Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle
Dupont Circle Historic District
Location: Roughly bounded by Rhode Island Avenue, NW; M and N Sts., NW, on the south; Florida Avenue, NW, on the west; Swann St., NW, on the north; and the 16th Street Historic District on the east[1]
Coordinates: 38°54′35″N 77°02′36″W / 38.90962°N 77.04341°W / 38.90962; -77.04341Coordinates: 38°54′35″N 77°02′36″W / 38.90962°N 77.04341°W / 38.90962; -77.04341
Area: 170 acres (69 ha)
Architect: Mead McKim & White; Carrere & Hastings
Architectural style: Late 19th And 20th Century Revivals, Queen Anne, Romanesque
Governing body: State
NRHP Reference#: 78003056 (original)
85000238 (increase 1)
05000539 (increase 2)
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: July 21, 1978
Boundary increases: February 6, 1985
June 10, 2005

Dupont Circle is a traffic circle, park, neighborhood, and historic district in Northwest Washington, D.C. The traffic circle is located at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue NW, Connecticut Avenue NW, New Hampshire Avenue NW, P Street NW, and 19th Street NW. The Dupont Circle neighborhood is bounded approximately by 15th Street NW to the east, 22nd Street NW to the west, M Street NW to the south, and Florida Avenue NW to the north. The local government Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2B) and the Dupont Circle Historic District have slightly different boundaries.[1][2]

Dupont Circle is served by the Washington Metro Red Line at the Dupont Circle Metro station. There are two entrances: north of the circle at Q Street NW and south of the circle at 19th Street NW.



Residence of Senator James G. Blaine in 1900. His home was one of the first mansions built around Dupont Circle, and is one of two still standing.

Dupont Circle is located in the "Old City" of Washington, D.C. — the area planned by architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant — but remained largely undeveloped until after the American Civil War, when there was a large influx of new residents. The area that now constitutes Dupont Circle was once home to a brickyard and slaughterhouse.[3][4] There also was a creek, Slash Run, that ran from 16th Street near Adams Morgan, through Kalorama and within a block of Dupont Circle, but the creek has since been enclosed in a sewer line.[5] Improvements made in the 1870s by a board of public works headed by Alexander "Boss" Shepherd transformed the area into a fashionable residential neighborhood.[6]

In 1871, the Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the traffic circle, then called Pacific Circle, as specified in L'Enfant's plan. On February 25, 1882, Congress renamed the circle to "Dupont Circle", and authorized a memorial statue of Samuel Francis Du Pont, in recognition of his service as a rear admiral during the Civil War. The statue, sculpted by Launt Thompson, was erected in 1884, and the circle was landscaped, with exotic flowers and ornamental trees. In 1921, the current double-tiered white marble fountain replaced the statue, which was moved to Rockford Park in Wilmington, Delaware.[7] Daniel Chester French and architect Henry Bacon, the co-creators of the Lincoln Memorial, designed the fountain, which features carvings of three classical figures symbolizing the sea, the stars and the wind on the fountain's shaft.[1]

Dupont Circle in 1900

During the 1870s and 1880s, mansions were built along Massachusetts Avenue, one of Washington's grand avenues, and townhouses were built throughout the neighborhood. In 1872, the British built a new embassy on Connecticut Avenue, at N Street NW.[8] By the 1920s, Connecticut Avenue was more commercial in character, with numerous shops. Some residences, including Senator Philetus Sawyer's mansion at Connecticut and R Street, were demolished to make way for office buildings and shops.[9] In 1933, the National Park Service took over administering the circle, and added sandboxes for children, though these were removed a few years later.[10]

