Characterized as a “delightful suburb” of Washington a century ago, Petworth still feels removed from the hustle and bustle of D.C. It remains a place where people move for a sense of community rather than a flurry of activity. Nonetheless, a recent influx of residents has been accompanied by new restaurants, bars and amenities that have been welcomed by newcomers and old-timers alike. And though the days of truly affordable home prices are gone, it’s still one of the few neighborhoods where attaining a fairly sizable home is possible for more than just the very-well-off.
At the southern end of the neighborhood is perhaps one of its strongest draws: the Green and Yellow lines’ Georgia Ave-Petworth station. There are also a number of bus lines that serve the area and at least three Capital Bikeshare stations.
The tree-lined streets and stock of 1920s and ’30s rowhouses and single-family homes are a major draw for city dwellers long confined to cramped studios or small condos. Some places have been renovated in recent years with higher-end touches and finishes. Others offer a prime opportunity for the motivated do-it-yourselfer to renovate. Many houses come with roomy front porches, backyards and parking — and all at considerably lower prices than in nearby Columbia Heights. For those looking for a smaller space, there are also a number of buildings that have been converted into condos and a handful of larger apartment buildings.
A Welcoming Porch Culture
Wander down just about any block in Petworth on a pleasant night, and you’re bound to encounter young families, longtime elderly residents, 20-something group-house inhabitants and multiple generations of relatives hanging out on roomy front porches. It’s the kind of place where people know their neighbors’ names and look out for one another.
For a long time, the only supermarket was a rundown, suspicious-smelling Safeway. But in 2009, a Yes! Organic Market (4100 Georgia Ave. NW) opened, and the following year, a farmers market, put together by a nonprofit organization of Petworth residents, cropped up (Upshur and Ninth streets at Georgia Avenue; Fridays, May 3-Oct. 25, 4-8 p.m.). The old Safeway has been torn down, and a new, upgraded version is slated to take its place in 2014.
There may not be a ton of restaurants and cafes, but Petworth’s offerings are surprisingly diverse. The popular Fish in the Hood (3601 Georgia Ave. NW) in Park View is a mainstay for fresh, fried seafood, while the locally owned Domku (821 Upshur St. NW) specializes in Scandinavian and Polish food. For a higher-end option, the Hilton brothers’ Chez Billy (3815 Georgia Ave. NW) serves up French dishes in an elegant dining room.
And, of course, every good neighborhood needs a charming local cafe. Qualia, with its in-house roaster and delicious coffee, fits the bill.
Petworth is no bustling entertainment corridor, but there are enough local options that residents don’t have to leave the area to enjoy some evening libations. A short walk will take you to two of the best dive bars in the city — the Red Derby (3718 14th St. NW) and the Looking Glass Lounge (3634 Georgia Ave. NW) — while relative newcomer D.C. Reynolds (3628 Georgia Ave. NW) has an enormous patio and a number of local brews. The nightlife on U Street and the 11th Street strip in Columbia Heights is just a short jaunt away as well.
Sherman and Grant Circles offer some green space, as do both Rock Creek Park to the east and Rock Creek Cemetery to the west. The Petworth Library (4200 Kansas Ave. NW), which was renovated in 2011, is a gem that often hosts community events. The Upshur Recreation Center (4300 Arkansas Ave. NW) has a pool, playground, baseball field and basketball courts, while the Petworth Recreation Center (801 Taylor St. NW) plays host to an annual summer jazz festival. And you can take visitors to see a piece of history without battling tourists on the Mall; President Lincoln’s Cottage (Upshur Street at Rock Creek Church Road) is on the grounds of the nearby Armed Forces Retirement Home.