“That was my initiation into Trinidad,” she said. “Trinidad had a reputation. You minded your business and kept your head down.”
Despite the neighborhood’s problems with crime, McDonald said, she found a loving community where people looked out for one another. She recalls getting on a bus a week after she graduated from college. She said a woman she had never met approached her and said, “I am so proud of you.” The woman explained that throughout McDonald’s time in school, she sat by her window every night and watched her get off the bus holding her books. She didn’t know where McDonald lived but said that she watched her walk down the block until she was safely out of sight. McDonald said that was when she understood the sense of community in Trinidad.
Crime has declined since the 1980s and ’90s, although pockets of it still exist. Residents emphasize that it’s not any worse than other areas of the city. Reflecting on what she would want people unfamiliar with the area to know about Trinidad, McDonald said, “Every time they show Washington, D.C., it’s the monuments, but D.C. is so much bigger than that. There are families here who have been here for a long time. We’re a big little town.”
The sense of community has remained strong through every change the area has experienced. Today, Trinidad is an attractive place for young people, families and students attending Gallaudet University, which is just beyond the neighborhood’s West Virginia Avenue border. Within Trinidad’s borders, it is almost entirely residential. Streets are lined with 20th-century brick rowhouses and Craftsman-style homes with front porches for sitting, interspersed with houses that have been flipped and new residences that can go for more than $700,000. Many have backyards.
Zac Hoffman is an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member who moved to Trinidad from Shaw. He says he’s found a much better sense of community in Trinidad than in his previous neighborhood, which was broken up by businesses and other commercial buildings.
“Having this unique geographical setup, it’s really conducive to knowing your neighbors,” he said.
Stephen Cobb, who moved to Trinidad three and a half years ago, agrees.
“Everyone around me was very welcoming when I first moved in, and I have done the same when new neighbors have moved in,” said Cobb, who is also an ANC commissioner. We pick up each other’s packages when folks are out of town; we borrow household items from each other; and we spend time together when the weather’s nice, whether on a neighbor’s deck or on our porches.”
While Trinidad itself is heavily residential, there are many entertainment opportunities just beyond its borders. The H Street Corridor is a stone’s throw away and offers everything from grocery and clothing stores to bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Union Market is a 10-minute walk from the neighborhood’s West Virginia Avenue border. The gourmet food hall has more than 40-plus vendors, from pop-up dumpling and ice cream stands to permanent fixtures such as Buffalo & Bergen, inspired by old-school Brooklyn soda shops.
New to the Union Market district is La Cosecha, a contemporary Latin American marketplace home to various merchants and culinary experiences, from Salvadoran pupusas and Panamanian coffee roasters to Mexican fine dining at Las Gemelas. Union Market also hosts a drive-in movie each summer starting in June. A different movie is shown on the first Friday of every month through Oct. 1 ($20 per car).
Living there: Trinidad is bounded by West Virginia Avenue to the northwest, Mount Olivet Road to the northeast, Bladensburg Road to the southeast and Florida Avenue to the southwest.
In the past six months, 113 homes have sold in Trinidad, a 64 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2020, according to Melissa Ebong of the Keller Williams real estate firm. There are 45 properties for sale, ranging from a $260,000 studio condo with one bathroom to a three-bedroom, four-bathroom condo with a den for $995,000. There are 15 homes under contract, ranging from a one-bathroom studio listed at $190,000 to a four-bedroom, one-bathroom semidetached rowhouse listed for $790,000. Properties sold in the past six months range from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $285,000 to a four-bedroom, four-bathroom interior rowhouse for just under $1.2 million.
Transit: The neighborhood is served by several bus routes. Union Station is a 20-minute walk away and offers Metrorail service on the Red Line. Travelers can also use this station for connections to Amtrak, MARC, VRE Commuter Rail and Greyhound bus service. Bike lanes are being installed along West Virginia Avenue. New York Avenue and Maryland Avenue are nearby major thoroughfares.
Schools: Wheatley Education Campus for elementary and middle school, Dunbar High.
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