Connecticut Avenue was widened in the late 1920s, and increased traffic in the neighborhood caused a great deal of congestion in the circle, making it difficult for pedestrians to get around. Medians were installed in 1948, in the circle, to separate the through traffic on Massachusetts Avenue from the local traffic, and traffic signals were added.[10] In 1949, traffic tunnels[11] and an underground streetcar station were built under the circle as part of the now-defunct Capital Transit project. The tunnels allowed trams and vehicles traveling along Connecticut Avenue to pass more quickly past the circle.[12] When streetcar service ended in 1962, the entrances to the underground station were filled in and paved over, leaving only the traffic tunnel.[13]

Dupont Circle Farmers Market occurs year-round on Sunday mornings

The neighborhood began to decline after World War II and the 1968 riots, but began to enjoy a resurgence in the 1970s, fueled by urban pioneers seeking an alternative lifestyle. The neighborhood took on a bohemian feel and became an area popular among the gay and lesbian community. Along with The Castro in San Francisco, Hillcrest in San Diego, Greenwich Village in New York City, Boystown in Chicago, Oak Lawn in Dallas, Montrose in Houston, and West Hollywood in Los Angeles, Dupont Circle is considered a historic locale in the development of American gay identity. D.C.'s first gay bookstore, Lambda Rising, opened in 1974 and has gained notoriety nationwide.[14] In 1975, the store ran the world's first gay-oriented television commercial.[15]

Gentrification accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s, and the area is now a more mainstream and trendy location with coffeehouses, restaurants, bars, and upscale retail stores. Since 1997, a farmers market has operated at Dupont Circle.[16]


Homes located on the 2000 block of N Street, NW, are considered some of the city's finest examples of Second Empire architecture.

Rowhouses primarily built prior to 1900 feature variations on the Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque revival styles. Rarer are the palatial mansions and large freestanding houses that line the broad, tree-lined diagonal avenues that intersect the circle. Many of these larger dwellings were built in the styles popular between 1895 and 1910.

Washington Club

One such grand residence is the marble and terra cotta Patterson house at 15 Dupont Circle (currently the Washington Club). This Italianate mansion, the only survivor of the many mansions that once ringed the circle, was built in 1901 by New York architect Stanford White for Robert Patterson, editor of the Chicago Tribune, and his wife Nellie, heiress to the Chicago Tribune fortune. Upon Mrs. Patterson's incapacitation in the early 1920s, the house passed into the hands of her daughter, Cissy Patterson, who made it a hub of Washington social life. The house served as temporary quarters for President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge in 1927 while the White House underwent renovation. The Coolidges welcomed Charles Lindbergh as a houseguest after his historic transatlantic flight. Lindbergh made several public appearances at the house, waving to roaring crowds from the second-story balcony, and befriended the Patterson Family, with whom he increasingly came to share isolationist and pro-German views. Cissy Patterson later acquired the Washington Times-Herald (sold to The Washington Post in 1954) and declared journalistic warfare on Franklin D. Roosevelt from 15 Dupont Circle, continuing throughout World War II to push her policies, which were echoed in the New York Daily News, run by her brother Joseph Medill Patterson, and the Chicago Tribune, run by their first cousin, Colonel Robert R. McCormick.

Strivers' Section

The 1700 block of T Street, NW, in the Strivers' Section

Today's Dupont Circle includes the Strivers' Section, a small residential area west of 16th Street roughly between Swann Street and Florida Avenue. The Strivers' Section was an enclave of upper-middle-class African Americans — often community leaders — in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The area includes a row of houses on 17th Street owned by Frederick Douglass and occupied by his son. It takes its name from a turn-of-the-century writer who described the district as "the Striver's section, a community of Negro aristocracy."

The area, which was once considered an overlap of the Dupont Circle and Shaw neighborhoods, is today an historic district.[17] Many of its buildings are the original Edwardian-era residences, along with several apartment and condominium buildings and a few small businesses.


Traffic circle

Maypole in Dupont Circle

The neighborhood is centered around the traffic circle, which is divided between two counterclockwise roads. The outer road serves all the intersecting streets, while access to the inner road is limited to through traffic on Massachusetts Avenue. Connecticut Avenue passes under the circle via a tunnel; vehicles on Connecticut Avenue can access the circle via service roads that branch from Connecticut near N Street and R Street.

