Where We Live

The Word Is Out About Bloomingdale

By Mara Lee
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bloomingdale could be the friendliest neighborhood you've never heard of.

Some real estate agents, and even some residents, consider it part of LeDroit Park, but the Bloomingdale Civic Association, established in 1921, says the two-block-wide strip in Northwest Washington between Florida Avenue and the McMillan Reservoir makes up a neighborhood in its own right.

On a recent spring afternoon, Alice Bullock sat on a chair on her stoop while her great-grandchildren played on the sidewalk.

Bullock, who rented her house on Randolph Street for $125 a month before buying it with her husband for $1,600, can't remember how long it has been her home now -- 35 years? 40?

Several of her 10 children were already grown by then. "I just love it. This is where we got our feet at and started doing good," she said.

Bullock, who turns 88 this month, lives with a daughter, son and daughter-in-law.

She remembered how it was decades ago: "We had a block club; it was nice. We had somebody keep our street clean. We used to have a party in the street. . . . Only three of us living [now]."

But her neighbors aren't strangers. As she talked, a man on a bicycle said hello. "My older brother Ronald went to school with [your son] Donnell," he yelled as he pedaled by.

Houses in Bloomingdale began going up in the 1890s. The neighborhood is a mix of three- and two-story bay-front rowhouses; a few grand Victorian mansions; some later, simpler rowhouses; and a smattering of low-rise apartment buildings. During the real estate boom in the first half of this decade, many of those became condominiums. So did the 104-year-old Gage School, which had seen more than a decade of failed development plans.

For decades, the neighborhood was almost all black. Even eight years ago, the 2000 Census reported that the area was more than 90 percent black.

However, Bullock describes Bloomingdale today as mixed.

Stephanie Parris, 16, lives with her father, sister and grandmother. The grandmother owns their house.

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