Historic Anacostia

About Historic Anacostia

Established in 1854 as Uniontown, a home for the white workers at the Navy Yard across the river, Anacostia got its current name from the Nacochtank Native American settlement along the river. In 1877, abolitionist Frederick Douglass became the first African-American allowed to own land in the neighborhood. His stately home perches on one of the hills that give the area its great views, as well as the strategic advantage that sprouted civil war fortresses. The rich history and geography bequeathed to Anacostia some great landmarks, such as Douglass’s home, Fort Stanton, the Carver Theater and the Birney school, as well as its biggest economic advantage — historic district classification.

Many historic Anacostia residents resent being associated with the entirety of River East — and the new life pulsing through the neighborhood may help their cause. Most visible are the cutting-edge contemporary new public library, the sleek Spirit Health and Wellness center and the Grandview condo building designed by Division One architects. New headquarters for the US Coast Guard and DC’s housing department, and the proximity of the new Department of Homeland Security site at St. Elizabeth’s are expected to provide a boost to the area.

But even more significant are the huge economic benefits that will likely result from some major coming attractions. The $4 billion Anacostia Riverfront initiative will transform that barren stretch with a gym, swimming pool, bike and pedestrian trails, tennis and basketball courts, an amphitheater and boating facilities. Funds from DC’s new bag tax are also going toward cleaning up the toxic river. The 11th Street Bridge renovation, a new streetcar system and the Four Points developers’ plans for a 1.5 million-foot mixed-use complex in the neighborhood’s center round out the initiatives that hold considerable potential for Anacostia’s prosperity. The decision by the DC Office of Cable Television and Verizon to make Anacostia the first DC area to receive FiOS (fiber optic cable, internet and phone service) is another sign that this quarter is starting to get some real attention.

Italianate, Victorian, Cottage and Queen Anne frame houses are the dominant property types in the area. Interspersed among these homes are brick public housing projects, row houses, a few contemporary homes and one- to four-story new condo buildings. A small number of residents own their homes, and the rental stock (mostly investor-owned single-family homes or apartments) is tight.