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Neighborhood Narratives: Capitol Hill

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Capitol Hill is the largest historic residential neighborhood in D.C as well as one of the most densely populated. Geographically, Capitol Hill itself rises near the center of the District of Columbia and stretches eastward, toward the Anacostia River. The neighborhood first started to develop when the young government began work at two locations, the Capitol and the Washington Navy Yard.

It became a defined community in the very early 1800s as the federal government proved to be a major employer. Boarding houses for Congressmen and residential areas built up by Navy Yard and Capitol workers were the first residential population of Capitol Hill. As with many other D.C. neighborhoods, the Civil War resulted in more building and development that continued throughout the 1880s. In the late 1890s, water, electricity and indoor plumbing were developed and became available to the downtown area of the District of Columbia, including Capitol Hill. This lead to another real estate development boom as the Capitol Hill area was one of the first neighborhoods to have such conveniences.

Throughout its history, Capitol Hill has remained a fairly stable middle-class neighborhood. Today, it straddles both the Southeast and Northeast quadrants, a large part of which has been designated as the Capitol Hill historic district. To the north of Capitol Hill is the H Street corridor, to the south are the Southeast/Southwest Freeway and Washington Navy Yard, to the east is Anacostia River and to the west, the National Mall and business district. The buildings range from Federal period (1800 to 1820) through 1919, with the majority being late Victorian. Capitol Hill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and is one of the largest historic districts in the United States. Although the neighborhood suffered a period of economic decline and rising crime around mid-century, it has gradually recovered and is now experiencing intense gentrification.

Its landmarks include the United States Capitol, the Senate and House office buildings, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and the Congressional Cemetery. Pennsylvania Avenue is a lively commercial street with bars, shops, restaurants and the bustling Eastern Market. However, it is largely a residential area with a variety of rowhouses, manors, Federal townhouses, small frame, Italianate and press brick rowhouses.