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In D.C.’s Crestwood, a vibrant mix of people, home styles and history

A bench in the Northwest D.C. neighborhood of Crestwood provides a good spot for reading. The oldest homes in Crestwood date to 1910, when developers began gradually building on 300 acres of rolling parkland. (Craig Hudson/for The Washington Post)

Nine years ago, Pavan Khoobchandani and his wife, Rita, wanted to leave their U Street apartment. They were looking for a diverse D.C. neighborhood of single-family homes with outdoor space for their growing family.

Crestwood, a leafy oasis off 16th Street NW, offered not just a varied mix of people but also architecture and a blend of urban and suburban living.

“The number one thing that attracted me to the neighborhood was its diversity in the people who live here regardless of race or family composition or sexual orientation,” Khoobchandani said. “We decided against other D.C. neighborhoods in favor of a very robust community with all kinds.”

Carlos Garcia, owner of real estate company Eng Garcia Properties, agrees. He raves about his neighbors as well as the eclectic range of house styles.

“My wife and I are absolutely passionate about architecture,” he said, “and some of the homes here from the 1920s and 30s are so beautiful and romantic, they make your heart melt.”

Tudors, Colonials, ramblers and mid-century moderns line the streets, which are filled with large, shady trees. Many of the homes have additions, along with gardens and well-maintained landscaping.

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Since 2005, Garcia, his wife, Lucinda, their three children and two dogs have lived in a 1925 stone French country manor. The five-bedroom house has three living rooms as well as a one-bedroom carriage house.

“Houses from this era are solid, ornate, and very beautiful,” Garcia said.

The oldest homes in Crestwood date to 1910, when developers began gradually building on 300 acres of rolling parkland. In 1938, Paul Stone and partner Arthur Lord bought property in the southern part of the plot and named the development Crestwood. The name became associated with the entire area that runs along 16th Street on the east, from Colorado Avenue on the northwest to Park Road and Piney Branch Parkway on the southwest and south, to a dividing line on the west side just above Blagden Avenue NW in Rock Creek Park. The neighborhood is surrounded by Rock Creek Park on three sides, which many residents say attracted them to the neighborhood.

From the late 1930s into the 1970s, other developers built a mix of homes and one apartment building, Crestwood Apartments.

Crestwood did not start off integrated, as it is today. In fact, Stone and Lord wrote racial covenants into their deeds, which prevented Jews, Catholics and Blacks from living there, according to David Swerdloff, Crestwood’s official historian. His book, “Crestwood: 300 Acres, 300 Years,” details how the developers used the word “restricted” in their advertising, which was 1930s code for “Whites only.”

Swerdloff, who lived in Crestwood for 33 years before retiring to Florida in 2018, said the demographics changed after the Supreme Court struck down racial covenants in 1948. By 1960, the number of Black and White residents was nearly equal.

When Jackie Jackson’s family moved to a red brick Colonial on Shepherd Street in 1963, they were the first Black family on the block, she said. Soon, they found pockets of other African American families who have remained in the neighborhood for years. Jackson, 71, moved back into her family home in the early 1990s after “running all the way from home in the 1980s to the Crestwood Apartments,” she likes to say.

Crestwood became known as part of the “Gold Coast” neighborhoods along 16th Street where the District’s African American elite lived. Black luminaries living in Crestwood over the years have included Benjamin O. Davis Jr., commander of the Tuskegee Airmen and the first Black general in the Air Force; Benjamin Hooks, head of the NAACP; and Walter E. Fauntroy, for many years the D.C. delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Doug Barker, 62, who has lived with his partner in Crestwood since 1992, is proud of the neighborhood’s history of Black ownership.

“We value that, and the area continues to attract and retain all kinds,” he said. Yet, Crestwood maintains its cohesiveness, he said. “People really look out for one another.”

Khoobchandani, who’s president of the Crestwood Civic Association, agrees. He said the association sponsors activities throughout the year, including a Christmas party, a Labor Day picnic and a Fourth of July parade. Several streets typically host block parties throughout the warmer months, but no activities took place during the pandemic.

Barker co-leads the civic association’s Green Team, which tends to environmental issues, including caring for hundreds of mature trees and planting new ones. Since 2009, he said, the group has had seven community tree plantings that put more than 200 native trees into the neighborhood. The Green Team also sponsors recycling days, alley cleanings and plant swaps.

Barker said he was especially attracted to the neighborhood’s location, just 10 minutes from the White House.

“And at the same time, you’re in this green oasis surrounded by Rock Creek Park,” he said.

Another draw is the neighborhood’s family connections, according to Barker. He says he likes that residents such as Jackson and her family have aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents living in the neighborhood, something he didn’t experience in Dupont Circle.

A dog lover, Barker also touts Crestwood’s dog way stations, run by volunteers and equipped with bags and trash cans to dispose of waste. His partner, Sam Kilpatrick, tends a station near their house. Jackson, who has a Shih Tzu named Babe, maintains one near her home.

“Crestwood takes its dogs very seriously,” Barker said.

The neighborhood takes good care of its seniors, as well. Jackson runs the civic association’s Aging in Place program, which helps elderly neighbors in need. During the pandemic, she was busy grocery shopping, helping with doctors’ appointments and arranging snow shoveling.

The neighborhood has no commercial district, but it’s a quick drive to restaurants and shopping in Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle and downtown.

Crestwood is popular among home buyers with its convenient location and well-kept houses, which don’t often come on the market, Garcia said. There’s only one house for sale, a three-bedroom, three-bathroom Tudor for $895,000. The average sale price over the past year was $1.4 million. The lowest-priced home was a three-bedroom, three-bathroom ranch rambler that sold for $857,500. The highest-priced home was a six-bedroom, six-bathroom brick Colonial that went for $2.5 million.

“This is a wonderful neighborhood with beautiful homes that have been well maintained from the time my family came here in 1963 to the present,” Jackson said. “And that’s why so many people are trying to move here.”

Schools: Powell Elementary, Alice Deal Middle, Woodrow Wilson High.

Transit: Metrobus runs along 16th Street. The Silver Spring Metro Station on the Red Line is about 15 minutes away by car and 25 minutes by bus.

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