The name of the neighborhood, bordered by North Capitol Street and New York, New Jersey and Florida avenues, is a bit of a puzzle: There’s no traffic circle in that part of town. But a hundred years ago, streetcars and other vehicles navigating the intersection of Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street had to go around a circle honoring Commodore Thomas Truxtun, and the adjacent neighborhood went by the same name, albeit with an alternate spelling.
The circle was eliminated in 1947 to make way for a growing North Capitol Street, and the area lost its identity, gradually becoming part of Shaw. But the environment east of New Jersey Avenue is different from that to the west: The busiest road bisecting the neighborhood is two-lane P Street, which makes for a quiet, homey vibe. The homes are smaller, too. Most are simple, two-story rowhouses lacking porches or basements. The main exception is Bates Street, a leafy two-block avenue between P and Q streets whose rowhouses were all built in 1901 and have bay windows and small stoops.
Despite the mellow atmosphere, Truxton Circle wasn’t a particularly peaceful place 10 or 15 years ago. “It used to be more commonplace to hear gunshots,” said Bradley Thomas, 57, the area’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and a resident for two decades. He remembers hearing shots one afternoon and watching a bullet go though his bedroom window.
Marie Maxwell, an archives specialist who moved into her home 10 years ago and writes a blog about the neighborhood, has similar memories. “My street was cute, but it was a little rough. There were friendly neighborhood drug dealers who’d hang out on the corner — day, night, rain, snow.” The neighborhood had a lot more litter then, too, said Maxwell, 40, and many homes were vacant or undermaintained. Plus, several social service providers were nearby, bringing homeless or indigent people to the area daily.
All that began gradually changing in the early 2000s, but the neighborhood received a big push about five years ago, when more than 40 rowhouses clustered around Bates Street went on the market at once. The homes had been serving as Section 8 subsidized rental units and were relatively dilapidated. Many wound up in the hands of first-time home buyers.