Though they were moving into a predominantly White neighborhood, Crichlow White says the community feel in Petworth was apparent from the start.
“We all ran up and down the street together, the children. The people on our block were very nice. The daughters of the family next door would babysit me, and their mother would take me along to see their performances at school.”
Petworth is one of the city’s largest neighborhoods. Its name derives from an estate owned by John Tayloe III, a plantation owner and military officer who died in 1828. The estate was sold by his heirs for development, combined with other land and subdivided in 1887 to create the neighborhood.
The demographic flipped from majority-White to majority-Black by the mid-1950s and remained that way until the early 2000s. Petworth attracted a wave of new residents after Metro service was extended to the neighborhood in 1999.
Today, it’s one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, with residents of varying ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds. Petworth homes are comparatively more affordable than nearby areas, while boasting a residential feel with backyards, an active front-porch culture and a bustling commercial district on Upshur Street.
Family business: Matt Krimm co-owns Cinder BBQ, one of several restaurants on the Upshur strip that have made Petworth a dining destination in the city. He says Cinder has become a neighborhood spot in the year since it’s opened, but the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced that feeling.
“When covid hit and we were forced to close, the neighborhood came out in droves and supported us. It’s a family neighborhood, so that drives that sense of community and support. People know us and each other because they’re out walking their dogs and with their kids and you start to see familiar faces,” Krimm says.
It’s the residents’ investment in their community that makes Petworth a great place to live. The resident-run Petworth community market at Ninth and Upshur streets happens every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from May through November. In addition to vendors, the market hosts musicians, artists and local organizations throughout the season.
The Petworth Jazz Project showcases the best in local jazz talent, with shows typically taking place on the last Saturday of the month in May through September. Residents also organize a free neighborhood festival every September, Celebrate Petworth, which highlights the creativity and diversity of the neighborhood through music, storytelling, food and kids’ activities (both the Jazz Project and Celebrate Petworth were canceled this year due to the pandemic). The neighborhood even has its own local news blog, Petworth News, run by Drew Schneider, which has garnered a following upward of 34,000 readers a month.
President Abraham Lincoln’s former summer home still sits at the eastern edge of Petworth — it was his retreat from 1862 to 1864, at the height of the Civil War, and where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. It now operates as a private museum and nonprofit organization on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, which sponsors local events with a dedicated group of volunteers, Friends of the Soldiers Home.
Residents say they feel lucky to live in such an inclusive and supportive community.
“It’s the neighbors that make it a neighborhood. The diversity of thought, the positivity, the desire to be helpful is really strong in Petworth,” says Schneider, who moved to the area from Dupont Circle 15 years ago.
“It’s why I’ve stayed here. I like the people I live around. It’s like when you work at a job and the people you work with have a major impact on your enjoyment. You feel raised up by those people. Of course, there’s amenities — the restaurants, the shopping, walking to a supermarket — that’s all great. That’s city living and I had that in Dupont, but I left it because I didn’t have a sense of community. Here I have that and it’s the most striking feature for me.”
Living there: Petworth is roughly bounded by Arkansas Avenue on the west, Spring Road and Rock Creek Park on the south, Rock Creek Park and New Hampshire Avenue on the east and Hamilton Street to the north.
According to Long & Foster agent John Coplen, 58 homes have sold in Petworth in the past six months, ranging from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom townhouse for $300,000 to a six-bedroom, 4½ -bathroom rowhouse that sold for just over $1.3 million.
There are 44 homes for sale, ranging from a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $295,000 to a free-standing four-bedroom, two-bathroom home listed at almost $1.8 million.
Schools: Barnard and Powell elementary, MacFarland Middle School and Roosevelt High School.
Transit: The Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro Station is at the southern tip of the neighborhood, on the Green and Yellow lines. Several bus routes also serve the area. The neighborhood is intersected by two major thoroughfares, New Hampshire and Georgia avenues, which provide easy access to other areas of the city.