“I work in Bethesda and do a lot of things downtown, so this location is excellent,” said Cunningham. Before moving, “I was living in Kalorama but needed a place that was a little more affordable and I wanted to be in the city,” he said. “It’s a lovely place.” By moving to Cathedral Heights, he says he shortened his commute. “The commute to Bethesda is easy. It’s all against traffic.”
The neighborhood’s name generated some buzz when it appeared in the Netflix series “House of Cards” as a D.C. Metro station (although no Metro station has ever existed there). In fact, many residents of Cathedral Heights say one thing that makes their neighborhood special is that it’s not a thoroughfare. “We weren’t concerned about not having a Metro nearby because it kept it really quiet,” said Sara Magovern, who grew up in adjacent American University Park (and later Bethesda), moved to New York City for a number of years and then bought a home in Cathedral Heights.
When contemplating a move back to the Washington area after years of living in New York City, Magovern knew what she wanted. “I love the city, love walking and wanted to avoid the ‘burbs,” she said. Despite having grown up nearby, when their real estate agent suggested they look at a home in the neighborhood, Magovern wasn’t familiar with it. “I’m a D.C. native and I kept having to ask the Realtor where the house was that we were looking at,” she said. “It was a little pocket I hadn’t spent a lot of time in. I’d never gone into the neighborhood that much and was really surprised to find it,” she said.
But the townhouse she and her husband, Mike Leahy, eventually settled on had everything she’d been looking for. “It felt like a Brooklyn brownstone with two parking spaces, a little patch of yard, and you could walk everywhere. It’s very close and convenient to downtown and very walkable. It’s a really diverse little pocket. There’s not a lot of turnover,” she said.
No car necessary: Walkability was a huge factor for Roxanne Kaufmann and her husband, Neal Fitzpatrick. Kaufmann had grown up in Washington, but the couple moved to Rockville to raise their children. Kaufmann never stopped missing city life. “I always wanted to move back,” she said.
After their children left home, the couple bought a co-op unit in the neighborhood. “We walk to restaurants, we walk up to Wisconsin Avenue, we walk to the drugstore, the grocery store. We don’t have to get in our car if we don’t want to,” said Kaufmann. “It’s in the city but has a feeling of green you don’t find on Connecticut Avenue. We’re surrounded by trees and grass,” she said.
Resident Victor Silveira said that the walkability and green space in the neighborhood have been especially important during the pandemic. “These days, with covid-19, I like our townhome because we are in a low-density area, we can walk out the front door and go for a long walk to the Cathedral Gardens, Glover Park, walk to Georgetown or Dupont Circle in 45 minutes, and so forth. The Cathedral is a great neighbor; its Bishop Garden is a good choice for summer picnics,” he said.
Silveira found his three-story brick Cathedral Heights townhouse in the mid-1990s while commuting on Massachusetts Avenue. As the area’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission representative, he was most proud of his efforts to increase the number of trees in the neighborhood. “I derived a lot of satisfaction from helping solve local issues, but one of my proudest achievements is a simple one: Working with the D.C. arborist to plant trees on our streets, to increase tree mass and summer shade under its foliage,” he said.
Living there: Cathedral Heights is bordered by Glover Archbold Park to the west; Macomb Street NW, Idaho Avenue NW and Newark Street NW to the north; Wisconsin Avenue NW to the east; and Tunlaw Road NW and Fulton Street NW to the south, according to Silveira.
There are 25 homes (detached, townhouse, condominium and co-op) for sale in the Cathedral Heights/Observatory Circle neighborhood, ranging from a one-bathroom studio listed for $205,000 to a six-bedroom, six-bathroom, recently renovated property listed for $3,250,000, according to Kathleen Lynch Battista, a real estate agent with Cathedral Realty LLC.
In the past six months, 96 homes have sold, ranging from a one-bathroom studio for $175,000 to a Spanish Colonial with six bedrooms and five bathrooms for $2,900,000. The average price of detached homes and townhouses sold last year was approximately $1,770,000, while the average price of condos and co-ops sold last year was approximately $450,000.
Parks and shopping: The neighborhood has a mix of ages, from retirees to young and older singles to families with small children. The large Newark Street Park is just one of the many places for children to play. And next to the playground, gardeners tend their plots in the Newark Street Community Garden. Its proximity to the Glover Archbold Park with its trail network is ideal for walking, hiking and running.
The recently built Cathedral Commons shopping center, at the north end of the neighborhood, is an easy walk for many Cathedral Heights residents, and many say they do most of their shopping and errands there. There are fitness centers, a Giant supermarket, banks, a spa, at least one coffee shop, restaurants, a bike store, a liquor store and more.
“Cathedral Commons has just about everything you need,” said Magovern. “Plus, a local farmer operates a great vegetable and fruit stand on Saturday and Sunday mornings. People come from all different directions with tote bags and walk with their dogs,” she said.
The neighborhood is also a dog-walker’s paradise. “It’s a huge dog neighborhood,” said Magovern. Dog owners socialize with their pups at the Newark Street Dog Park, at many of the grassy areas in the neighborhood, and at the natural social networks that arise in the gardens and courtyards of the neighborhood’s condominiums and co-op buildings. “If you have a dog, you get to know everyone,” said Magovern, who has a West Highland terrier. “I’ve met such interesting people. It’s been a nice extension to my life,” she said.
Schools: Stoddert Elementary, Hardy Middle and Woodrow Wilson High.
Transit: The neighborhood lies at least a mile west of the nearest Metro station (Cleveland Park), but Metrobus provides public transportation through the neighborhood to all parts of the city. “There’s a perception that it’s not as accessible, maybe because we’re not close to a Metro, but the buses are so convenient to Georgetown, downtown, Capitol Hill,” said Cunningham. The Metrobus N line buses run from Farragut Square north to Cathedral Heights and on to Friendship Heights, while the Metrobus 30 buses run up and down Wisconsin Avenue from Friendship Heights to Georgetown. “I take the buses quite often,” said Cunningham.