the north and east, Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan long has been a gateway community for immigrants. Since the 1960s, the predominant international presence in both communities has been Latino, with the majority of immigrants coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries. Since the early 1970s, like other areas of the nation, Adams Morgan had seen a growing influx of immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, as well. Gentrification and the resulting high cost of housing, however, have displaced many immigrants and long-time African American residents, particularly those with young children, as well as many small businesses, but the community still retains a degree of diversity, most evident in its array of international shops and restaurants.[citation needed] In the five-square-block area where most of the commercial establishments are located, one can choose from a variety of ethnic cuisines, among them Spanish, Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Mexican, Nepalese, Italian, Dutch, Vietnamese, Ghanaian, Cajun, Brazilian, Palestinian, Peruvian, Indian, Thai, Lebanese, Eritrean, and Chinese.

Shops located along 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan
Aerial view of 18th Street

Adams Morgan also has become a thriving spot for night life, with a number of bars and clubs featuring live music. Over 90 establishments possess liquor licenses, putting it on level with other popular nightlife areas like Georgetown and Dupont Circle. Local stores along the 18th Street corridor were rapidly replaced with late-night establishments, leading to a moratorium on new liquor licenses by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board in 2000 after successful lobbying by resident groups. The moratorium was renewed in 2004, but eased to allow new restaurant licenses.

Despite the exodus of many immigrant, as well as African-American residents from Adams Morgan caused by high housing costs, a nexus of long-time institutions, many established specifically to meet the needs of Latinos and other non English-speaking residents, continues to serve as a magnet for immigrants and their families. Adams Morgan is home to Mary's Center, a clinic focusing on healthcare delivery to Spanish-speaking patients, and the Latino Economic Development Corporation, as well as numerous businesses and churches that employ and cater to immigrants. Adjacent Mt. Pleasant also hosts a number of commercial enterprises, social service agencies and other institutions that help to anchor local immigrants to the area.

Another barometer of the enduring pull of Adams Morgan for immigrants is the linguistic and cultural diversity of its public schools. Many of the families served live beyond the boundaries established for routine student enrollment; however, Adams, Reed, and H.D. Cooke elementary schools all have international populations, with children from well over 30 nations in attendance. Latino and African-American children comprise the majority of students in the public schools, and most are children of color.

The second Sunday of September, the neighborhood hosts the Adams Morgan Day Festival, a multicultural street celebration with live music and food and crafts booths. And, weather permitting, every Saturday — except during the coldest winter months — local growers sell fresh, organically grown produce and herbs; baked and canned goods; cheeses; cold-pressed apple juice and fresh flowers at the farmers market, in operation in the same location on a plaza at the corner of 18th and Columbia Road for more than 30 years.

A man dressed up at Adams Morgan Day Festival in 2013

In the 1960s, the neighborhood's attractions included the Avignon Freres bakery and restaurant (this closed in the 1990s), the Café Don restaurant, the Ontario motion picture theater, and the Showboat Lounge jazz nightclub. In the 1980s, Hazel's featured live blues and jazz. Its soul food offerings made it a favorite of black jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie when they came to town.

In September 2014, the American Planning Association named Adams Morgan one of the nation's "great neighborhoods", citing its intact Victorian rowhouses, murals, international diversity, and pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly streetscape.[8]


The area is not directly served by the Metrorail system. The station nearest the heart of Adams Morgan, Woodley Park (Red Line), is in the Woodley Park neighborhood, but was renamed "Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan" in 1999 to reflect the station's proximity to Adams Morgan. The station was renamed "Woodley Park" with "Zoo/Adams Morgan" as a subtitle in 2011.[9] The southernmost parts of the neighborhood below Rock Creek Park are closer to the Dupont Circle (Red Line) station. The nearest station on the Green and Yellow Line is Columbia Heights. In March 2009, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) began operating a DC Circulator bus route connecting the center of Adams Morgan with both Metro stations. The area is also served by a number of WMATA Metrobus lines, including the 42, 43, 90, 92, 96, H1, L2, S2, and S9.


Adams Morgan is a part of Ward 1, and is in the service area of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C, the Adams Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The ANC covers the area between Harvard Street and Rock Creek to the north, Florida Avenue and U Street to the south, 16th Street to the east, and Connecticut Avenue to the west.[10]

Federal government[edit]

The Civil Aeronautics Board had its headquarters in the Universal Building in Adams Morgan.[11][12] The agency had moved there by May 1959.[13]


Adams Campus of the Oyster Adams Bilingual School, formerly John Quincy Adams Elementary School

The District of Columbia Public Schools is the public school system. Oyster Adams Bilingual School, the neighborhood K-8 school, was formed in 2007 by the merger of John Quincy Adams Elementary School in Adams Morgan and James F. Oyster Bilingual Elementary School in Woodley Park.[14] The Adams campus serves grades 4-8 and the Oyster campus serves grades Pre-Kindergarten through 3.[15] The Marie Reed Learning Center, with its elementary school, (built in 1977) was extensively remodeled and reopened in 2017.[16] Also, H.D. Cooke Elementary School is located at 2525 17th Street; it was renovated in 2009 as an environmentally-smart "green" school.

