The District’s Hawthorne neighborhood an enclave of trees and safety


Hawthorne includes homes with a variety of architectural styles, from 1950 ramblers to modern homes. (Amy Reinink/For The Washington Post)
December 20, 2013

According to neighborhood lore, D.C.’s Hawthorne subdivision was named for the hawthorn trees that were once abundant in the small community in the northwestern corner of the District.

Few, if any, of the squat, flowery trees remain in the neighborhood today. But Hawthorne’s leafy character lives on, with mature trees lining most of the community’s hilly streets and in Rock Creek Park.

“Having Rock Creek Park a block away from our house is the best thing ever,” said Katie Burke, 37, a stay-at-home mom who serves as one of Hawthorne’s “block captains,” and who has lived in the neighborhood for six years. “I go running in the park at least once a week, and the kids do a lot of hiking there. It’s really special for them to be able to go explore the woods anytime they want, yet to also grow up right in the city.”

Rambler paradise: Residents of the roughly 250 houses that compose Hawthorne are part of the Chevy Chase Citizens Association and consider themselves residents of the Chevy Chase section of the District.


(Gene Thorp/The Washington Post)

But there are some marked differences between Hawthorne and the rest of Chevy Chase, starting with the architecture, Burke said.

Many of the houses in Hawthorne were constructed in the 1950s, meaning ramblers and split-levels dominate the neighborhood’s housing stock. There are also Colonials, Cape Cods and modern homes, the result of renovations to older homes or new construction.

Burke said she and her husband, Jude, liked that the houses were a bit less expensive than other parts of Chevy Chase.

Sidewalk wars: Residents said conflicts in the neighborhood are few and far between.

One notable exception: the “sidewalk wars” of 2009, during which residents debated the merits of then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s plan to install paved sidewalks throughout much of the city, including Hawthorne. Some residents said they would create a more walkable neighborhood. Other said sidewalks would make the neighborhood feel less woodsy and more urban. Stories on the topic appeared in The Post and other media, and residents displayed signs for and against the measure.

City officials eventually allowed residents of each street to guide the decision whether to install sidewalks.

“There are still some lingering anti-sidewalk signs in some front yards, but for the most part, it seems like most blocks are motivated toward getting sidewalks,” Burke said.

Aside from the sidewalk debate, Burke said, residents get along well, and gather frequently for formal and informal social events, including a neighborhood-wide block party the second Sunday in October.

“Block captains hand out flyers to spread the word, and it feels like the whole neighborhood turns out,” Burke said. “We always have tons of food, you can really see all the different ethnicities in our neighborhood present in the amazing dishes people bring. It’s a great day, and it really highlights many of the great things about living here.”

Living there: The neighborhood is bounded by Rock Creek Park to the east, Pinehurst Tributary to the south and Western Avenue to the northwest.

The 12 houses that have sold in the past 12 months ranged from $675,000 to $1.85 million, according to Santiago Testa with McEnearney Associates. Two houses are under contract, for $1.1 million and $1.25 million. One house is on the market, for $850,000.

Burke said the diversity of housing choices creates diversity among residents, too.

“The streets are wider, the lots are bigger and there are more ranch-style houses as opposed to all Colonials in the rest of Chevy Chase,” Burke said. “And we really have people from all jobs and backgrounds and experiences living here. There are people of all different ethnicities and ages, too, which is really nice.”

Public transportation: Testa, who has lived in Hawthorne since 1990, said most folks looking to buy a home there are attracted to the proximity to Rock Creek Park, downtown Washington, Bethesda and Silver Spring.

“There are multiple routes you can take to get downtown, and all of them are pretty painless,” Testa said. “I like going down Beach Drive. You get to go through the woods, it’s relaxing, and within a couple of traffic lights, you’re in the heart of downtown. It’s really convenient.”

The E6 bus runs through the neighborhood frequently during the morning and evening rush hours, transporting many residents to the Friendship Heights Metro station to commute downtown for work, Testa said.

Schools: Burke said she has noticed more young families moving to Hawthorne in recent years, lured in part by the area’s public schools.

Most neighborhood kids attend Lafayette Elementary, Deal Middle and Wilson High schools.

Crime: There were no crimes reported in the neighborhood from the past year, according to D.C. police. Burke said the neighborhood’s quiet, safe vibe was a major draw for her.

“I feel so good about raising kids here,” she said. “My kids can run up and down the street to and from their friends’ houses without me worrying about them. They ride bikes to and from school frequently.”

Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.

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