With a mix of rich history and lively modernization, Capitol Hill is one of the country’s oldest and most prominent neighborhoods. Historically, it is known for being the center to politics, government, and all things in between. It is one of the densest, most populated neighborhoods in all of the United States, with 2 square miles holding approximately 35,000 people. The culture in the neighborhood is what you would expect from a neighborhood that has lasted so long – proud, strong, and constantly moving towards progress.
Back in 1791, Pierre L’Enfant – a french born architect and engineer – started developing a plan for what was to be the new Federal City. He chose the location that would today be known as Capitol Hill, and decided to place the Congress House on the top of the hill, looking out at the city. It is said that Thomas Jefferson decided to use the name Capitol Hill with inspiration from the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill – one of the seven hills in Rome. Today, the neighborhood retains its name and vibrant, unique American history, while also being slightly more expanded to allow for the increase in development and overall population.
Capitol Hill today lies just between two major parts of Washington, D.C. – the Southeast and the Northeast. The term ‘Capitol Hill” is often used to refer to the bustling, iconic historic district, and the larger residential and commercial neighborhoods behind it. If you find yourself farther East, you’ll run into Anacostia River, and to the North you’ll find the H Street Corridor. The Southeast/Southwest Freeway lie towards the Southern end of the Hill along with the Washington Navy Yard, and the National Mall and main business district rest towards the West. Recently, in 2015, the historic district of Capitol Hill expanded to include what is known as Swampoodle Addition, made up of blocks central to 2nd street, F Street, 4th Street, and H Street.
The homes in Capitol Hill represent the historical charm that carries through the entire neighborhood – the endless rows of stylistically individual houses include everything from 19th century manor homes, Federal townhouses, Italianate bracketed houses, and many Queen Anne/Dichardsonian Romanesque inspired brick row houses. The real estate boom in 1890 and 1910 set Capitol Hill apart as one of the first neighborhoods in the U.S. to undergo major population overall. Along with the historic homes, you’ll find plenty of architectural beauty along the main Hill, where you’ll find the Senate and the House, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the Washington Navy Yard.
Of course, Capitol Hill wouldn’t be what it is today without Pennsylvania Avenue, home to most famous house in the country. While there is an air of politics along this side of the Hill, Pennsylvania Ave is also an incredibly lively commercial street with plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars alike. For fresh meat and produce in a farmers market style setup, head to Eastern Market to grab your groceries and other goodies on your way home. For an insight into the cultural and civic life of Capitol Hill (then and now), head to Hill Center, a now vibrant community center houses in the Old Naval Hospital.
While the commercial, bustling attitude is never dulled in Capitol Hill, you can always find a quick bite to satisfy your work-hard, play-hard vibe. Bullfrog Bagels is home to some of the best bagels and brunch D.C. has to offer, with Marketto and Garrison will be ideal for those who prefer farm-oriented cuisines. For good old fashioned burgers and brew, Ted’s Bulletin on Eighth Street will be your new favorite spot.
In the end, Capitol Hill is one of the oldest, busiest parts of the country, and it is a great place to call home. If you love the city environment with a little bit of old school charm, the Hill will be great for local students, budding politicians, or even just young families that want to find a place to settle down. John Philip Sousa and J.Edgar Hoover, two proud members of our country’s history, called Capitol Hill home, and we certainly understand why.