In 1958, Neighbors Inc., a multi-neighborhood group in Ward 4, was formed to counter “blockbusting.” Real estate agents were instilling panic in white homeowners by convincing them racial minorities were moving into their neighborhoods and would drive down their home values. They persuaded white homeowners to sell their homes for low prices and then sold them to African American buyers at inflated prices.
Neighbors Inc. found real estate agents who would sell to all buyers and not steer white buyers away. It held housing tours and other events to stem white flight and foster diverse neighborhoods. Because of Neighbors Inc.’s successful work in Takoma, more branches of the organization were created in several cities across the country.
Today, Takoma’s diversity attracts people to the neighborhood.
“I wanted to live in a multiethnic, multiracial community,” says Loretta Neumann, a longtime resident. “The housing prices were much lower than in the mostly all-white neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park, where I lived before moving here.”
David Hamilton moved with his family to Takoma in 1965 and, except for a few years in Upstate New York while in graduate school, he has lived there ever since. He and his wife bought the house across the street from his parents, a 1920s bungalow.
Hamilton, a retired senior architect for the National Capital Planning Commission, recalls Takoma’s involvement in the civil rights movement.
“It was the dynamism back in those times because black and white people, Latinos, we were one pot coming together, going to the protests, meeting at the church up on Piney Branch and Aspen,” he said. “I’m sure similar activities were going on in other neighborhoods but in Takoma, it felt really, really embracing.”
Sara Green, a former chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B, moved to the area in 1975. She says she and her husband specifically looked for a racially integrated neighborhood where residents were active in the community.
“Takoma was well known as one of several politically active communities that were proud of being places where black and white neighbors worked hard to forge relationships and lobby the city for better schools and public services,” Green said.
Neighborhood advocacy continues to define Takoma. Neighbors Inc. still operates. Founded in 1974, Concerned Neighbors is a community group in North Takoma. The group focuses on quality-of-life issues such as noise and solicitation along Georgia Avenue.
Even newcomers to the neighborhood are bitten by the activist bug. When anti-immigrant fliers were distributed on cars in the neighborhood a couple of years ago, residents took action.
“When that happened, all of us and our kids were out with sidewalk chalk writing messages in English and in Spanish,” said Jena Crable, who moved to Takoma in 2012. “If you are going to put a hateful flier out, we’re going to literally draw murals all over the neighborhood in Spanish about how we don’t agree with that and how immigrants are welcome.”
Historic Takoma is a volunteer nonprofit group founded to preserve the heritage of Takoma Park and Takoma. Although the two jurisdictions have their own identities, they have much in common.
“It’s a cross-border community,” said Evan Yeats, an ANC commissioner in Takoma. “The cooperation helps both communities grow stronger.”
Jennifer Stinson, who is part of the design review committee for the ANC, was attracted to Takoma by the housing styles — bungalows, American Foursquares, farmhouses and Victorians from the early 1900s to 1930s. But what really sold her was the library, one of four Carnegie libraries in the District. The Renaissance Revival brick building has continuously served the neighborhood since 1911.
“It made me feel like Takoma was the quintessential neighborhood that I learned about in planning classes in architectural school,” she said.
Young families and Ethiopian immigrants with businesses along Georgia Avenue are part of a new wave in the neighborhood. Erin Palmer moved to Takoma from Shaw about seven years ago. She and her husband loved the accessibility of the library, rec center, pool and playground. But they also appreciated Takoma’s neighborliness.
“We were looking for something that had a little bit stronger community feel, more of a neighborhood vibe,” she said. “When we came here it was so easy to talk to folks who were third-generation Washingtonians. . . . For a family like ours, we don’t have either set of grandparents who are local, so we’ve built relationships with neighbors who can give us more of a sense of history in the neighborhood, the intergenerational relationships and perspective.”
Kate Healy moved to Takoma three years ago for similar reasons.
“We love that the neighborhood is so welcoming and that our kids can walk a couple doors down to school at Takoma Education Campus,” Healy said. “We love that the Metro is so close, and we can walk a couple blocks up the street for yoga or dinner or the farmers market. Or we can stay home and play in our backyard and not even realize we’re in the city.”
As Takoma grows, some residents are concerned about the amount of development taking place, particularly around the Metro station and near the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“I’m a resister. That’s what we do in Takoma. We resist,” Hamilton said. “Guys my age and my tenure, we’re uneased about the density of the development. I don’t want the density and new development to consume and overtake the heart of what drew me here in the first place.”
Living there: Takoma is roughly bounded by Eastern Avenue to the north and east, Georgia Avenue to the west and Tuckerman Avenue to the south.
Condos and rentals exist, but single-family homes make Takoma distinctive. According to Coldwell Banker real estate agent Lorin Culver, 88 properties sold in Takoma in the past year, including one co-op and 40 condos. There are two properties on the market: a five-bedroom, five-bathroom house listed for $1 million and a studio condo listed for $159,000.
Schools: Takoma Education Campus for elementary and middle school, Coolidge High.
Transit: The Takoma Metro station is on Cedar Street. The District Department of Transportation has plans to extend the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the Metro station, which will provide easier bike transit.
Crime: According to crimemap.dc.gov, in the past year, there have been 10 robberies and one assault with a dangerous weapon in Takoma.