The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

John Philip Sousa’s old neighborhood, Barracks Row, is on the march again

From where they live, John West and his son, Joey, 19, can depart for Nationals Park at the last minute.

If it stops raining and the tarp is being pulled off the field, it's a 20-minute walk from the rowhouse he and his wife, Linda Elliott, bought in 1995 in the Barracks Row part of Capitol Hill.

"An urban place is where we wanted to be," said West, a lawyer with a downtown firm.

"There is a large core of people who have lived here a long time and there's really a sense of community."

Proximity to the Eastern Market Metro station, Eastern Market itself, the restaurants that line Eighth Street SE and the neighborhood's walkability draw and keep people in the Barracks Row area.

Out in their back yard, at times West can hear the U.S. Marine Band practicing. Other times, he sees Marines out jogging in the streets. "They're a good neighbor," he said.

In Fairfax, a townhouse community savors its suburban aura, urban convenience

"Comfy" feel: Barracks Row is a slice of the Capitol Hill Historic District that attracts lots of outsiders on evenings and weekends.

"We're the heart of the Hill," said Martin Smith, executive director of Barracks Row Main Street (BRMS), a nonprofit organization founded in 1999 to preserve and revitalize the business community. BRMS aims to "retain and recruit" small businesses. According to Smith, Eighth Street SE had been declining since the riots of the late 1960s and urban flight to the suburbs.

But not everyone fled Barracks Row.

Carrol Kindel has lived in the area since March 1968, and wouldn't live anywhere else. "It's always been a good place to live," she said. What appeals to her are the "small streets, historic feel, the comfy kind of feel." When she met her future husband, Karl, in 1972, they moved to a different house on Ninth Street SE, and have lived there ever since. "Its location is great. People know each other. It's like a small town. It's friendly and neighborly. You see people in Eastern Market, on the street. You see people you know, say hello and start to talk." The Kindels are both retired statisticians with the federal government.

Capitol Hill Village helps residents remain in their homes as they grow older, according to Marci Hilt, co-chair of the Eastern Market Metro Community Association. A range of services from transportation to tax preparation are offered.

In the past five or six years, she said, new families with children or couples starting families have moved into the area.

Not far from downtown D.C., an affordable and blooming inner suburb

Attorneys Erin and Christian Hertzog first chose the Capitol Hill neighborhood in 2008, and moved to a larger home in 2014 when she was pregnant with their second child. Their son is 5 and their daughter is 3. The couple enjoys being close to the Eastern Market Metro station and Eastern Market, which dates to 1873, as well as a number of parks.

"It still has a true neighborhood feel," Erin Hertzog said. "You know your neighbors. It's a good mix of urban and not too urban."

Proximity to Capitol Hill and the history of the area lure people to the Barracks Row neighborhood, too. Rowhouses lining streets nearby the main artery of Eighth Street SE splash celadon, gray and green across the urban landscape. Rowhouses in some parts of the area date from 1870 to 1880; others are older. The Projection Act, passed in 1871, allowed bay windows, corner towers and porches to project into public space, informing the architecture of this period — Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, Italianate and other Victorian-era styles, according to the D.C. Historic Preservation Office's Capitol Hill Historic District brochure.

Sousa birthplace: The neighborhood is the birthplace of composer John Philip Sousa, who directed the Marine Band, established in 1798. He was born in 1854 in the house at 636 G St. SE, identified by a Capitol Hill Restoration Society plaque dated 1964. In 1960 and 1961, the house was restored. In addition to serving as director of the Marine Band from 1880 to 1892, Sousa is best known as the composer of marches, including "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

In 1801, according to the brochure, President Thomas Jefferson, riding on horseback and accompanied by Marine Corps Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, chose the site between Eighth and Ninth and G and I streets SE for the Marine Barracks because of its proximity to the Navy Yard, the U.S. Capitol and the White House.

Walking from the Eastern Market Metro station down Eighth Street SE has an appeal all its own. Barracks Row Main Street, according to the organization's website, was chartered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street program in 1999. "Crumbling sidewalks were replaced with brick pavers, American Elms were planted and historic black-iron 'Washington Globe' street lights installed. In 2005 Barracks Row Main Street won the prestigious Great American Main Street Award."

The changes in Barracks Row took place during a period of 15 years, and the area "has matured in the last couple of years," according to Kirsten Oldenburg, commissioner of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B.

In 2013, Barracks Row Main Street began a design study to improve the public area along Pennsylvania Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets, including the space surrounding the Eastern Market Metro.

The neighborhood appeals to a variety of people, said Larry Janezich, who writes the Capitol Hill Corner blog and is a longtime resident of the area. "It's a lively place, but it has its problems," he said. Among them is a rat population that stems from the lack of indoor trash management along Eighth Street SE, he said.

Street parking can be hard to find on evenings and weekends. Some couples maintain one car between them.

In addition to the more than 30 restaurants along Eighth Street SE, residents have numerous places to shop for groceries, ranging from Eastern Market to YES Organic Market on Eighth Street SE and a Trader Joe's that opened last fall.

Living there: The Barracks Row area is bounded roughly by C Street SE to the north, Ninth Street SE to the east, M Street SE to the south and Seventh Street SE to the west.

According to Don Denton, an agent with Coldwell Banker, in the past year, 15 residential properties sold in the Barracks Row neighborhood, ranging from a three-bedroom, one-bath townhouse for $580,000 that was ultimately redone and sold later in the year for $919,000 to a four-bedroom, three-bath townhouse for $1.775 million. There are no residential properties on the market in Barracks Row.

Schools: Tyler Elementary, Brent Elementary, Watkins Elementary, Van Ness Elementary, Stuart-Hobson Middle, Jefferson Middle School Academy and Eastern High.

Transit: The Barracks Row neighborhood can be reached from the Eastern Market Metro Station on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines. Buses connecting at Eastern Market Metro include 30S, 30N, 32, 34, 36, 92 and 90 as well as the Circulator.

Crime: According to the D.C. police crime map, in the past year, there were six burglaries and 15 robberies in the neighborhood.