In the 30 years since Mary Lou Fant moved to Petworth, a quiet, middle-class Northwest Washington neighborhood, there have been more than a few changes. The trolleys that once ran up and down Georgia Avenue have long since been replaced by buses. There's more traffic. And the neighborhood, which in the 1950s was predominantly white, is mostly black now.

But the sense of pride that Petworth residents have about their neighborhood has not changed. Neither has their commitment to keeping their community a nice place to live. A newspaper article written in 1939 noted, "No Washington section has more community consciousness, nor works harder to keep it." That is still true today, with the Northwest Boundary Civic Association, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, block clubs and other community organizations all active in neighborhood affairs.

When the D.C. government wanted to close the Petworth Library in the early 1980s, the residents fought hard to keep it open. Today the renovated library provides meeting space for numerous clubs and groups. When bus service on Georgia Avenue seemed to decline, residents lobbied Metro and got it improved.

"We are proud of our neighborhood. We see that there is room for improvement. We need to keep working together at it," Fant said.

Phyllis Young, who has lived in Petworth nearly as long as Fant, said: "I like my neighborhood. It's a close-knit place. We look out for each other. All of us who live in the community have ways of noticing things and getting things done." Before winning a seat on the D.C. School Board in 1985, Young served on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission for seven years.

Now, it appears that such commitment is paying dividends. After a period of decline from the late 1960s through the late 1970s, prices of Petworth's brick row houses are rising. A house that 30 years ago sold for between $12,000 and $16,000 might sell today for between $80,000 and $100,000. Residents and real estate brokers said that Petworth's housing prices, lower than those in other Northwest D.C. neighborhoods, are attracting young black and white professional couples.

"Real estate in this neighborhood has gone crazy," said Willie D. Morgan, who moved to Petworth in 1954 from North Carolina and who is president of the Hands Together Neighborhood Club, one of the numerous Petworth community organizations. "There are quite a few so-called yuppies coming back to this neighborhood. They are young, well-educated, mostly single or married with young children."

"The yuppies have discovered gentrification and that is a good signal. But we want our neighborhood to remain balanced," Young said.

Fant said, "The whites are moving back just like {the blacks} were moving in in the 1950s."

The arrival of young families has brought children back to Petworth, which has a substantial senior citizen population. Residents said they believe Petworth is a good place for children, particularly since there are so many schools within its boundaries, among them Petworth, West and Powell elementary schools, McFarland Junior High, Roosevelt High School, the Sharpe Health School and the Burdick Career School.

Where Petworth begins and ends is a matter of dispute. According to Advisory Neighborhood Commission maps and longtime residents, Petworth is roughly bounded by Spring Road and Rock Creek Church Road to the south and east, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue to the west and northwest, and Ingraham Street to the north. Row houses make up the majority of homes in the neighborhood, though some spacious detached homes and apartment buildings are scattered throughout the community.

The first development of the area began in the late 1890s. At that time, Petworth was a still a suburb of Washington linked to downtown by an eight-minute trolley ride. The majority of Petworth's row houses were built in the 1920s. The Petworth Library first opened in 1939.

Beginning in the early 1960s, many of Petworth's white residents moved to the suburbs.

"When I first came here {in the early 1960s}, the trend was toward decline because families were moving to suburban areas and further uptown," said A. Knighton Stanley, pastor of the Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ, which residents describe as a mainstay of the community. "But the neighborhood has stabilized and, with the exception of a few pockets, it's improving."

But some of those pockets are filled with drug dealers, a problem that continues to upset residents. According to Lt. Chris Dinisio of the Fourth District police station, the drug problem in Petworth is fairly serious but is, at the moment, limited to perhaps a half-dozen areas within the community.

"It's mostly street sales on corners. The residents have been active. They are very interested in correcting the problem," Dinisio said.

Young said: "We are not a silent community on {drugs}. We have kept after the police department to do its job. Neighborhood Watch is alive and well. You will find there is no open {drug} market here. It's a spotty problem that has popped up here and there and we will continue to work on it."

Petworth's residents also want more small businesses in the neighborhood. While mom-and-pop grocery stores abound, other service-type stores have closed or moved out.

"We would love to see the business community a little stronger," Morgan said. "For so many of the things, we have to go somewhere else, either downtown or Silver Spring or Prince George's County." We need more shops."

Young added, "One of the things that we all want is a revitalization of Georgia Avenue. We need to fix up the facades to give us back the small businesses."