Drawing the Line: Capitol Hill

by Joe Marhamati

Capitol Hill by Kyle Walton

The exact boundaries of DC neighborhoods are a hotly debated topic, particularly amongst long-time residents who resist any re-interpretation that cuts their hood short by even one block.

For homebuyers, the boundary issue can be particularly crucial. With the exact borders often in question, buyers can be left thinking that they’re looking at property in one neighborhood when it is technically in another. Drawing The Line will discuss the boundaries of various DC neighborhoods, the restoration societies that govern them, and the issues that can arise as a result of a regular misinterpretation of the borders. Today, we look at Capitol Hill.

The Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS) is considered the objective source for the official boundaries of Capitol Hill, as well as what standards should be used in historic and cultural preservation. According to the CHRS, the current extents of Capitol Hill are bounded by the Capitol precinct on the west, F Street NE on the north, 13th and 14th Streets on the east, and the Southeast Freeway on the south, with an expansion area south of the Southeast Freeway bounded by 7th, M, 10th, and 11th Streets SE.

Capitol Hill

Like many neighborhoods in DC, Capitol Hill is an area where the boundaries can expand to suit the needs of real estate agents and home sellers. “People looking to buy tell me that they ‘want to live on the Hill,’” Long and Foster’s Justin Paulhamus told UrbanTurf. “If they find a place that’s advertised as such, but then find out that is actually in Hill East they might feel like they were misled.”

Paulhamus notes that realtors sometimes use the public’s lack of knowledge about the official boundaries as an opportunity to puff up their listing – which is unethical. “It’s incumbent upon other agents to call agents out on including such misleading information,” Paulhamus explained. “Also, any consumer can file a complaint with the DC Real Estate Commission.” That said, there has been little crack down on agents who improperly mislabel a property’s neighborhood in hopes of a higher sale price.

Areas around Stadium/Armory, H Street, and Hill East are often described as being located in Capitol Hill, despite the fact that none fall within the neighborhood’s official boundaries. Paulhamus notes that it takes time to build a good reputation like the one Capitol Hill has developed over the years, and agents have taken liberties as a result of amenities being added into neighboring areas that they now suggest is Capitol Hill.

However, as areas like the H Street Corridor, just to the north of Capitol Hill, experience resurgent reputations, it is likely that these neighborhoods will stand alone, with their own names and identities. Other neighborhoods will take longer. Paulhamus says it is likely that the Rosedale, Trinidad and Benning Road areas will see spillover development as a result of the streetcar, potentially further extending the boundaries of Capitol Hill until these neighborhoods develop more attractive reputations.

See other articles related to: drawing the line, capitol hill

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/drawing_the_line_capitol_hill/2134


  1. wdc said at 4:10 pm on Thursday June 3, 2010:

    I don’t disagree with much of what you say here, but the Historic district boundaries are slightly different than the ones you identify here and it’s worth noting that the northern edge is slated to be bumped up to H Street in the near future per a recent study that found that F Street was an arbitrary boundary and that everything south of H was really part of the same historic housing stock dating to the early 1900s.  That said, those properties may prefer to be associated with H Street going ahead now that it has become so popular, so you may see fewer houses along that edge of the Hill using the “Capitol Hill” moniker as H Street continues to improve and become a more attractive neighborhood amenity.

  1. jj said at 11:47 am on Friday June 4, 2010:

    joe, thanks! love this series. can we force everyone to use these? they should be printed, bound and taught to every real estate agent in the district, whether they want to listen or not. reality versus creativity (better neighborhood + higher sales price equals higher commission).

  1. w said at 1:29 pm on Friday June 4, 2010:

    It reminds me of “Dupont East” listing I found when I moved to DC a dozen years ago.  Nobody would call anyting near Logan Circle “Dupont East” anymore.  H St. is still a lot closer to being “North Capitol Hill” than it’s own entity, but that may change in time.

  1. tom a. said at 1:30 pm on Friday June 4, 2010:

    I’ve also seen maps that show Cap Hill going as far north as I Street NE!

  1. ET said at 5:15 pm on Friday June 4, 2010:

    So, all this is news to me having lived on the “Hill” since 1969!  One thing bothers me…if my house is not on the Hill, then how in the world does the CapHILL Historical Society have to approve my plans and such!  What a double standard.  They don’t want the house to appreciate but it must pass muster with them. That should be cleared up so more people don’t have to be put through the ringer when they get a permit!!

  1. MIS said at 10:38 am on Monday June 7, 2010:

    The article mentions the boundary as being “13th and 14th Streets on the east”.  Where exactly does the boundary change?  The map shows the boundary at 13th.  I’m just trying to figure out if my house on 14th & South Carolina SE falls in the boundary or not.

  1. MJM said at 12:25 pm on Thursday August 26, 2010:

    The boundaries were set in 1974 - call it elitist or something else but there is a reason why it stopped at the freeway.  Early DC had its roots near what is today the baseball stadium/Yards Park (eastern Carrollsburg) and then eventually spread up Jenkins Hill along NJ Ave.  The area south of the freeway has as much right to be included with the rest of Capitol Hill but you can probably come up with one reason why it wasn’t included.  Even a newspaper article from the 1960s wrote about how people didn’t want public housing on the “Hill” - that public housing was the Capper project which was south of the freeway (but according to today’s boundary is not part of the Hill.  It is convenient to cut off the historic district of the Hill by using the freeway as a boundary even though the types of housing structures were the same as the Hill today.  It’s just that over time that the south part of Capitol Hill began to fade/waste away and then was eventually cut off by the freeway and made it easy to define a southern boundary.

  1. Erik said at 6:42 pm on Thursday October 17, 2013:

    I am looking to purchase a home south of Southeast freeway in the next month or so and will be looking for a couple tenants to occupy the two other rooms in the house. The property is located at Nicholson & Fairlawn that buts up against the freeway. This is no doubt a less developed part of SE in terms of restaurants and shopping even though it’s literally 5 minutes from Potomac Ave Metro and stepping out on Penn you can see the Capitol.
    This is still a rough part of town as is the southern boundary outlined in this article… my point is that many locals consider it Capitol HIll still. Not as glamorous or pricey as a quarter mile up Penn but we’re getting there.
    When seeking roommates can I list it as Capitol Hill or should I say it’s Anacostia? In general I think Capitol HIll sounds better for many young professionals so curious if I can sell it as such.

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