Park View neighborhood in District is pleasantly walkable

These well-maintained rowhouses overlook the grounds of the Soldiers' Home. The Park View area was established in 1908.
These well-maintained rowhouses overlook the grounds of the Soldiers' Home. The Park View area was established in 1908. (Ann Cameron Siegal For The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo    

By Ann Cameron Siegal
Special to the Washington Post
Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kent Boese refers to finding the District's Park View neighborhood as his "happy accident."

In 2007, while looking for a house in other areas of the city, he found a 1917 end-unit rowhouse on a corner lot with a view of the parklike setting in Northwest near the Armed Forces Retirement Home, long known locally as the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home. Boese said he lives "as far northeast as you can get and still be in Ward 1." Although the house had been vacant for five years, "much of the house hadn't been touched, so it still had its character and original doors and trim in place," he said.

Park View was established in 1908 when several smaller neighborhoods were combined. The neighborhood quickly became known for amateur baseball in the District, winning the short-lived Suburban League's pennant in 1909.

Park View resident Nancy Berry, 62, was preparing to move recently. As movers carted one last piece of furniture down the stairs, Berry surveyed the home's panoramic view of the Soldiers' Home grounds where she spent many youthful days exploring. She said her parents moved to the then-upscale community in 1948, when she was an infant, "because it was as far north in the city as blacks were allowed."

Berry, a high school librarian, also remembered how her mother took daily walks to local markets for fresh meat, fish or produce. "Everything was in this neighborhood then," she said. Today, those same markets tend to sell only packaged food, cigarettes, sodas and beer, she said.

But Park View still has a pedestrian-oriented appeal. Boese noted that the Petworth Metro station is two blocks away from his home; shops and restaurants in Columbia Heights are also within walking distance. He said his vehicle is almost a liability. "It only gets used when I need to take something to the dump or take a trip."

As for Park View, "it is gentrifying, but not at a pace where people don't have time to know established residents," Boese said. It was the stories a longtime resident told of their street that propelled Boese, a law librarian with a passion for history, to learn more about the neighborhood.

Last year, he presented a paper on the architecture of northern Park View at a conference on D.C. historical studies. The paper highlighted the pre-World War I rowhouses built by Edgar S. Kennedy -- homes with enough variation in style and materials to make the rows visually appealing.

Park View's boundaries are often debated, but the civic association draws its borders from historical records. Some Park View residents assume they live in Columbia Heights or Pleasant Plains, and Carlos Garcia, a real estate agent with Keller Williams, said many agents define northern Park View as part of Petworth.

Park View's setting took a nose dive after the 1968 riots. Businesses fled. The Soldiers' Home grounds were closed to the public.

Buddy Moore, 72, grew up in the District's Cardozo neighborhood. In 1982, he and his wife, Carolyn, now deceased, moved to her childhood home in Park View. "There were more single-family homes there," he said. "It was a step up." But there were still signs of the devastation endured in the riots. "For a long time, the neighborhood was just neglected," he said. "It was neighborly, but many residents just gave up as they got older."

Metro's arrival in 1999 brought new residents and new life to the community. "We became more active," said Moore, a retired bank clerk. Residents began "drawing battle lines" over development.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company