The park located within the circle is maintained by the National Park Service. The central fountain provides seating, and long curved benches around the central area were installed in 1964.[10] The park within the circle is a gathering place for those wishing to play chess on the permanent stone chessboards. Tom Murphy, a homeless championship chess player, is a resident.[18] The park has also been the location of political rallies, such as those supporting gay rights and those protesting the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.


The Iraqi consular services office, located in the William J. Boardman House on P Street

The Dupont Circle neighborhood, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to numerous embassies, many of which are located in historic residences. The Thomas T. Gaff House serves as the Colombian ambassador's residence, and the Walsh-McLean House is home to the Indonesian embassy.[19] Located east of Dupont Circle on Massachusetts Avenue is the Clarence Moore House, now known as the Embassy of Uzbekistan, and the Emily J. Wilkins House, which formerly housed the Australian embassy and now is occupied by the Peruvian Chancery.[19] Iraq operates a consular services office in the William J. Boardman House on P Street.[20]

Other landmarks

Other landmarks, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, include the International Temple, Embassy Gulf Service Station, Christian Heurich Mansion (also known as Brewmaster's Castle), and the Phillips Collection, the country's first museum of modern art. The Richard H. Townsend House located on Massachusetts Avenue now houses the Cosmos Club.[19] The Dumbarton Bridge, also known as the Buffalo Bridge, carries Q Street over Rock Creek Park and into Georgetown and was constructed in 1883.[19] The Nuns of the Battlefield sculpture, which serves as a tribute to over six hundred nuns who nursed soldiers of both armies during the Civil War was erected in 1924.[21][22] The Mansion on O Street a luxury boutique hotel, private club, events venue and museum has been a fixture in Dupont Circle for over 30 years and includes over 100 rooms and 32 secret doors. The Brickskeller Inn & Bar has long been a popular bar in the neighborhood.


House of the Temple located on 16th Street, NW

In addition to its residential components, consisting primarily of high-priced apartments and condominiums, Dupont Circle is home to some of the nation's most prestigious think tanks and research institutions, including the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the German Marshall Fund, The Eurasia Center, and the Peterson Institute. The renowned Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University is located less than two blocks from the circle. Dupont Circle is also home to the Original Founding Church of Scientology, the first such church established by the religion's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The Phillips Collection, the nation's first museum of modern art, is located near the circle; its most famous and popular work on display is Renoir's giant festive canvas Luncheon of the Boating Party. Additionally, the national headquarters of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, the nation's oldest veterans organization, the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, and the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center are also located in Dupont Circle.


Washington Metro

Dupont Circle is served by the Dupont Circle station on the Red Line of the Washington Metro.

Annual neighborhood events

Capital Pride

A participant in the 2007 High Heel Race

Capital Pride is an annual LGBT pride festival held each June in Washington. As of 2007, the festival is the fourth-largest LGBT pride event in the United States, with over 200,000 people in attendance.[23] The Capital Pride parade takes place annually on Saturday during the festival and travels through the streets of the neighborhood.[24]

High Heel Race

Held annually since 1986, the Dupont Circle High Heel Race takes place on the Tuesday before Halloween (October 31). The race pits dozens of drag queens against each other in a sprint down 17th Street NW between R Street and Church Street, a distance of about three short blocks. The event attracts thousands of spectators and scores of participants, who begin the festivities in late afternoon; the race proper starts at 9 p.m. and lasts a few minutes.[25][26]

