Columbia Heights

Columbia Heights is a neighborhood in central Washington, D.C. Located in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., Columbia Heights borders the neighborhoods of Shaw, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Park View, Pleasant Plains, and Petworth. On the eastern side is Howard University. The streets defining the neighborhood’s boundaries are 16th Street to the west; Spring Road to the north; Sherman Ave to the east; and Florida Avenue to the south. It is served by a subway station stop on the Washington Metro Green and Yellow Lines.

Once farmland on the estate of the Holmead family (called “Pleasant Plains”), Columbia Heights was part of Washington County, District of Columbia. The northern portion of modern-day Columbia Heights was, until the 1880s, a part of the village of Mount Pleasant. The southern portion still retained the name of the original Pleasant Plains estate, though it was also known as “Cowtown.” Upscale development in Columbia Heights circa 1900, was designed to attract upper level managers of the Federal government, U.S. Supreme Court justices, and high-ranking military officers. An imposing mansion known as “Belmont” marked the entrance to the neighborhood between Florida and Clifton Streets. The mansion was emblematic of the confidence that the affluent placed in the concept that Columbia Heights represented the ideal suburb. In the early 1900s, Columbia Heights was the preferred area for some of Washington’s wealthiest and most influential people. Residents included authors Jean Toomer, Ambrose Bierce, Sinclair Lewis, Chief Justice Melville Fuller, and Justice John Marshall Harlan.

In 1999, the city announced a revitalization initiative for the neighborhood focused around the Columbia Heights Metro station, which opened that year. Within five years, the neighborhood had gentrified considerably, with a number of businesses. Middle-class residents settled in the neighborhood. Unlike some gentrified neighborhoods in the city, Columbia Heights has not become homogeneous: as of 2006, it is arguably Washington’s most ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood. Housing includes high-priced condominiums and townhouses, as well as public and middle-income housing.

Residents are zoned to District of Columbia Public Schools.


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