Best Blocks: Capitol Hill


July 18, 2011, Washington, DC: Good-looking neighborhoods make me happy. Maybe that makes me superficial; maybe I put too much weight on what places look like. But I can meander down streets full of attractive homes in the same way fashionistas can spend hours in a shoe store full of Christian Louboutins. Pleasing paint colors, lush landscaping, intriguing architecture, friendly front porches and layers of sunlight make me smile. This is my eye candy. Four of my favorite blocks on Capitol Hill are pictured here. On today's jog, I considered why these blocks stand out to me and I realized they have something in common: Each of them is lined with homes that face outward, not inward. They include the 1000 block of North Carolina Ave. SE, the 400 block of East Capitol, the 200 block of E St. SE, and the 600 block of South Carolina Ave. SE.

Each of my favorite blocks on the Hill is comprised of homes set far back from the street. Long, skinny front yards further widen already wide, tree-lined avenues on three of four of these blocks; the other is speckled with a row of sunny front porches overlooking the park across the street. This means residents on all four blocks have established their social spaces in front of their homes instead of in their backyards. Their patio tables and chairs, grills and porch swings face outward towards the rest of us. Parents cook dinner, visit with friends, and play after-dinner games with their children out front. These blocks feel inviting and safe due to this setup.

Each of them is also just a stone's throw from a large public space. This stretch of North Caroline Ave. is one block from Lincoln Park; this South Carolina block is one block from Marion Park;

the houses with the front porches on E St. SE overlook Folger Park across the street.

Instead of proximity to a green park, this block of East Capitol is three blocks from the east plaza of the U.S. Capitol.

Charming old storefronts alongside grander homes and large old apartment buildings make this stretch of East Capitol a bit different, too. The corner of East Capitol and 4th St. includes the lovely Riverby Books, a corner convenience store, Capitol Valet cleaners, a Bike Share station, and an old-fashioned looking pharmacy called Grubbs.

There'd be a downside to living on these handsome stretches of the Hill, I suppose. If I had a front yard on one of these blocks, I might never leave home.