Deanwood, a two-square-mile community east of the Anacostia River in Northeast Washington, is a neighborhood in transition.
The streets are lined with single-story cottages and two-level brick duplexes. The houses are often small — 900 to 1,200 square feet — but with ample yards. Some of the homes are refurbished, with new windows, porches and paint jobs.
Still, others are dilapidated and candidates for tear-downs. Scattered through the community are vacant lots as well as new three-level houses that seem incongruent with the streetscape. Deanwood is one of the few places in the District where you can still get a house for less than $50,000.
“We’re starting to see larger homes, around 2,000 square feet,” said Gregori Stewart, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 7C, which includes Deanwood.
“The community objects to the three-
story height because they look out of place,” he added. Construction is based on local zoning laws, which require a house footprint to be a maximum of 40 percent of the size of the lot area. Therefore, builders build up.
“We’re working with the D.C. Office of Planning to increase the allowable house size to 60 percent of the lot area so that a 2,000-square-foot house can be built on two levels instead of three,” Stewart said. “Height is what bothers people, not the house size. People want more space.”
In search of retail: Deanwood evolved from former slave plantations in the decades after the Civil War. It was one of the city’s earliest majority-African American communities, and some streets were unpaved until the 1960s.
“Today we have a diverse neighborhood with people who’ve been here their whole lives — even several generations of one family — mixed with newcomers, some from different economic strata,” said the Rev. Brian W. Jackson, pastor of Randall Memorial United Methodist Church. “You can watch the community change in front of your eyes, yet there’s a level of dignity and resilience that’s part of its long-term character.”
Churches are woven deeply into the fabric of Deanwood, and the neighborhood has several longtime businesses — including barbershops and the eatery Jumpin’ Out the Pan, whose sign advertises “Southern Cookin’ With DC Flava.”
Still, the area is short on businesses such as hardware stores, ice cream parlors and coffee shops. “One of the biggest challenges is getting more retail,” Stewart said.
A Safeway supermarket on 40th Street off Benning Road isn’t far away.
Outdoor parks offer green space. Indoor pools at Woodson High School and Deanwood Recreation Center are open to residents. Off-street parking is plentiful.
Marvin Gaye Park — named for the locally born musician, singer and songwriter — is a woodland haven of trees, benches, shade, walking and bike paths. But there are trouble spots.
“We’re working with the city police and have made a significant dent, although the problem of open-air drug markets isn’t totally gone,” Stewart said. “We need to get more families, more people into the park. I talked to the pastor and said, ‘When we clean up the park, when we get rid of the bad guys, I need you to fill the park up with residents. Bring your entire Sunday service there. Hold your revivals there.’ And I’m asking school principals and teachers to organize field trips to the park. I know we’ll be successful.”
Living there: Deanwood, in Zip code 20019, is bordered by Interstate 295 (the Anacostia Freeway) to the northwest, Eastern Avenue (the Maryland state line) and Division Avenue to the east, and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue to the south and southwest.
Most of the homes are detached single-family dwellings, but there are also rowhouses, duplexes and a few apartment buildings.
According to Larry Bivins, an agent at Long & Foster, 15 properties are on the market, ranging from a bank-owned three-bedroom, one-bathroom single-family house for $33,800 to a five-bedroom, three-bath single-family for $359,999.
Fourteen properties are under contract, ranging from a two-bedroom, 11 / 2-bath semi-detached home at $59,000 to a three-bedroom, 31 / 2-bath single-family house for $379,500.
Over the past year, 64 properties sold in the neighborhood, ranging from $30,000 for a three-bedroom, one-bathroom single-family house to $320,000 for a four-bedroom, 31 / 2-bath single-family.
Transit: “Any home you buy in the neighborhood, you’re not more than a 10-minute walk to the Metro,” Stewart said. Four Metro stations are nearby — Deanwood and Minnesota Avenue on the Orange Line and Benning Road and Capitol Heights on the Blue and Silver lines. Metrobus’s U4 route runs through the center of the neighborhood, and other lines run along its edges.
Capital Bikeshare has a station at the Deanwood Recreation Center and two along Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue. By car, Deanwood is about 15 minutes from downtown Washington.
Schools: Drew, Burrville, Aiton and Houston elementary schools; Kelly Miller Middle; and H.D. Woodson High.
Crime: In the past year, according to D.C. police, there were 103 robberies, 72 assaults with a dangerous or deadly weapon, 65 burglaries, and two homicides.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.