Linda Baum finds Mount Pleasant reminiscent of the small New Jersey town in which she grew up, where the summer foliage was lush and green, the night air cool and fresh.
For Marisa Perez the vibrant, zesty flavor of the international community is strikingly like the home she left in Spain 11 years ago.
To an elderly woman who has lived there more than 30 years, the community is a faded daguerreotype of an older Mount Pleasant - when the neighborhood was known as Pleasant Plains, an affluent suburb for Washington's white gentry.
To Gladys and Edgar Mitchell, it is the home to which they brought their seven children in 1957 in search of good schools, inexpensive housing and safe streets.
But Mount Pleasant is a community in transition.
Over the years, neighbors say, the cost of housing has skyrocketed, the quality of neighborhood schools has declined, the ethnic community has waned, crime has increased, parking places have disappeared and even the grass has suffered - from stray dogs, litter and romping children.
"At the time we bought our house (in 1964) you could get a house for a song," said Naomi Bloss, who lives in Mount Pleasant with her husband Frank and their five children.
According to area realtors, most homes in the neighborhood, which is bounded by Rock Creek Park, 16th Street, Harvard Street and Ingleside Terrace, now sell for $90,000 or more.
Another Mount Pleasant resident, Mary Jo Potter, speaks wistfully of the carnivals and family gatherings neighbors used to hold.
"If I notice any real change in the neighborhood, it's that the carnivals have died," she said.
Still, residents remain stubbornly loyal to the central-city community that is situated on a hill overlooking Northwest Washington.
There are the oldtimers who talk about the way Mount Pleasant used to be; newcomers who talk about the way it is now, and those in-between residents - neither old nor brand new - who believe Mount Pleasant is looking toward a future better than its past, sweeter than its present.
"The old Mount Pleasant was all white, sort of homogeneous," said Gladys Mitchell, a cheerful, black woman with a no-nonsense gaze and a vise-like handshake. "I like to think of the new Mount Pleasant as something like Joseph's coat of many colors."
In recent years, Mount Pleasant's colors have been most evident in its hodgepodge of carefully tended gardens, old and new housing and its people - black, white, oriental and Hispanic, who include a mix of cultures and incomes ranging from solidly middle-class to poor.
On block after block of streets lined with elm and maple trees there are renovated, pastel-colored rowhouses sandwiched between crumbling rust-brown homes, boarded up cottages and stately post-war apartment buildings.
Every once in a while, a passerby sidesteps Afro and tow-haired children skateboarding through the alleys.
On the door of a renovated rowhouse is a brass doorknocker shaped like a duck.
"White folks live there," explains the black family sitting on the porch next door.
Across the street a group of black men polish up a white 1964 Chrysler. Parked in front of it, a white, late-model Mercedes Benz gleams in the afternoon sun.
"If they (white people) want to move down here with us it's okay with me." said David Hall, a middle-aged black man who had lived on his street 10 years. "It (renovation) has helped the area."
"It's a beautiful neighborhood." added Jerry Flournoy as he stood against the Chrysler. "At night time up in here we don't worry about hoodlums and people breaking into houses. We weeded them out.
"Truthfully. I haven't seen any fear in this neighborhood.You've got a lot of Southern blacks in this neighborhood, (but) the whites here stop and talk, or come in to (our homes to) have a drink."
There is crime though, said Hall. And fear.
"There are a lot of burglaries," he said. "That's why you see (people with) dogs and floodlights in their backyards."
Between August 1977 and July 1978, according to police statistics, 682 crimes occurred in Mount Pleasant.
Arturo Sylvester and Larry Moss are bilingual community relations officers who works out of the 4th District store-front police station on Mount Pleasant Street. The station will move to 3033 14th St. NW by the end of the month, despite community protests.
The officers said burglary is one of the most frequently reported crimes. Vagrancy and noise are two of the most frequent complaints, they said.
"There are many alcoholics in the community," said Sylvester. "There are also a lot of halfway houses for the mentally ill in the area."
The police department responded to the burglary complaint (230 in the last 12 months) by instituting a summerlong burglary prevention program. Officers visited area homes to engrave identification numbers on valuables, check the efficiency of door and window locks and give risidents crime prevention tips.
The community also began a rape prevention program following five assaults this summer.
There are few churches within Mount Pleasant. But along the eastern edge of the neighborhood, on 16th Street, there are many that serve Mount Pleasant and neighboring communities.
One church, St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, provides child care, a youth center and free food programs, among other services.
Overseeing these programs is Brother John, a mountainous, silver-haired and bearded man, who describes himself as a Santa Claus in overalls doing the Lord's work.
"It's really getting to be an easier and better neighborhood all the time," he said.
"Instead of so much desperate need coming out of Mount Pleasant, we're now beginning to have parishioners come to worship."
