“Having grown up in Reston, Va., I loved the woods, but wanted the ability to walk through the city at will,” says Courtney Tolbert, who had lived in almost every quadrant of the District by the time she landed in Woodley Park in 1988. She had just ended a romantic relationship and was living with her parents, eager to find her own place. Woodley Park had everything she wanted in a neighborhood.
“I thought it was rather magical to be able to go out, catch a movie, have dinner and drinks and walk home,” she said. “Woodley Park is that balance between the convenience of city living with the relative quiet and rich expression of nature. You can catch glimpses of fascinating and diverse birds, take a walk through Rock Creek Park, or enjoy cuisine from many different regions of the world.”
Peter Brusoe is a longtime resident with a similar experience. He moved from Albany for graduate school and lived in student housing in Bethesda, which he strongly disliked.
“There was nothing to do on the weekends, you had to take a shuttle to get to the Metro. You resided there, but you didn’t really ‘live’ out there,” he says.
As soon as his lease was up, he started looking for a new place. He wanted somewhere central and affordable, with green space and walkability to restaurants and grocery stores. He had trouble finding a place that offered it all, until he stumbled on Woodley Park.
“Woodley Park is like a small village in Vermont nestled in the bustling metropolis of D.C.,” Brusoe said. “It had everything I wanted, and things I didn’t know I wanted like a giant mural of Marilyn Monroe.
“It has all of the perks of living in Washington, but you know your neighbors, your neighbors know you. You see them at the farmers market, you see them at church. You gather together for the community picnic and the neighborhood holiday party.”
Woodley Park offers an abundance of ways for residents to get involved in the community. The Woodley Park Community Association, for which Tolbert serves as president and Brusoe as vice president, hosts a summer picnic, a holiday party in the winter and a monthly get-to-know-your-neighbors night where residents come together for a meal at a local restaurant. The nearby Cleveland Park Library hosts author talks, and the National Zoo offers events such as the annual Zoo Lights.
According to Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jimmy Dubois, residents’ primary complaints are about commercial vacancy rates.
“In Woodley Park there’s some concern — a lot of people do some of their shopping up around the Cleveland Park Metro and there’s a lot of concern about vacancy rates with the retail up there,” Dubois says. “There are spaces where restaurants have gone away and spaces that remain vacant, sometimes for years at a time.”
Dubois says that in community meetings, residents disagree on the reasons for this. Some point to high rents for businesses as a reason, though his opinion is that Woodley Park is an inherently more residential neighborhood.
“It’s not the most attractive place to do business because there just aren’t as many prospective customers compared to other, denser neighborhoods around the city,” he says.
“I don’t think Woodley Park is a destination neighborhood for people who live in the region the same way that 14th Street or U Street is but there is still retail activity that goes on there because of these two gigantic hotels [Omni Shoreham and the Washington Marriott Wardman Park] so there’s a lot of business that comes in through out-of-town visitors too.”
Despite occasional disagreements over development, residents are happy with where they live.
“We have something very special in Woodley Park. It’s not just the buildings, or the businesses, or the zoo or the history, it’s the sense of community that we have together,” Brusoe says. “We sometimes have debates about how the neighborhood should change and grow and at times they get a bit a passionate, but at the end of the day we’re here for the good of one another.”
Living there: The community association’s website lists the boundaries of Woodley Park as Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo on the east; Calvert Street, Cleveland Avenue and Garfield Street on the south; 34th Street on the west; and Woodley Road to its intersection with Klingle Road on the north.
The neighborhood is known for the architecture of its early 20th-century single-family rowhouses, many which have gone through extensive renovations to maintain their historic character while updating their interiors.
According to Rob Carter at Compass Real Estate, 36 homes have sold in Woodley Park in the past six months, ranging from a $324,000 one-bedroom, one-bathroom condominium at the Shoreham North to a $3.3 million three-bedroom, four-bathroom condo at Wardman Tower. A four-bedroom, three-bathroom single-family home sold for just over $1 million. There are 13 homes on the market, including a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo at the Woodley Wardman listed for $430,000. The median sale price in Woodley Park is $720,000, which includes condos, co-ops and single-family homes.
Schools: Oyster-Adams Bilingual, John Eaton Elementary and Wilson High.
Transportation: The Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park Metro stations on the Red Line serve the neighborhood. The Circulator bus runs through the neighborhood, as do several WMATA bus lines.