Columbia Heights

Bound by Spring Road to the north, Sherman Avenue to the east, Florida Avenue to the south, and 16th Street to the west

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Once farmland on the estate of the Holmead family (called “Pleasant Plains”), Columbia Heights was part of Washington County, DC, a “semi-suburb” of the Federal City. The area began developing soon after the Civil War when horse-drawn streetcars took residents to and from downtown. Senator John Sherman purchased the land north of Boundary Street between 16th Street and 10th Street, developing it as a subdivision and naming it Columbia Heights after Columbia College (now George Washington University) which was built in 1822. In the early 1900s, Columbia Heights was where Washington’s wealthiest and most influential people preferred to live including upper level managers of the Federal government, US Supreme Court justices, and high-ranking military officers.

Within the varied and expansive Columbia Heights neighborhood is a district of 300 front-porch row houses built between 1908 and 1912 by prolific Washington developer Harry Wardman and designed by Albert H. Beers.

In 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., riots devastated Columbia Heights along with many other Washington neighborhoods. Many homes and shops remained vacant for decades.

Today, with the current housing shortage and resurgence of Columbia Heights as a desirable place to live, unsympathetic alterations such as roof-top additions or porch removals plague the area. Developers are also attempting to purchase numerous row houses in order to combine the lots and demolish the row houses to build larger apartment buildings, thus altering this row house neighborhood drastically.

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