Brookland (Washington, D.C.)

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Neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
Brookland within the District of Columbia
Brookland within the District of Columbia
Coordinates: 38°55′39″N 76°59′24″W / 38.9275°N 76.99°W / 38.9275; -76.99Coordinates: 38°55′39″N 76°59′24″W / 38.9275°N 76.99°W / 38.9275; -76.99
Country United States
District Washington, D.C.
Ward Ward 5
 • Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie

Brookland is a neighborhood in the Northeast quadrant of Washington, D.C., historically centered along 12th Street NE. Brookland is bounded by Michigan Avenue to the north, Rhode Island Avenue NE to the south, South Dakota Avenue to the east, and the tracks for the Red Line of the Washington Metro to the west.[1] The western boundary originates with the establishment of the former Metropolitan Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1873,[2] creating the physical barrier which continues to separate Brookland from Edgewood to the west today.

Brookland is served by the Brookland–CUA station on the Red Line of the Washington Metro.



Map of Brookland, 1879

In 1632 the English successfully claimed the land from the Algonquin-speaking Indians who inhabited the region and King Charles I of England in turn granted the land, which was to become the state of Maryland, to George Calvert, whose interest in the colony lay in "the sacred duty of finding a refuge for his Roman Catholic brethren."[3]

Colonel Jehiel Brooks married into the land when he married Ann Margaret Queen, daughter of Nicholas Queen, and they received a 150-acre estate.[4]

For most of the 19th century the area was farmland owned by the prominent Middleton and Queen families. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad later connected this portion of Washington County to downtown. Bellair, the 1840 brick Greek Revival mansion built by Colonel Jehiel Brooks, still stands. It is referred to as Brooks Mansion. It is the site of offices and production facilities for the Public Access Corporation of the District of Columbia, the city's Government-access television (GAVT) channel known as DCTV.

Change came rapidly during and after the American Civil War. First, Fort Slemmer and Fort Bunker Hill were constructed as defenses against the Confederate Army, and later the Old soldiers' home was constructed to the northwest. The population of the city itself increased with the expansion of the federal government, and the former Brooks family estate became a housing tract named "Brookland." The move from a country estate towards a residential development beginning in 1887 "marked the extension of suburban growth into the rather isolated reaches of the northeastern sector" of D.C.[5] In its early days, the Brookland community was marked by "spacious lots and single family homes" which appealed to middle-class families and provided a "small town atmosphere.[5]"

Growth continued throughout the 1870s when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad opened its Western Branch Line in the developing Brookland neighborhood.[6] With the construction of nearby Sherwood, University Heights, and other tracts, and the expansion of Washington's streetcars, a middle-class streetcar suburb developed, and eventually its expansion southward met Washington's northward. Many Queen Anne style and other Victorian homes still stand.

Catholic institutions[edit]

Brookland (along with Edgewood and Michigan Park) is at times referred to as "Little Rome" because of the many Catholic organizations and institutions clustered around The Catholic University of America (CUA).[7] In 1887, the Roman Catholic Church purchased the Middletown estate, adjacent to Brookland, as the site for CUA. The presence of CUA attracted many other Catholic organizations and institutions to the area, including the Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery in 1905, St. Francis Hall in 1931, and the Franciscans’ Holy Name College, also in 1931. Since 1984, the College has served as the Howard University School of Divinity’s East Campus.[8]

Community diversity[edit]

While mostly Caucasian at its founding, Brookland integrated in the 20th century, especially after the white flight after World War II. Although there was some hostility directed at early black integration of the neighborhood, by the middle of the century, Brookland had developed into a neighborhood fairly integrated among economic classes and races. During the mid-twentieth century, Brookland could boast of such prominent residents as Ralph Bunche, Sterling Brown, Edward Brooke, Ellis O. Knox, Rayford W. Logan, and Pearl Bailey, John P. Davis, Marvin Gaye, Paul Tsongas, Stacey Latisaw, Lucy Diggs Slowe and Robert C. Weaver. It remains a relatively diverse and stable area of Washington.

Brookland was also home to the playwright Jean Kerr and her playwright/critic husband Walter Kerr who taught at nearby CUA. The writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings spent her childhood in Brookland.

Justine Ward, the music educator and author, lived in Brookland and built the large residence now occupied by Ronald McDonald House in the 1300 block of Quincy Street. CUA's School of Music is named in her honor. Also on Quincy Street is the Quincy House,[1] a long-time residence of Catholic graduate students who regularly host coffee houses and other community events.


Brookland Hardware anchored 12th Street NE for many years until it closed in November 2015. However, many full-service restaurants still make the thoroughfare a bustling corridor. These include Smith Public Trust, Brookland's Finest, Menomale, Steel Plate, San Antonio Grill, Askale Cafe, and Murray and Paul's, which is only open for breakfast. New additions in 2016 included Pho12 and Salumeria Italiana, an Italian deli from the owners of Menomale. Additionally, there are also a few carry out restaurants including Today's Pizza, Pizza Boli's, Sammy Carry-Out, and New Tong-Shing. Other businesses found along the street include Yes! Organic Market, Openbox9 Graphic Design Studio, along with realtors, auto-mechanics, nail and hair salons, florists, liquors stores and District Veterinary Hospital opened by local veterinarian Dr. Dan Teich. While not on 12th Street, Right Proper Brewery's Production House & Tasting Room is also located in the neighborhood.

In November 2011, D.C. based real estate developer Abdo broke ground on a large mixed-use development spread over a previously underutilized 8.9 acre plot.[9] The project, known as Monroe Street Market, was fully completed in 2014. Despite the word "BROOKLAND" prominently painted on the main building, the entire complex lies within neighboring Edgewood.[10][11] This area includes 27 artists' studios on an "Arts Walk," a Barnes & Noble (CUA's bookstore), a Potbelly Sandwich Works, a Chipotle Mexican Grill, a Starbucks, and local chain Busboys and Poets. While there are new projects slated for 2017/2018, at least part of the community believes the area is being overly developed, which has led to a few court battles with developers.[12]


  1. ^ Brookland Map
  2. ^ "The Metropolitan Railroad" (PDF). The Evening Star. Washington, D.C. April 30, 1873. p. 4. 
  3. ^ "America as a Religious Refuge: The Seventeenth Century, Part 2 - Religion and the Founding of the American Republic | Exhibitions (Library of Congress)". Retrieved 2015-09-16. 
  4. ^ McDaniel, George W.; Pearce, John N.; Aurand, Martin, eds. (1988). Images of Brookland: The History and Architecture of a Washington Suburb. Washington, D.C.: Center for Washington Area Studies, George Washington University. p. 7. OCLC 8973194. 
  5. ^ a b McDaniel, George W.; Pearce, John N.; Aurand, Martin, eds. (1988). Images of Brookland: The History and Architecture of a Washington Suburb. Washington, D.C.: Center for Washington Area Studies, George Washington University. p. 3. OCLC 8973194. 
  6. ^ Brookland Neighborhood Finding Aid, Special Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University
  7. ^ "Debates Over Development In D.C.'s "Little Rome"". The Kojo Nnamdi Show. October 13, 2016. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  8. ^ Anderson, Jeffrey (February 2, 2016). "The Catholic Church Is Selling Northeast DC to Developers". The Washingtonian. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  9. ^ Paul, Shilpi (November 9, 2011). "Brookland's Monroe Street Market Breaks Ground". Urban Turf. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 
  10. ^ Edgewood Map
  11. ^ Popville (07/08/16)
  12. ^ Alpert, David (June 2, 2016). "A court ruling on a Brookland development could imperil future housing near Metro stations". Greater Greater Washington. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 

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