The event is sponsored by the nonprofit Dupont Circle Main Streets and by JR's DC Bar and Grill.[27][28]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Dupont Circle Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  2. ^ "Dupont Circle ANC2B: Maps". Dupont Circle ANC2B. Retrieved 2010-10-20. [dead link]
  3. ^ Ramsdell, Henry J.; Benjamin Perley Poore (1884). Life and Public Services of Hon. James G. Blaine. Hubbard Brothers. pp. 173. 
  4. ^ Lanius, Judith H.; Sharon C. Park. "Martha Wadsworth's Mansion: The Gilded Age Comes to Dupont Circle". Washington History: 24–45. 
  5. ^ Evelyn, Douglast E.; Paul Dickson, Evelyn Douglas, S J Ackerman (2008). On This Spot: Pinpointing the Past in Washington, D.C.. Capital Books. pp. 202. 
  6. ^ "Local History: Neighborhoods, Dupont Circle". WETA Public Broadcasting. 2001. Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  7. ^ "Scenes from the Past". The InTowner. March 2004. pp. 12. 
  8. ^ Goode, James M. (1979). Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings. Smithsonian Institution. pp. 231. 
  9. ^ "Scenes from the Past". The InTowner. March 2008. pp. 12. 
  10. ^ a b c Bednar, Michael J. (2006). L'Enfant's Legacy. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 181. 
  11. ^,a,1250,q,639677,ddotNav,%7C32399%7C.asp
  12. ^ "D.C. Transit Track and Structures". 2008-04-01. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  13. ^ The Dupont Circle Metro Station is completely separate from the abandoned underground streetcar station; Metrorail trains operate nearly 200 feet (61 m) underground, far deeper than the original streetcars."WMATA Facts" (PDF). WMATA. 2007-09. Retrieved 2008-05-27.  In 1995, developer Geary Simon renovated the streetcar station as a food court called "Dupont Down Under"; the project failed, and was shut down a year later.Kelly, John (2003-12-28). "What is 'Dupont Down Under' and What Makes Metro Stations Windy?". The Washington Post: pp. M09. Retrieved 2008-06-23.  In 2007, plans circulated to transform the underground area into a number of adult clubs, possibly to replace several gay bars that were forced out by the building of the Nationals Park baseball stadium. However, opposition from the community largely stalled any further planning, and the space remains unused."Adult clubs in Dupont Down Under?". The Washington Times. 2007-07-14. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  14. ^ "Dupont Circle/Sheridan-Kalorama". Cultural Tourism DC. 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  15. ^ Muzzy, Frank. Gay and Lesbian Washington D.C., Arcadia Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-7385-1753-4
  16. ^ Kettlewell, Caroline (2003-06-27). "Harvest Home". The Washington Post. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Tower, Wells (September 30, 2007 url = "The Days and Knights of Tom Murphy". The Washington Post. 
  19. ^ a b c d "DC Geographic Information System (GIS), Historic Structures". District of Columbia, Office of the Chief Technology Officer. Retrieved 2007-07-22. 
  20. ^ "Contact Us". Embassy of the Republic of Iraq. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  21. ^ Save Outdoor Sculpture! (1993). "Nuns of the Battlefield, (sculpture)". SOS!. Smithsonian.!siartinventories&uri=full=3100001~!16187~!0#focus. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  22. ^ Jacob, Kathryn Allmong. Testament to Union: Civil War monuments in Washington, Part 3. JHU Press, 1998, p. 125-126.
  23. ^ Chandler, Michael Alison (June 11, 2007). "Street Fest Lets Gays Revel in Freedom". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  24. ^ "Parade Route Map". Metro Weekly. June 4, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  25. ^ High Heel Race DC
  26. ^ "25th Annual D.C. High Heel Drag Queen Race 2011". DC Metromix. Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  27. ^ "High Heel Drag Race at Dupont Circle". Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  28. ^ "High Heel Drag Queen Race 2009". DC Metromix. Retrieved 2009-10-27. 

Further reading

  • Dupont Circle: A Novel (Houghton Mifflin, 2001), by Paul Kafka-Gibbons
  • Dupont Circle (Images of America Series) (Arcadia Publishing, 2000), by Paul Williams
  • Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. (U.S. Department of the Interior, Division of History, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, 1967), by George J. Olszewski

External links

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