Where We Live

Where We Live: Eckington, An Urban Neighborhood on the Rise

Iris Mitchell, left, and Vicki Gass take their dogs for a walk around the neighborhood, a routine they've enjoyed together for two years.
Iris Mitchell, left, and Vicki Gass take their dogs for a walk around the neighborhood, a routine they've enjoyed together for two years. (Mary Ellen Slayter Ftwp - Mary Ellen Slayter for The Washington Post)
By Mary Ellen Slayter
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, January 3, 2009

A hundred years ago, life in Eckington was all about the streetcar.

Now it's all about the Metro, with stations anchoring the north and south ends of the Northeast Washington neighborhood.

Often lumped in with nearby communities such as Shaw and Brookland, Eckington is increasingly becoming a requested area in its own right, real estate agents say. But more often, it draws people who were attracted to other, better-known neighborhoods with easy Metro access -- but found that they didn't suit their budgets.

That's what brought Vicki Gass to her light-filled end-unit rowhouse in 2002. "It was an extremely tight market," she said. "Finding anything I could afford was a challenge."

The neighborhood is a mostly a mix of two- and three-story brick rowhouses, many with bay fronts. Some blocks include grander homes. Condo developments have popped up in the past few years.

The housing styles vary from block to block, said Angela Jones, who lives in Eckington and works as an agent with Long and Foster's nearby Brookland office. The mix includes big Victorians and Federal-style homes; they're similar to those on Capitol Hill, "but with much lower prices," she said.

The land that became Eckington was once the country home of Joseph Gales Jr., Washington's mayor from 1827 to 1830 and publisher of the National Intelligencer. Gales built a two-story house on the site, naming his estate Eckington after the English village where he was born. The streetcar -- the Washington area's first -- came in 1878. Most of the houses in Eckington began going up in the 1890s, with another boom in development in the 1920s.

The streetcar line was shut down in the 1950s, and Eckington suffered the sort of decline that afflicted many urban neighborhoods in the ensuing decades.

But the whole neighborhood has transformed in the past five years, said Chip Lewis, an agent with Matthew Spicer Real Estate who has worked in the D.C. real estate business for more than 35 years. He sees interest in Eckington from a mix of young professionals, government workers, artists and young families who want to live in the city and avoid commuting an hour.

Those who choose to make Eckington their home say they are drawn by a diverse, friendly community, the solid housing stock and myriad transportation options.

Ben Lyttleton and his wife moved from the Virginia suburbs to Eckington about two years ago. They quickly felt welcome, he said.

"The thing about rowhouses -- you have to meet your neighbors," he said, acknowledging the close quarters. For example, more than 35 neighbors stopped by their election night party, he said.

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