Fairlawn is a quiet community east of the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington.
About 6,000 people live on peaceful streets along Anacostia Park, which hugs the river. The neighborhood is a short drive from Capitol Hill via the 11th Street and Sousa bridges.
“A feeling of calmness comes over you when you cross the bridge,” said Carol Casperson, a 35-year resident and recording secretary for the Fairlawn Citizens Association (FCA).
“People live here because they want to,” said Diane Fleming, FCA treasurer, president of the Anacostia Garden Club and a resident for 50 years.
“And they come here to stay,” added Casperson. Three generations live in the house next to Fleming’s.
The neighborhood’s housing stock is varied — it includes semi-detached and detached houses, condominiums and rental apartments. Modest brick rowhouses dating from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s — many with front porches and white awnings — dominate. “Because the porches are next to each other, you say hello to your neighbors,” Casperson said.
Gaining new attention: In the late 1800s, Fairlawn was suburban or even rural in character, with large gardens and estates owned exclusively by whites. In the 1920s, it was a bedroom community for people working west of the river, especially at the Washington Navy Yard, and was still mostly white, according to Graylin Presbury, FCA president and author of “Fairlawn: From the Flats to the Heights.”
“We’re one of the first developed communities east of the river off Capitol Hill,” he said.
Anacostia High School was desegregated in 1955, then the neighborhood followed suit in the mid-1960s. “This was one of the last neighborhoods east of the river to integrate,” he said.
Though Fairlawn has little name recognition, residents say it’s gaining more attention from outside house hunters. “I get fliers all the time asking if I want to sell,” said Presbury.
Community assets: The FCA meets regularly in the Anacostia Library to manage local concerns, enhance residents’ quality of life and plan community events. The organization writes the monthly Fairlawn Informer newsletter, runs a Web site and conducts a 240-person discussion group. It will co-sponsor some debates among candidates for the D.C. Council seat left vacant by the death of Marion Barry.
The 1,200-acre Anacostia Park lies along the river north of Interstate 295, with picnic and play areas, a swimming pool, and a roller-skating pavilion. A pedestrian overpass across the freeway provides easy access from Fairlawn, but the park draws visitors from around the area. “In the summer we see lots of Maryland and Virginia license plates,” said Presbury.
The waterfront is lined with tall grasses and patches of wetland vegetation, dormant now but lush and verdant in spring and summer. Seagulls fly overhead, and dozens float on the water amid ice patches. A roller skater recently glided by on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, a pedestrian-bike path that runs through the park.
“It’s astounding to see all the people,” said Casperson. “When I moved here, AK-47s were going off. Now in summer the place is teeming.” Children play soccer, baseball, flag football, Frisbee; adults grill; and fishermen hang at the water’s edge.
“And this is where to see the sun set over the river,” said Fleming.
Living there: Fairlawn, Zip code 20020, is bordered roughly by the Anacostia River to the northwest, Pennsylvania Avenue to the northeast, Minnesota Avenue and Naylor Road to the east, and Good Hope Road to the southwest.
According to Tracy Booker-Trammell, an associate broker with Anacostia River Realty, 12 properties are for sale, at prices ranging from $28,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bath condo to $628,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bath single-family house.
Thirteen properties are under contract, from a $285,000 four-bedroom, three-bath condo to a $449,000 six-bedroom, three-bathroom house.
Over the past year, 77 homes sold, ranging from a three-bedroom, one-bath condo for $20,000 to a four-bedroom, three-bath house for $469,000.
Schools: Ketcham and Orr Elementary, Kramer Middle, Anacostia Senior High.
Transit: Interstates 295 and 695 are visible as arching ribbons of highway from the north edge of the neighborhood. “There’s heavy traffic weekday mornings, but it’s not crazy,” said Presbury.
The Anacostia station on Metro’s Green Line is just west of Fairlawn in the Anacostia neighborhood. Metrobus has extensive service in the area, including routes across the river to the Potomac Avenue and Eastern Market Metro stations on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines. Capital Bikeshare has three stations along Good Hope Road, and Zipcar is available on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Street parking is plentiful.
Shopping: “We used to have shops, restaurants and a movie theater, but the 1970s movement to malls made them disappear,” said Fleming. Now Good Hope Road is inundated with social service offices plus a few small shops and fast-food outlets.
The nearest supermarket is about half a mile to the southeast, a Safeway in Good Hope Marketplace on Alabama Avenue SE. A Giant Food store farther west on Alabama Avenue is about two miles from Fairlawn.
Crime: According to D.C. police, Fairlawn had one homicide, 56 assaults with a dangerous weapon, 54 robberies and 39 burglaries in the past 12 months.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.