“That’s the beauty of living in Palisades,” said Ourand, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1999. “When you come home, you just drive in on Canal Road, which is so beautiful and green. It’s not like you have to fight lights on Wisconsin or Connecticut. You’re 10 minutes from downtown, yet when you’re here, you feel like you’re far away from all that.”
Palisades, located just over the Maryland-D.C. border along the Potomac River and MacArthur Boulevard, has long served as a base camp for those drawn to the river and its resources.
In prehistoric times, nomadic Algonquin Indians camped along the river in what is now the Palisades area to take advantage of the easy access to a steady supply of fish, said Doug Dupin, 45, founder of the Palisades Museum of Prehistory.
Dupin founded the museum after finding a trove of prehistoric artifacts in his back yard while he was digging out space for a wine cellar. The museum now showcases a variety of stone points, pottery shards and other artifacts.
“There’s a lot of history still evident in the neighborhood, right in people’s back yards,” Dupin said.
The area also served as a site for plantations and summer vacation homes through the 1700s and 1800s, and it grew rapidly in the late 1800s, when houses popped up along a streetcar line that once ran from Tenleytown to Glen Echo, Dupin said.
Some of the neighborhood’s earliest homes still stand, and are part of a widely varied housing stock. “Palisades has contemporary homes, traditional houses, cottages, huge McMansions — everything you can imagine,” said Ourand, 44, a stay-at-home mom who serves as administrator of the Palisades Citizens’ Association. “Architecturally, it’s a delight to get in the car or on a bike and just ride around and look at all the beautiful houses.”
The price of those houses has skyrocketed in recent years as Palisades, once an enclave for blue-collar workers, has morphed into something more upscale — and more expensive.
“A lot of the older homes here are on big lots, and as is the case elsewhere in the city, they’re being taken down as people see opportunities to build much larger homes on those lots,” said Nancy Hammond, an agent with Evers & Co. who has lived in Palisades for 26 years.
Mike Johnson, 45, who grew
up in the neighborhood and lives there with his wife, Polly, and
their three children, recalls a time when the houses close to the
river were small and modest,
and often didn’t have air conditioning.
But while many of the little Sears houses Johnson remembers from his childhood have been replaced by sprawling mansions, Johnson said the spirit of the neighborhood remains the same.