Although Tamara Bagley attended Howard University, her mother worried about her daughter living alone in the big city after graduation.
Bagley moved into Hilltop House in Northwest Washington after college because of the building's location and price. At the time, she didn't realize how close she would become to the building's management.
Everyone who works at the building lives on site, according to Property Manager Lawrence Brooks. So there is always someone available for emergency requests.
Bagley, now 41, has lived at Hilltop House for 15 years. She said the resident manager, Marilyn Fisher, is "practically like a second mother to me. Ms. Fisher lives right down the hall. She takes care of me."
And Tamara's mother is no longer worried about her daughter being alone in Washington.
Both attentive management and the building's location, at 1475 Euclid St. NW, attract residents to the Hilltop House.
Located a short distance from the lively bars and restaurants of Adams Morgan, Hilltop House draws residents who want to be downtown but don't want to pay the higher rents of Dupont Circle or central Adams Morgan. It's convenient to the Columbia Heights Metro station and the 16th Street bus lines. A Safeway, a Giant and a CVS are all nearby.
Constructed in 1950, the 94-unit brick building has 58 efficiencies; almost all the rest of the units have one bedroom. The efficiency apartments can seem a bit like college dorm rooms. In fact, during the 1980s, William C. Smith Co., the management company that runs the building, leased a number of apartments to nearby Howard University because the school had a housing shortage.
In his efficiency decorated with policy magazine covers, photographs and a poster of famous American immigrants, Jai Singh, 23, can entertain four or five friends at a time. "It's a good place for people to come before going out for the night," he said.
Meridian Hill Park is right across the street. Situated on a hill (hence the name), the park has sweeping views of the city and the Washington Monument. There's a field where the neighborhood kids play soccer, and many residents exercise in the park.
"I walk through there whenever I can, especially when it's nice out," said Lawrence Owusu, 55, a taxi driver who has lived in Hilltop House since 1979. "Exercise keeps me going in life."
In his 25 years in the building, Owusu has become friends with many of the older residents and with the staff members who live in the building. One recent day, he waved to an older woman in the lobby as she checked her mail and shook hands with Arthur Adams, the building's porter, as he walked by.
Over the past few years, the neighborhood has changed and with it, the makeup of the building's tenants.
"This is a historically African American neighborhood, so there used to be mostly African American tenants," Bagley said. "But now the building is a multiplex of people -- all ages, ethnicities, marital statuses. It's one of the great things about it."
Hilltop House is a rent-controlled building. Recent developments in the area have caused the asking price for new tenants to go up. But for those who have lived in the building for years, the rent goes up only according to the District's rent stabilization rules. Consequently, the building is relatively affordable for the neighborhood, according to tenants who have lived there for years. And utilities are included in the rent, an amenity that helps both new and old residents afford the apartments.
"The rents here are within reason," said Christopher Davis, 34, a sales technician who has lived in the building for six years. "When I moved in, rents were $425 for an efficiency. They've gone up, but having utilities included makes it affordable."
Each unit has hardwood floors, a gas stove and a frost-free refrigerator. There's a laundry machine in the basement and the building has a small, covered garage where residents can rent spaces for $60 a month. Bagley and Owusu keep cars there, but there's a waiting list for spaces.
Residents have few complaints. "The next building over is a little noisy sometimes," said Charles Closmann, 47. He also noted that the neighborhood can be dangerous at night, but pointed out that safety is an issue in almost all D.C. neighborhoods after dark.
The building has a lock-entry door, and according to Property Manager Brooks, residents are careful not to let in people who don't have keys.
"There's Howard campus police -- their dorms are right down the street -- D.C. police, not to mention the Ecuadorean Embassy across the street. It's a safe place to live," Bagley said.
Hilltop House even provides its tenants with added perks when they move out. When Closmann left his Houston apartment last year, he hired an expensive hauling company to dispose of his larger furniture.
Now that he is moving again -- this time from Washington to Florida -- he doesn't have to spend that extra money. He took his old, broken furniture to a small hallway in the basement. The management took it from there.
"It's not something you'd usually think about," he said. "But it's really a great amenity."