Foggy Bottom | West End
About Foggy Bottom
Ask folks what the neighborhood of Foggy Bottom conjures in their minds, they might say culture, as it is the home of the behemoth Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Or, possibly, governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations such as The United States Department of State, the World Health Organization or the World Bank. Another sure bet would be excellence in education as the home of The George Washington University. The Watergate may also be mentioned for both those who like intrigue and scandal. And, high-end real estate might make the list. But, it’s almost guaranteed that ‘slums’ would not register a blip on the radar. Yet, for most of Foggy Bottom’s history that is precisely what created the neighborhood.
When speaking of Foggy Bottom, it is important to mention the role that The George Washington University played in its development. When the university relocated from its former location in Columbia Heights (1912), it found itself in a precarious situation. The area east of 23rd Street was a stable neighborhood, populated primarily by those in the military and government employees. The area west and south of 23rd Street (Foggy Bottom proper) lay in abject poverty. The administration soon found itself at odds with both sides as they acted as a wedge between the two communities. As the university bought and developed lands, outcries surrounded the campus. Between 1927-1959, the university built 9 large structures (including dormitories, classrooms, offices, a library and auditorium.) The population shifted to young (and older) academics. When the District of Columbia sought to build another hospital, it was the university that worked with the federal government to build a new facility on Washington Circle between 22nd and 23rd streets. This, in turn, increased the popularity of the neighborhood. As the stature of the university increased, so too did the allure of the neighborhood. The Foggy Bottom of today is unrecognizable from that of its past.
The neighborhood offers convenience to its residents. The Foggy Bottom/GWU metro stop and the Circulator bus provide residents with easy transportation choices. A Whole Foods on GWU’s campus (the only Whole Foods on a university campus in the United States) is always jam packed with students, staff from local government agencies, Inter-Monetary Fund and World Bank, among others. The easy access to Georgetown, Dupont Circle and downtown make the neighborhood attractive, as does its proximity to the National Mall.
Some of the best dining in the city lies within the confines of Foggy Bottom. Choices are on offer from seafood to American, to Cajun to Italian. Lindy’s is still a local favorite and serves up perfect, tasty burgers. The area is chock-a-block full of faster food and offers spots such as Cosi and Caribou Coffee. And, of course, Starbucks is found here.
While there are many diverse neighborhoods in Washington, Foggy Bottom is one of the most colorful. Blending world-class institutions such as The Kennedy Center and The George Washington University with areas such as the National Mall and adding buzz from agencies like the State Department creates a dynamic area.
The combined neighborhood is roughly bounded by Rock Creek Park to the west, N Street to the north, 19th Street to the east and E Street to the south. The east-west dividing line between the two neighborhoods is K or L, with West End the smaller area to the north and Foggy Bottom the larger to the south.
About The West End
Just north of Foggy Bottom is another dynamic neighborhood of the District. The West End, with its specific boundaries (K Street to the south, Rock Creek Park to the west and north, and New Hampshire Avenue and 21st Street to the east) received its name from Pierre L’Enfant himself. It is the westernmost part of his original plan for the city of Washington, before the annexation of Georgetown.
The history of this area is quite similar to that of Foggy Bottom. Warehouses dominated the streets of yore. African-Americans mostly created the population. And, the area was used for much industrial “storage.” It was also the home of the Columbia Hospital for Women. Originally opening in 1866 as a health-care facility for wives and widows of Civil War soldiers, it moved in 1870 from Thomas Circle to 2425 L Street. The hospital stayed at this location until 2002, when it was closed and converted into the Columbia Residences condominium building.
But, the Columbia Residences, aren’t the only new and gleaming buildings in the area. The Ritz-Carlton moved into the neighborhood to join the Westin and Park Hyatt, which for decades had hosted visiting diplomats and celebrities. The re-development of The West End has been significant.
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