Walking out of the Deanwood Metro stop onto Minnesota Avenue NE, the recreation center is the first thing you see. The $32 million facility opened its doors in 2010. Najee Prince, who works there and has strong family ties to Deanwood, participates in a women’s flag football league at the center. For Prince, the games are about having fun, but the center represents more for the community.
“It’s for kids to be able to have somewhere to go,” Prince said. “They don’t [have] to be in the streets all day.”
Deanwood was established by a white slaveholder, Levi Sheriff, who purchased the land in 1833. The construction of a railroad station in 1871 and the Benning Racetrack in 1890 created interest in the rural area. After Sheriff’s daughters inherited the land, they subdivided it, hoping to get rich. The area attracted a racially mixed, working-class population. By the turn of the 20th century, Deanwood was a mostly black neighborhood. It was not until a development boom in the 1920s led by black architects such as Howard T. Woodson and Lewis Giles Sr. that Deanwood began to shed some of its rural reputation.
The neighborhood was home to D.C.’s first and only amusement park, Suburban Gardens. The park opened in 1921 and for almost two decades served as an alternative to the whites-only Glen Echo Park in nearby Maryland. Community leader and civil rights activist Nannie Helen Burroughs founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in 1909 to provide vocational education to black girls. One of the major streets in the neighborhood is named for her.
By the 1960s, a bustling business district flourished in and around the intersection of 45th Street NE and Sheriff Road NE, which included grocery stores, beauty salons and pharmacies. Today, most of the business district has disappeared.
Lifelong Deanwood resident, Keith Woods, 66, laments that his neighborhood lacks the basic amenities common in urban areas.
“When you look around here, there are no stores,” Woods said. “If you want to go to the grocery store you have to jump on the bus or drive 20 minutes away.”
Fellow Deanwood resident, Carlos Branch, 19, points to the scarcity of places to buy food.
Deanwood has been designated an Opportunity Zone, which provides tax incentives for investments in new businesses and commercial projects. The Warrenton Group, a D.C.-based real estate firm, has four projects in the works, according to its website. These projects include two affordable housing residences and the renovation of the historic Strand Theater into a dining and entertainment venue.
Branch grew up in Deanwood and appreciates how it fosters a strong sense of community.
“It’s a good neighborhood because everyone helps,” he said. “Everyone helps everyone out in the best way they can.”
However, he worries about safety. “Around here, it’s kind of dangerous. There’s always something going on,” he said.
Woods says the neighborhood has lost too much to violence.
“There are about five boys from around here, that I knew, that we’ve lost in the last couple of years,” he said. He cited the stabbing death of 15-year-old John Rufus Evans III at the Metro stop a few years ago and a shooting around the corner from the recreation center in April that left two dead as examples of how crime has persisted in Deanwood.
For Branch, the recreation center has become a safe space.
“If I’m going outside, I’m coming here because I want to be somewhere positive,” Branch said.
Living there: Deanwood’s boundaries are Eastern Avenue NE to the northeast, Kenilworth Avenue NE to the northwest, Division Avenue NE to the southeast and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE to the south.
According to Bright MLS, 90 homes have sold in Deanwood in the past year. The median price was $346,000. The most expensive was a four-bedroom, four-bathroom house that sold for $612,000. The least expensive was a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house that sold for $150,000.
There are 17 houses on the market. The most expensive home is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house listed at $499,000. The least expensive is a one-bedroom, one-bathroom house listed at $180,000.
The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $1,324 last year.
In 2017, Redfin named Deanwood one of the 10 hottest neighborhoods in America for home buyers because of its access to public transportation and affordability. Tony McConkey of Sell DC Real Estate says buyers are excited about the prospects in Deanwood. He says outside investors are coming into the neighborhood and buying older properties.
“They’ve gone in and ripped out everything and started fresh,” McConkey said. “They’re like brand-new homes. That’s why you see the big [price] disparities between houses on the same block. One might sell for $180,000 while the house right next to it sells for $330,000.”
Schools: Houston and Burrville elementary; Kelly Miller middle; IDEA Public Charter High; and Ron Brown College Preparatory High.
Transit: Deanwood is served by two Metro stations: Deanwood at Polk Street NE and Minnesota Avenue NE. Several bus lines run through the neighborhood. Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue and the Anacostia Freeway are the nearest major thoroughfares.