Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.

Columbia Heights is a neighborhood in central Washington, D.C.

Geography

Located in the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., Columbia Heights borders the neighborhoods of Shaw, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Petworth, Park View, Pleasant Plains, and Le Droit Park. To the east is Howard University. The streets defining the neighborhood's boundaries are 16th Street to the west; Spring Road to the north; Georgia Avenue to the east (as can be seen by the welcome to Columbia Heights sign at the intersection of Georgia and Irving); and Florida Avenue and Barry Place to the south. It is served by an eponymous stop on the Washington Metro green and yellow lines.

History

Once farmland on the estate of the Holmead family (called "Pleasant Plains"), Columbia Heights was part of Washington County, District of Columbia (within the District but outside the borders of the city of Washington; the southern edge of Columbia Heights is Florida Avenue, which was originally called "Boundary Street" because it formed the northern boundary of the Federal City). Construction of Columbian College began there in 1822. The area began developing as a suburb of Washington soon after the Civil War when horse-drawn streetcars delivered residents of the neighborhood to downtown.

The northern portion of modern-day Columbia Heights (i.e., north of where Harvard Street currently lies) was, until the 1880s, a part of the village of Mount Pleasant. The southern portion still retained the name of the original Pleasant Plains estate. In 1871, Congress passed the D.C. Organic Act, which eliminated Washington County by extending the boundaries of Washington City to be contiguous with those of the District of Columbia. Shortly afterward, in 1881–82, Senator John Sherman, author of the Sherman Antitrust Act, purchased the land north of Boundary Street between 16th Street and 10th Street, developing it as a subdivision of the city called Columbia Heights—named for the college at its heart. (The neighborhood's eastern boundary and major traffic artery, Sherman Avenue, is named after its early developer.) Much of Sherman's purchase was of Columbian College's land, which it sold off in order to purchase a tract in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, where it moved in 1884 and renamed itself George Washington University.

The federal government also purchased some of the college's land and built Meridian Hill Park in the early 20th century. The park, also known as "Malcolm X Park", contains many statues including those of Joan of Arc, Dante and James Buchanan.

Upscale development in Columbia Heights circa 1900, was designed to attract upper level managers of the Federal government, U.S. Supreme Court justices, and high-ranking military officers. An imposing mansion known as “Belmont” marked the imposing entrance to the neighborhood between Florida and Clifton Streets. The mansion was emblematic of the confidence that the affluent placed in the concept that Columbia Heights represented the ideal suburb. In the early 1900s, Columbia Heights was the preferred area for some of Washington’s wealthiest and most influential people. Residents included author Sinclair Lewis, Chief Justice Melville Fuller, and Justice John Marshall Harlan.

In 1904, the Columbia Heights Citizen’s Association published an illustrated brochure entitled "A Statement of Some of the Advantages of Beautiful Columbia Heights." The publication describes Columbia Heights as a “residential section populated by public and spirited citizens.” Residents at that time were “ever alive to the mental, moral, and spiritual advancements of their homes surroundings.” The neighborhood organization sponsored competitions for landscaping house lots and offered prizes to the best kept lawn and garden, at the same time fought the erection of street poles and overhead telegraph and telephone lines. By 1914, four street car lines served the section providing transportation to downtown Washington in twenty minutes.

The popularity of the neighborhood resulted in the construction of several large apartment buildings during the beginning of the twentieth century that changed the suburban character of the area into a more urban and densely populated district. As of mid-century, however, Columbia Heights retained much of its upscale residential appeal, supporting establishments such as the ornate Tivoli Theatre movie house (completed in 1924). The neighborhood was adjacent to Washington's thriving middle class black community and came to be home to some of its most notable citizens by the 1930s. Duke Ellington, who had grown up in Shaw, purchased his first house at 2728 Sherman Avenue in Columbia Heights. Central High School, which bordered the southern edge of Columbia Heights, was renamed Cardozo High School when the school district deemed it a "colored" school in 1949. This took place seven years prior to nationwide school desegregation in 1956. Significant demographic changes began in the late 1940s when African American residents began to occupy homes previously owned by white students. The neighborhood remained a middle-class African American enclave in Washington, along with the nearby Shaw and Cardozo neighborhoods and Howard University through the mid-1960s.

