Dupont Circle | Logan Circle
About Dupont Circle
Located in the “Old City” of Washington, Dupont Circle is an area that Pierre L’Enfant had included in the original plan of the City of Washington. But, it was the Board of Public Works, under the leadership of Alexander Shepherd that developed the neighborhood. They allowed Nevada Senator William Morris Stewart to buy up large chunks of speculative land in the 1870’s. Once only containing a brickyard and slaughterhouse, the area transformed into a fashionable neighborhood nearly overnight. Mansions were built along Massachusetts Avenue and townhouses constructed throughout the city blocks. Since then, Dupont Circle has developed itself into one of Washington’s favorite neighborhoods.
The hallmark of Dupont Circle, that being the Circle itself, was inspired during the time of Shepherd’s work. In 1871, the Army Corps of Engineers began construction on a traffic circle, then known as “Pacific Circle” as specified in L’Enfant’s original plans. On February 25, 1882, an act of Congress altered the name from Pacific Circle to Dupont Circle, to commemorate Samuel Francis Dupont, a rear admiral of the American Civil War. At this time, the Congress also authorized a memorial statue to be commissioned in honor of Dupont’s service to the nation. The statue, sculpted by Launt Thompson, was then erected in 1884 and the Circle landscaped with myriad flowers and trees. Nearly forty years later, in 1921, the Dupont statue was removed and relocated to Rockford Park in Wilmington, Delaware. A double-tiered, white marble fountain with three classical figure carvings representing the sea, stars and wind replaced the original. Designed by Daniel Chester French and architect Henry Bacon (co-creators of the Lincoln Memorial,) they still stand today.
What today is known as the residential area of The Dupont Circle Historic District was developed in the last quarter of the 19th century. The historic houses that dominate the area vary between the palatial mansions and three-and-four-story rowhouses of the Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque Revival styles. The unique angles of the avenues, streets and homes in the neighborhood all contribute to the unique flavor of the area. Many of Washington’s prominent figures inhabited these stretches of blocks.
Living in the Dupont Circle neighborhood is a cornucopia of delights. Right outside the door are a wide and diverse collections of shops, restaurants, cafes and museums. Washington institutions such as Kramer Books and Afterwards and The Phillips Collection are here. Peppered into the tapestry that is Dupont Circle are various embassies, local firms from veterinarians to dental offices, wine shops and a movie theater. There is so much to say about this enclave of Washington, one doesn’t know where to begin. Avenues and streets shoot out from the Circle like rays from the sun to create a unique area filled with restaurants and shops. Nearly anything can be found in the neighborhood – drug stores, banks, boutiques, hair salons, coffee shops, book stores, food markets – the list goes on and on. It is a part of the city that effortlessly feels somewhat European and possibly what Pierre L’Enfant had in mind when he constructed his original vision of the city.
The beautiful Victorian townhomes and mansions receive a nod as they stand in stately indifference to the changes that continue to sweep this neighborhood. These homes have been part of the scene for nearly one hundred and fifty years and are drenched in the local character of Washington, DC. Residents of these homes, both young and old take part in annual events such as the High Heel race and annual Dupont Circle House Tour. One of the greatest aspects of this neighborhood is its sense of community. Neighbors know each other and talk over steaks being grilled on a back patio. Those who walk their dogs meet up and share chitchat.
The borders of Dupont Circle vary depending on whom you ask. And because real estate with a Dupont address commands a premium, the boundaries of the neighborhood can sometimes expand generously when for-sale or for-rent listings use the tony neighborhood name for marketing purposes. We have defined it roughly by M Street to the south, 22nd to the west, Florida Avenue to the northwest, and 16th Street to the east.
About Logan Circle
When approaching Logan Circle, one can’t help but notice the double house, which is designed in the Second Empire style. It begs for attention and stands out amongst its neighbors. Built in 1880, Nos. 1 & 2 Logan Circle occupies the most prominent position on the Circle. This residence was part of a scheme authorized by then Mayor Alexander Shepherd, who encouraged full development of the city.
A Logan Circle revival occurred in the neighborhood and it hasn’t stopped. First were the theater companies that gambled on Logan’s spaces. Theaters, such as Dantes, opened to solid public approval. New restaurants moved into the area, taking advantage of the low rental rates. By the early 2000’s, Logan Circle was placed at the top of the line for gentrification. 14th Street underwent a significant commercial revitalization and soon became home to new retailers, art galleries, restaurants and nightlife. A Whole Foods moved into the neighborhood, attracting residents not just from Logan but surrounding Dupont as well. And, middle and upper middle-class residents once again occupied the stately homes built in the late 19th century. The demographics of Logan Circle took a seismic shift.
Today, Logan Circle is considered one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Washington, DC, in which to live. The neighborhood is full of diverse and interesting shops and restaurants. The theaters and Whole Foods, which began Logan’s rebirth, are landmarks of the area. A proliferation of art galleries, such as Hemphill Fine Arts and Mom and Pop shops, such as Logan Hardware intermingle with national chains, such as Aveda, Lululemon and Starbucks, all vying for the well-heeled customers that cruise the local sidewalks. A plethora of restaurants are right outside of the old Victorian’s doors, offering myriad choices in dining.
On November 9, 1994, the Logan Circle Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The 765 contributing properties are considered historically significant because they represent both residential and commercial development. This development was the result of one of the first streetcar lines in Washington, D.C. – The 14th Street line – which was installed by the Capital Traction Company in the 1880’s. Logan Circle is the home of Mary McLeod Bethune, an African-American educator, author and civil rights leader who founded the National Council of Negro Women at 1318 Vermont Avenue (one block south of the Circle.) It was also the home of Ella Watson. Watson was a cleaning woman and the subject of Gordon Park’s famous photograph American Gothic (1942), which parodized the American iconic painting of the same name by Grant Wood. The neighborhood is also the setting for the book The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, a novel by Dinaw Mengestu, that depicts an Ethopian American’s struggle to start a new life in Washington, D.C.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Logan Circle neighborhood is the buildings and townhouses themselves. They, individually and in groups, occupy irregularly shaped lots and frontages created by the system of streets and alleyways that do not form a grid. It is their seamless unity that emphasize the time and scale in and of which they were built. They are timeless – as is Logan Circle. Through its nascent prominence, brief fall downwards and skyward rise back to the top of the District’s neighborhoods, the Circle has always been an important and vital community in Washington D.C.
While the exact boundaries of Logan Circle vary, again, depending on whom you speak with, the neighborhood is commonly considered to be between Thomas Circle (to the south), S or T Street NW (to the north) and 15th and 10th Streets NW (to the west and east, respectively). The neighborhood’s high walkability and heavy saturation make it almost self-contained.