Like the Northwest Washington neighborhoods of Van Ness, North Cleveland Park, Friendship Heights and American University Park that surround it, Tenleytown ranks high among people seeking an ideal urban community.
With quiet, tree-lined streets, shaded front yards, parkland and reputable schools, the quality of living in Tenleytown is high, residents say.
“One of the things we comment on after we go up Wisconsin Avenue to Rockville is that it’s so nice to get back to calmness here,” said Peter Hildebrand, who has lived there with his wife, Nan, for 15 years. “There’s less traffic, more trees, cooler air.”
The community consists of single-family colonials dating to the 1930s as well as semi-detached houses, rowhouses, condominiums and rentals.
But the residential areas are not what set Tenleytown apart from the surrounding neighborhoods. Much of community life revolves around several hangout spots — Blue Moo Yogurt, Tenley-Friendship Library, Fort Reno Park and the Middle C Music shop — that are decidedly quirky and Tenleytown-specific.
“My store is an integral part of the neighborhood,” said Myrna Sislen, owner of Middle C, the only full-service music store in Washington, which celebrated its 13th anniversary last October. “I’ve devoted my energies to creating a destination that’s welcoming and fun where kids can come after school and their parents feel it’s safe. I have 600 students per week, roughly half from the neighborhood.”
“When school lets out, this place gets completely crazy” in a good way, of course, said staffer Dave Nuttycombe.
As a result of the neighborhood’s attributes, residents say, people tend to find a way to stay there — even if they outgrow their houses. Large additions, renovations, upgrades, tear-downs and ongoing construction are common.
“It seems like people don’t move away, they build on,” Sislen said.
Where residents hang out: In the 19th century, Tenleytown was largely a rural village. The community expanded around the intersection of Wisconsin and Nebraska avenues, and today, multiple residential streets spread outward from it.
Residents were thrilled when Tenleytown Ace Hardware set up shop in the lower level of Best Buy. “We were so happy when they came in,” Sislen said.
Blue Moo Yogurt is another local destination. Bright colored chairs outside the front door are an invitation to go in, buy a cone and plop down, as two teenage girls were doing on a recent hot afternoon.
The Frame Shop, Picasso Gallery and Universal Floors are nearby independent shops.
Tenley-Friendship Library is a contemporary glass and metal building decorated with vertically angled perforated bands of copper symbolizing the pages of a book. Inside it is light and airy, and it is one of the city’s busiest branches.
Fort Reno Park, across the street from Wilson High School, is a green oasis with vast grass fields speckled with yellow dandelions and towering forts. “Cannon mounted at Fort Reno — the highest point in D.C. at 429 feet — helped repulse a Confederate attack on Fort Stevens on July 11-12, 1864,” reads a plaque. Summer concerts are typically held on the lawn.
The Washington bureau of NBC News and NBC 4, at 4001 Nebraska Ave. NW, hosted the second Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate in October 1960 and is Historical Marker No. 18 on the Heritage Trail.
Top of the Town: Tenleytown Heritage Trail — a joint venture of the Historical Society and Cultural Tourism DC — is a three-mile walking tour across the community marked by 19 sidewalk posters with vintage photos and text. The trail “offers great nuggets of history right here in our own back yard,” said Susan Jaquet, a lifelong resident who grew up on Yuma Street NW.
“So many places anchor the neighborhood and enrich our lives,” said former longtime resident Alta Mainer.
Living there: Tenleytown, Zip code 20016, is roughly bordered by Harrison and Fessenden streets on the north; Reno Road and Yuma Street on the east; Van Ness Street on the south; and 43rd Street on the west.
Jaquet, a realty agent with W.C. & A.N. Miller, said seven properties are for sale — ranging from $539,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo to $1.995 million for a six-bedroom, five-bathroom single-family home.
Six properties are under contract, ranging from $399,999 for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo to $1.249 million for a six-bedroom, four bathroom single-family home.
In the past year, 63 homes have sold, from $364,900 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo to $1.795 million for a five-bedroom, five-bathroom single-family.
Schools: Janney and Murch elementary; Alice Deal Middle; Woodrow Wilson High.
Transit: The neighborhood ranks high in walkability, and one can live without a car. Tenleytown Metro station on the Red line, at Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street, is roughly in the middle of the community, and there is frequent bus service along Wisconsin.
Crime: According to D.C. police, there were reports of four assaults with a dangerous weapon, six burglaries and 14 robberies in the past year.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.