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

In 1999, however, the city announced a revitalization initiative for the neighborhood focused around the Columbia Heights Metro station that opened that year. The opening of the Metro station served as a catalyst for the return of economic development and residents. Within five years, it had gentrified considerably, with a number of businesses (including a Giant Food supermarket and Tivoli Square, a commercial and entertainment complex) and middle-class residents settling in the neighborhood. However, unlike some gentrified neighborhoods in the city, it had not become homogeneous: as of 2006, Columbia Heights is arguably Washington's most ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood, composed of high-priced condominiums and townhouses as well as public and middle-income housing.

On March 5, 2008 [ [http://dcist.com/2008/03/05/the_target_is_o.php "The Target is Open! The Target is Open!"] , dcist.com, March 5, 2008] , DC USA, a 546,000 square-foot (51,000 m²) retail complex across the street from the Columbia Heights Metro station opened. The space is anchored by retailers Target and Best Buy [ [http://www.columbiaheightsnews.org/News/Retail-News/DC-USA.html DC USA] at Columbia Heights News, accessed 2007-09-26] . The shopping center also includes 390,000 square feet (36,000 m²) of underground parking [ [http://www.blta.com/ideas/context-dc1.html DC USA] , Bower Lewis Thower Architects] .

Demographics

The 2000 census figures estimated Columbia Heights with a 58 percent African American population; 34 percent Hispanic population; 5.4 percent white population; and 3.1 percent other [ [http://www.neighborhoodinfodc.org/anc/nbr_prof_anc2.html DC ANC Profile - NeighborhoodInfo DC ] ] [ [http://dcjack.org/demographics.html demographics ] ] .

As of 2007, it is estimated that the Hispanic population has fallen to about 25 percent. Given the largest concentration of Hispanics in the neighborhood, Columbia Heights is often mistakenly thought of having a majority Hispanic population. In the last decade, many people, mostly renters and minorities, have moved to lower-cost jurisdictions east of the city and to Prince George's County across the city boundary in Maryland. Fact|date=May 2007

Local institutions

In January 2005, the neighborhood became the first permanent home of the GALA Hispanic Theatre which moved into the newly refurbished Tivoli Theatre, a former movie theater built in 1924 that had been vacant since 1976. GALA is a theater company dedicated to performing Spanish-language plays.

In November 2006, the Dance Institute of Washington opened a new 12,000 square foot (1100 m²) facility across the street from the Tivoli Theater [ [http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/info-url_nocat2536/info-url_nocat_show.htm?doc_id=428186 Dance Institute of Washington] . Cultural Tourism DC.] .

The neighborhood is also home to the Greater Washington Urban League, the local affiliate of the National Urban League, in addition to other non-profit community and service-based organizations including; The Latin American Youth Center, CentroNia and the Shaw/Columbia Heights Family and Community Support Collaborative, all located along the 14th St. and Columbia Rd. corridor.

Columbia Heights is home to the Ecuadoran embassy on 15th Street and the Mexican Cultural Institute on 16th Street. The official residence of the Ambassador of Spain is also on 16th Street in Columbia Heights.

Education

Residents are zoned to District of Columbia Public Schools.

Public schools in Columbia Heights include:

;High schools
*Cardozo High School
*Benjamin Banneker Academic High School
*Bell Multicultural Senior High School
*Booker T. Washington Public Charter School for the Technical Arts

;Middle schools
*Lincoln Middle School

;Elementary schools
*Bruce Monroe Elementary School
*Park View Elementary School
*Tubman Elementary School

;Public Charter Schools
*DC Bilingual Public Charter School
*AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School
*Capital City Public Charter School
*Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School
*Children's Studio Public Charter School
*E. L. Haynes Public Charter School
*YouthBuild Public Charter School
*The Next Step Public Charter School
*Booker T. Washington Public Charter School for the Technical Arts

Notes

External links

* [http://www.columbiaheightsnews.org/ Columbia Heights News]
* [http://www.columbiaheightsday.org/ Columbia Heights Day Festival]
* [http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/information2550/information.htm?area=14787 Historic Neighborhoods: Columbia Heights] , Cultural Tourism DC
* [http://galatheatre.org/ GALA Hispanic Theatre]
* [http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/NCHCA/ North Columbia Heights Civic Association]
* [http://www.crimeindc.org/map/key/omgnlpwbgxgt Google crime map of Columbia Heights]


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