From converted Howard dorms to multiunit public housing complexes, the neighborhood features a range of housing, but the dominant stock remains the Italianate and Gothic cottages designed in the tradition of A.J. Downing’s country homes. The 19th-century landscape designer’s writings propelled the Gothic Revival in the United States.
LeDroit’s proximity to nightlife is also what attracts people. But during coronavirus shutdowns, they found that they didn’t need to leave LeDroit to enjoy life. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 1B01 Larry Handerhan says residents often told him that even with U Street restaurants and bars closed, they felt lucky to be there because of the neighbors and open space.
Time at home caused many to invest further in LeDroit, like Cindy Paladines. After settling in LeDroit in 2015, she had joined the LeDroit Park Civic Association, but didn’t keep up with it because of work. Stuck at home though, she rescued a puppy and found herself spending more time with neighbors. Now, she’s on the Gage-Eckington Dog Park’s fundraising committee as well as neighborhood WhatsApp groups.
She took in her puppy, Rocco, for company and didn’t expect the friends that would follow.
“You have to see them twice a day, so we really bonded,” she says of friends made at the park.
It wasn’t only dog owners coming out though, she says.
“Everyone was home,” she says. “Some of my neighbors used to commute long distances from LeDroit Park, and now they’re some of my closest friends.”
It’s unclear how residents returning to work in person will affect LeDroit’s equilibrium; but, for Rocco, it is likely to mean more time with their neighbor Mechelle Baylor, who dog-sits for Paladines. A lifelong LeDroit resident, Baylor lives in the house her grandfather bought in 1929.
Many can read about the history of LeDroit, but Baylor lived it. Her mother, Dolores Baylor, was looked after by Black educator Mary McLeod Bethune, and Mechelle remembers when Jesse Jackson bought the house up the street, though he never lived there.
“[Jackson] could’ve went to Capitol Hill,” Baylor says, “he could have went across the bridge to Anacostia, anywhere that’s historic. But LeDroit Park? That’s a big difference.”
The name carries cachet, she says.
Today, Baylor receives offers for more than $1 million for her home, but, like her parents, she plans to leave it to her son.
Baylor also remembers the history behind the cast-iron gate at the corner of Sixth and T streets Northwest. She’s unsure if it’s original, but for her, it recalls the famous fence that was meant to keep Black people out and which was eventually destroyed by fed up nearby residents, according to “Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital.”
Like many LeDroit residents, Baylor has a yard where Rocco can play. But she finds other reasons to go to the park, like Common Good City Farm, where she buys fresh produce.
Since 2008, the farm has given residents a place to have a hand in growing their food. During the pandemic it became a vital resource. It closed to visitors, focused on farming and started giving out free produce. On average, it gave away over 300 boxes every week.
As things reopen, the farm will resume monthly community events, like “Tomato Party,” a late-July event where residents can sample tomatoes grown there. Common Good will also partner with LeDroit-based nonprofit Uniting Our Youth to teach kids about growing food.
As restaurants and bars reopen on U Street, residents will take advantage of that access again. But after the year at home, many will remember that LeDroit offered a space shielded away from the hustle of the city where neighbors came together in support of one another. Handerhan uses the example of Uniting Our Youth’s summer program, which got off the ground through pooled community resources.
“What started off as a small group,” he says, “became this much larger thing, informally by people saying, ‘Oh, I have a neighbor at [the Department of Parks and Recreation] . . . I have a neighbor who can come and do something around reading for the kids.’ It’s almost this word-of-mouth, old-timey [thing].”
Living there: According to Richard Myers, LeDroit Park Civic Association parliamentarian, the neighborhood is bound by W Street to the north, Second Street to the east, Rhode Island and Florida avenues to the south; and to the west by Bohrer Street to U Street Alley to Fifth Street to Oakdale Place to Fourth Street.
In 2021, 33 homes sold in LeDroit Park, including 14 condos and 19 detached or semidetached houses, according to McEnearney Associates real estate agent Michael Makris. The highest price for a condo was $1.3 million for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom unit. The lowest price for a condo was $370,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit. The highest price for a detached house was $1.2 million for a six-bedroom, four-bathroom home. The lowest price was $455,000 for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home. The average home sales price was $877,420, a 7 percent increase from 2020 when the average home sales price was $819,296. Makris says the increase is a result of the pandemic.
“You had people not moving as much,” he said. “Even if they were finding new jobs they didn’t have to go anywhere, so inventory was crunched and demand dramatically increased as a result of interest rates being so low.”
Schools: Cleveland Elementary, Cardozo Education Campus.
Transportation: Closest Metro station is Shaw-Howard University (Green and Yellow Lines). Metrobus has service along Florida Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue and Seventh Street. Main thoroughfares are Interstate 395 and Route 50.
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