Where We Live
Divided by Lore, United by History
Saturday, January 6, 2007
There is one Georgetown, but a lot of people talk about it as if there were two halves: one to the east of Wisconsin Avenue NW and the other to the west.
There is a long-standing perception that there is a social difference between what are called the East Village and West Village, the two parts of one of Washington's most storied neighborhoods. Today, though, differences seem to come down to geography and traffic.
"I always thought when we moved here in the Ford administration that it was a joke that the rich people lived on the east side and the poorer people lived on the west side. That has been a bit of a myth, because we have Ambassador Bruce on our side," said Cherie Cannon, a 30-year West Village resident.
By that, she means Ambassador David K.E. Bruce, who represented the United States in a number of capitals before his death in 1977. His wife Evangeline was one of the best known of the Georgetown hostesses whose grand parties gave the neighborhood its socialite reputation. She died in 1995.
The joking continues about how the east side has grander houses filled with richer people. "I got flack from my west-side friends for moving to the east side. I don't know if east-siders give their friends a hard time for moving to the other side," said Alison Jia, 39, who has lived in Georgetown since 1994. She and her family moved from west to east in July.
"Both sides have their mix," said Frida Burling, 91, an east-side resident for more than 50 years. "We have Sen. [John] Kerry, Sen. [John] Edwards and Sen. [Max] Baucus on the west side." (Edwards recently sold his Georgetown house.) "We have Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn and Bob Woodward and people like that on the east side."
Two real estate agents, one who lives in the east and another in the west, said there is a distinction in people's minds when they shop for houses.
Nancy Taylor Bubes, an agent with Coldwell Banker, is an East Village resident who has been selling homes in the area for 20 years. She pointed out that the east side of Georgetown is within walking distance of Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom, giving residents easy access to the Metro. The west side is filled with students; the presence of Georgetown University is inescapable. (Georgetown residents generally don't classify the area south of M Street NW, which has fewer houses, as being either east or west.)
Jamie Peva, a West Village resident who will soon be moving east, has been selling real estate for 12 years and works with Washington Fine Properties. He said he has had clients who are interested only in the east.
But he said the perception that the east side has only large houses is simply wrong. There are a fair number of smaller houses that were built for free blacks and for slaves on the east side, a reminder of the years when Georgetown was largely African American.
While the East Village does have large estates, including Evermay, Dumbarton Oaks and Tudor Place, there are also grand houses in the West Village, such as Halcyon House and Prospect House. There's also the house on 34th Street NW where the Bruces threw their parties.
"The west side, on the blocks between 33rd and 34th streets, has some of the most historical homes in Georgetown -- some of the Federal period homes," Bubes said of houses on N, O, and P streets NW. Those include the grand Marbury and Bodisco houses.