When I was looking for someplace to live in DC, I selected Capitol Hill for the most mundane of reasons: it seemed to be the only neighborhood where I could park my car without buying a space. As a twenty-something non-profit worker, the idea of paying nearly the equivalent of my recently-satisfied car loan to board my car seemed ludicrous (not to mention impossible when combined with city-priced rent). Now, nearly ten years later, the car is long since gone, but I've stayed put on the Hill -- and can hardly conceive of living anywhere else.
Eastern Market was the first thing to draw me in, and I fell quickly and permanently in love with it. The 135-year old public market building is the last of its kind in DC still performing its original function, but it is also much more than just a place to shop. In addition to providing a home for independent grocers (selling produce, meats, baked goods, fish, cheese, flowers, and more) a thriving, year-round farm line and flea market brings together locals and tourists alike every weekend -- forming what is, essentially, Capitol Hill's town square. I realize that sounds hokey, but it's true. I can't begin to count the number of times a quick outing to pick up my weekly ration of fresh tomatoes has spun out into a full day of browsing the vendors, chatting over coffee, and catching up on what's new.
I'm also wildly enthusiastic about my local hardware store, Frager's. It's a little like shopping in my grandfather's basement -- full of wood and tools, to be sure, but also full of every random tidbit that life requires, stored with a mysterious logic that makes every aisle and turn of the corner an opportunity for serendipitous discovery. Despite a rabbit warren-like layout, every person who works there can almost instantly locate virtually anything, and advise authoritatively on its use, just like grandpa. On the rare occasions I go outside my neighborhood to meet my home improvement needs and end up in a big-box hardware store, I tend to wander the broad aisles aimlessly, overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it all.
And then there's the food. I love to eat, and over the years I've lived there, the options on the Hill have expanded, seemingly exponentially. The two commercial strips that anchored the Hill when I arrived -- Pennsylvania Avenue near the Capitol and Massachusetts Avenue near Union Station have been joined by the now-vibrant Barracks Row Main Street, and grittier upstart areas on H Street and the far end of Pennsylvania Avenue. I can head to an ultra-homey dive for a half-smoke (DC's local improvement on the hot dog) and a beer served in a mason jar, hit a hole in the wall with mussels so delicious that they beat Bobby Flay's on his "Throwdown" program, or head to an upscale wine bar (or two) for tastings and tapas. It's a good thing, really, that my car has gone by the wayside... I need to walk a lot to keep all of the deliciousness from sticking.
These are just a few of the reasons Capitol Hill is my Washington. If you happen to make it to DC for the inauguration -- or any other time -- I invite you to stop by, whether it's for a quick bite to eat, to hang out at the Market, or to waltz the aisles of a hardware store.
My colleague Jason Clement, who shared his love of Brookland earlier this week, stopped by my 'hood over the holidays and took some photos. He's a better photographer than I am, so I'll leave you with his impressions.
-- Sarah Heffern
Sarah Heffern is the content manager and online editor for PreservationNation.org. Stay tuned over the weeks leading up to the inauguration as more National Trust staffers share their stories about the greater DC area. Coming to town for the historic event? Be sure to visit our new Preservationist’s Guide to Washington.
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