Patrick Stewart describes his home-buying process as the opposite of how most people typically approach the biggest purchase of their adult lives.
When Stewart stumbled upon the Stronghold neighborhood in Northeast Washington, near Trinity Washington University and the McMillan Reservoir, in the summer of 2016, it was the yard attached to a rowhouse on Franklin Street NE, as opposed to the community or cheery neighbors, that immediately caught his attention.
"We bought because of the house and fell in love with the neighborhood later," said Stewart, who on a recent Saturday was pulling weeds from the yard of his 1,280-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse.
"We'd never been in this part of D.C. before, but it feels different than anywhere else we've lived," said Stewart, who moved to Stronghold from Arlington. "I have neighbors who come by and bring us food, and people are happy to lend you anything."
Dominic Leftwich, whose family has lived in Stronghold for generations, agreed.
"I remember as a child running through house after house along blocks in Stronghold. We just knew our neighbors, and everyone kept their houses open. It was one big family," said Leftwich, who lives in a 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom rowhouse.
Neighborhood landmarks: Sima Tessema, a real estate agent with Fairfax Realty, said the fact that Stronghold has maintained a sense of community, despite changes as longtime residents are replaced with younger ones, is proof of the neighborhood's desirability and bodes well for stability in the long term.
"With prices in some surrounding neighborhoods, like Bloomingdale, higher we're seeing a lot of trickle-down interest in Stronghold," Tessema said. "Developers are building and renovating really nice properties. There's one that's 19 feet wide, and you don't get that kind of space often."
The origins of Stronghold are a bit nebulous, but some well-known Washington landmarks border the neighborhood. Trinity Washington University, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and Catholic University are all a short distance away. And the nearby Monroe Street Market in Brookland — home to Busboys and Poets, a pizzeria, a sandwich shop, and a Barnes & Noble — offers a classic mix of retail and shopping options, Tessema said.
Jeffrey Cousins, who moved to Stronghold in 1989, styles himself as part of the neighborhood's unofficial welcoming committee.
Each new neighbor who moves to his block of Girard Street NE receives a greeting and a word of advice, Cousins said.
"I tell the newcomers that everybody knows one another around here and that they should take time to get to know their neighbors. We haven't had a break-in on my block, and people take pride in this neighborhood," said Cousins, who lives in a 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom rowhouse.
David Dar, who moved to Stronghold last month, said the prospect of the redevelopment of the nearby McMillan Slow Sand Filtration Plant, a site slated for 30,000 square feet of retail space, a grocery store, community center and health-care facilities, made his purchase of a 2,400-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bathroom rowhouse as close to a no-brainer as possible.
"We have the potential to be near a real retail hub that will only add value to the neighborhood in the long run."
Living there: The neighborhood is bordered to the north by Michigan Avenue NE, to the west by North Capitol Street NW and to the east by Glenwood Cemetery.
In the past 12 months, seven properties have sold in Stronghold, ranging from an 850-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom Victorian-style condominium for $385,000 to a 2,510-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom Federal-style townhouse for $802,000, said Tessema.
There are four houses for sale in Stronghold, ranging from a 2,490-square-foot four-bedroom, four-bathroom Victorian-style townhouse for $799,900 to a 3,300-square-foot five-bedroom, five-bathroom Federal-style rowhouse for $1,175,000, Tessema said.
Schools: Langley Elementary, McKinley Middle and Dunbar High.
Transit: Stronghold is one mile from the Brookland-CUA Station and 1.2 miles from the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Station on Metro's Red Line. The neighborhood is also served by a number of Metrobus routes, including the D8, H2, H4 and No. 80 lines.
Crime: Since January, there have been 32 assaults, 28 reports of stolen vehicles, 21 burglaries, 20 robberies and one homicide in the service area that includes Stronghold, according to D.C. police.