One section is zoned to Oyster-Adams K-8. Another section is zoned to Marie Reed Elementary and Columbia Heights Middle School, and another is zoned to Cooke Elementary and Columbia Heights Middle.[17][18] All sections are zoned to Woodrow Wilson High School.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

The annual Adams Morgan Day is held in September.

In Showtime series Homeland Season 3, Episode 4 ("Game On"), the main character Carrie Mathison states that she lives in Adams Morgan.

Scenes from the 2010 movie How Do You Know featuring Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon were filmed in Adams Morgan.[20]

The Adams Morgan bar Chief Ike's Mambo Room was a filming location for episodes of the George Clooney–produced 2003 HBO series K Street.

California Representative Gary Condit, suspected at one point in the murder of Chandra Levy, lived on Adams Mill Road in Adams Morgan while he was a congressman and during his affair with the intern.

Writer Nora Ephron and journalist Carl Bernstein lived for many years directly after Watergate in The Ontario Apartments in Adams Morgan, and Ephron wrote her book Heartburn about their time as a married couple in the building.

The neighborhood's competing "jumbo slice" pizza establishments have been covered extensively by local media and an episode of Travel Channel's Food Wars.[21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adams Morgan DC Neighborhood Guide - Compass.
  2. ^ Meridian Hill: A History, by Stephen McKevitt (History Press, 2014), pg. 123.
  3. ^ Kuan, Diana (2007-01-28). "U Street, Adams Morgan humming again". The Boston Globe. 
  4. ^ Neighborhoods, History & Boundaries of Adams Morgan
  5. ^ Smith, Kathryn Schneider (2010). Washington at Home: An Illustrated History of Neighborhoods in the Nation's Capital. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 439. ISBN 9780801893537. 
  6. ^ Rude, Justin (2012-07-27). "Explore the new Adams Morgan with our neighborhood guide". The Washington Post. 
  7. ^ Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District.
  8. ^ Neibauer, Michael (October 1, 2014). "Pennsylvania Avenue Is A 'Great Street' Indeed, and In Need". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Station names updated for new map" (Press release). Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. 2011-11-03. Archived from the original on 2011-11-05. Retrieved 2011-11-05. 
  10. ^ What is an ANC?
  11. ^ "Sorbitol from France: determination of the Commission in investigation no. 731-TA-44 (final) under the Tariff Act of 1930, together with the information obtained in the investigation" (Volume 1233 of USITC publication). United States International Trade Commission, 1982. p. A-42. "Civil Aeronautics Board, 1825 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C."
  12. ^ The Code of Federal Regulations of the United States of America. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964. p. 370. "[...]office hours at the Board's Docket Section. Room 711, Universal Building, 1825 Connecticut Avenue NW., Washington, D.C."
  13. ^ Flying Magazine. May 1959. Vol. 64, No. 5. ISSN 0015-4806. p. 98. "UNDER ONE ROOF at last, the Civil Aeronautics Board is now quartered in the Universal Building, 1825 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington"
  14. ^ "About Us" (Archive). Oyster Adams Bilingual Elementary School. Retrieved on November 6, 2014.
  15. ^ Home. Oyster Adams Bilingual School. Retrieved on September 29, 2016.
  16. ^ "Marie Reed Elementary School Project." District of Columbia Public Schools. Retrieved on October 3, 2016.
  17. ^ "Elementary Schools" (2016-2017 School Year). District of Columbia Public Schools. Retrieved on May 27, 2018.
  18. ^ "Middle School Boundary Map" (2016-2017 School Year). District of Columbia Public Schools. Retrieved on May 27, 2018.
  19. ^ "High School Boundary Map" (2016-2017 School Year). District of Columbia Public Schools. Retrieved on May 27, 2018.
  20. ^!i=572901986&k=hdnnVsD
  21. ^ Jamieson, Dave (November 5, 2004). "The Big Cheese". Washington City Paper. Retrieved May 1, 2016. 
  22. ^ Jamie R. Liu (April 3, 2010). "Travel Channel's Food Wars Takes on D.C.'s Jumbo Slice". DCist. Gothamist LLC. Archived from the original on August 24, 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°55′21″N 77°02′34″W / 38.92261°N 77.042661°W / 38.92261; -77.042661