Public transportation in the neighborhood is plentiful. On 16th Street and at a small triangle bus stop, known as the loop, on Mount Pleasant Street there is bus service to Maryland, downtown Washington, crosstown and to the Kennedy Center.
Mount Pleasant Street also has a medley of ethnic food shops, a hardware store, a bookshop carrying militant literature, an antique shop, several laundries and groceries.
Still, it is Park Road, a major eastwest thoroughfare feeding into Rock Creek Parkway and Beach Drive, that provides the real shopping pleasures as it winds towards Sears, Lord and Taylor and other stores in Upper Northwest.
It wasn't always that way, said Margaret Whitlock, who has lived on Ingleside Terrace for 25 years. Before the riots and the business flight to the suburbs, people used to shop on 14th Street.
And Whitlock notes other changes. She pointed to a row of burnt-out, frame houses facing the block of immaculate Tudor-style homes where she lives.
"When I moved up here they had a lot of white transients in those apartments," she said. "When they cleared out, the building kept running down."
Neighbors claim real estate speculation has been the major factor in many of the neighborhood changes. They said it has robbed the area of most of its minorities and of affordable rental housing.
Since September 1977, the real estate firm of Colquitt-Carruthers Inc. has sold about 38 homes for a total of $2.8 million in Mount Pleasant, said a salesman with the firm.
A salesman from another agency said he had personally sold 30 homes in Mount Pleasant during the past year.
The buyers have been young professionals, "a lot of attorneys," who moved into the homes from other parts of the city, he said.
Both vacant and occupied homes sold at prices starting at about $90,000. Nearly half the homebuyers were white; the rest were black, he said.
According to the latest (1975) census estimates from the Municipal Planning Office, Mount Pleasant has 9,800 people, compared with 10,300 in 1970. There are 7.770 blacks, and 2.100 whites. The Spanish speaking population is included in those two figures.
Dr. James Burns, research director for the Rental Accommodations Office, said that between 1974 and 1977 the neighborhood lost more than 96 households, from evictions or other moves, after single-family homes were renovated, sold or reclaimed by absent landlords.
The number of single-family homeowners is still-small. Most housing consists of private homes divided into apartments.
Residents who are committed to staying in Mount Pleasant say they are striving to hold onto the community with housing programs, clean-up campaigns, beautification projects and better police-community relations.
The determination of the Spanish population to remain is symbolized by residents such as apartment-dweller Marisa Perez and homeowner Jose Bolanos, a middle-aged house painter who came here from Ecuador 11 years ago with his wife, mother-in-law and nine children.
Bolanos said he has been offered $70,000 for the house he paid $23,000 for in 1973. He won't sell. "My place is with the Spanish community," he said through an interpreter. "I will go only if the community leaves."
Marisa Perez is vice president of the racially mixed Kenesaw Co-op, an apartment building at 16th and Harvard streets NW that is fighting real estate speculation for survival.
Today 26 of the building's original 70 families remain in the struggle.
"This house gave to me big experience about the problems in this country," said Perez in the scrambled English she learned after coming here from Spain. "The people here try to make a beautiful place, pero the (white) people are no sensitivio if the skin is very dark.
"This is not just a Spanish co-op. We have three languages here, before we had six. Many people understand now. We tell in the newspaper, the church, if you have a little money buy your store, your house (Organize) a tenants' association."
Bolanos fight has been against the area litter problems. He and other Spanish-speaking residents recently joined with Adelante, one of 23 Hispanic community service groups in the area, to rally Hispanic neighbors to join in clean-up campaigns.
Last year, the city sanitation department began a bilingual clean-up program. They distributed sanitation literature in Spanish and English, and organized Spanish-speaking clean-up and inspection crews who worked the area daily, said Benjamin Snider, director of the programs.
According to Snider, Mount Pleasant had 240 sanitation violations last August; this July the sanitation department found only 53.
"Now we're moving into organizing block clubs to beautify the area," said Snider.
In some ways, the present Mount Pleasant is not unlike most other Washington neighborhoods in transistion, said David Clarke, who represent Ward 1 on the D.C. City Council and lives on 17th Street in Mount Pleasant.
"The Spanish-speaking people are being displaced the greatest," Clarke said. He added that the neighborhood also has high property taxes, parking problems, roaming dog packs and litter problems.
But the biggest headache - real estate speculation - is waning, according to Dennis Gale, an urban planning professor who studied new homebuyers in the area. Gale said speculators work in three stages. In stages one and two they buy homes in high-risk areas, make few repairs and sell to new homebuyers at high prices. As the renovation progress, speculators move on, property values and taxes increase and stage three begins.
"This is the stage Mount Pleasant is in," said Gale. In this stage, he said, high-income people, such as childless couple, move into high-priced homes. But unlike the speculators, they tend to stay to build communities.