Capitol Hill is a well-known neighborhood of historic homes on tree-lined streets, anchored by the US Capitol. This charming neighborhood straddles the Southeast and Northeast quadrants of the District. A large portion of Capitol Hill is designated as a Historic District. Capitol Hill has a buzzing energy of the government in action during the day, but on evenings and weekends is a quiet, peaceful residential neighborhood. It offers lots of unique neighborhood cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Capitol Hill History
Capitol Hill was originally called Jenkins Hill or Jenkins Heights. In 1790, Pierre L’Enfant chose the site for the placement of the “Congress House,” which became known later as the US Capitol. The Washington Navy Yard was Capitol Hill’s principal employer in its early days, building ships and munitions along the Anacostia River.
With the advent of the Civil War, the Union Army commandeered the US Capitol building (along with many other buildings). The government built a temporary hospital on East Capitol Street near today’s Lincoln Park. The old Brick Capitol building served as a prison for Confederate soldiers, contrabands, spies, and other political prisoners. Wartime needs also led to Washington’s first horse-drawn streetcar lines (1862) which connected the Navy Yard, the Capitol, and the White House.
Capitol Hill Real Estate
Capitol Hill is the largest residential historic district in Washington, DC. Residents are drawn to its tree-lined streets and lovely parks such as Lincoln Park, which was part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original 1791 plan for the city. Capitol Hill rowhouses come in many different architectural styles, including early 19th century manor houses, Federal townhouses, Italianate bracketed houses, and brick rowhouses. There are several recent high-end condo projects in Capitol Hill as well.
Capitol Hill Entertainment
Capitol Hill’s Folger Shakespeare Library hosts plays, concerts and readings throughout the year. The US Botanic Gardens holds frequent events include gardening seminars and cooking classes.
Capitol Hill Community
The Capitol Hill Restoration Society, active since 1955, seeks to “promote, preserve, and enhance the character” of the area. The Eastern Market, an 1870s redbrick building, has the feel of a European food market and bazaar. It is home to countless grocers, bakers, and artisans selling their wares. On weekends, it holds a lively bazaar with produce, crafts and antiques that draws locals and tourists alike.
Capitol Hill Favorites
Start your evening at the iconic Dubliner Pub, in the shadow of the Capitol building, where politicos and tourists alike enjoy this authentic Irish pub. Or try Belga Cafe for an authentic Belgian cafe vibe and its fabulous assortment of craft beers and Genever (a Dutch spirit). Visit Bistro Bis, a modern bistro, for fine French classics like beef Bourguignon, bouillabaisse, and steak frites. For a truly unique dining experience, visit Ambar, which offers modern Balkan small plates, wines and spirits or for its bottomless Sunday brunch.
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Want to know what it’s like to live in Capitol Hill? Let’s go on a neighborhood orientation tour!