Deanwood: A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders

by Amanda Abrams

Deanwood: A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders: Figure 1
Duplexes in Deanwood

It’s easy to get disoriented in Deanwood. Exit the Metro station and walk past the gleaming new recreation center, and the neighborhood quickly takes on a foreign tone. With its hills and one-story frame houses, it’s not a stretch to imagine you’re wandering around a rural community somewhere—one that isn’t particularly open to outsiders. Located east of the Anacostia River and just inside the District’s northeast border, Deanwood has long been viewed as a community with a small-town atmosphere. These days, it’s got the dubious distinction of having some of the lowest home prices in the District—but no one’s expecting a flood of first time homebuyers in the near future.

A Country Feel in the City

Bounded by the Anacostia Freeway, Eastern Avenue, Division Avenue, and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, Deanwood was one of the region’s earliest all-African American enclaves. Because of its distance from downtown and the more populated Northwest, the area was viewed as “the country” until after World War II, and still had unpaved roads into the 1960s.

It still has a little bit of a rural feel. Vacant lots abound, giving the area a spacious, wild feeling, and residents are tight-lipped and not particularly eager to talk to inquiring journalists about their neighborhood. A few "new" residents moved into the neighborhood in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the area has quieted down in the past few years and hasn’t seen many newcomers or much new construction since then. Sylvia Brown, who has lived in the area for five years and represents it as ANC commissioner, described Deanwood as “a community-oriented neighborhood in which residents have grown up and know one another, and properties have been in their families for a while.”

Deanwood: A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders: Figure 2
Two-bedroom home for sale on Hayes Street

Housing Styles (and Conditions) Vary Widely

In the early part of the 20th century, Deanwood received a population injection from the southern U.S. and these new residents built their homes in styles they were familiar with; the area is still dotted with small houses that wouldn’t look out of place in North Carolina or Louisiana. The majority of Deanwood’s homes are detached single-family homes in a variety of conditions; some are well kept, while others are almost falling down. Very few appear to have been built in the last few decades. Though simple frame houses can be found all over the neighborhood, each block is a little different. Deanwood’s southeast corner has a suburban feel; its curvy roads are lined with duplexes, many of which come with decks and big backyards. In the middle of the neighborhood, basic brick row houses line Sheriff Road, the main artery bisecting the neighborhood.

Deanwood: A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders: Figure 3
Four-bedroom home in Deanwood on the market for $87,000

Jaw Dropping Prices (For The Most Part)

The falling down houses and out-of-the-way vibe, add up to one thing: very low home prices. The nine two-bedroom homes that have sold since the beginning of the year, for example, went for somewhere between $32,000 and $60,000 a piece. Condos were a bit more expensive—the sale prices ranged from $25,000 to $87,000. Not all homes in Deanwood are listed at bargain basement prices, but even the largest houses don't go for much more than $250,000 But take those numbers with a grain of salt. “Most houses need some work; some might be a shell,” explained Darrin Davis, owner of Anacostia River Realty. “[A house] might go as low as $40,000, but will need a total rehab.” Davis estimates that Deanwood’s housing prices are the lowest in the entire District, but notes that demand is still pretty low. Despite the lack of buyers, he wagers that anyone buying a home in the neighborhood today will build up equity over the next few years.

A Commercial Desert

The elbow grease that a new home in Deanwood might require isn’t the neighborhood’s only downside. Though its main street was once bustling with shops, today the area is a virtual desert of commercial activity. There are a number of churches throughout the area, but one would be hard pressed to find a single shop or restaurant. Optimists point out that things are changing: the much-heralded Ray’s The Steaks East River restaurant, which opened this spring, is located about a mile and a half from Deanwood. In the same area, there’s a shopping center with a Safeway and a bank. But it’ll probably be a few years—or more—before Deanwood gets its own commercial amenities.

Deanwood: A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders: Figure 4
Deanwood Recreation Center and Library

The Awesome New Recreation Center

Deanwood does have one big claim to fame: its new $33 million Deanwood Recreation Center and Library. Opened to the public at the end of June, the place is brag-worthy: the 63,000 square-foot space includes a beautiful, airy library with lots of public access computers; a workout room; a large playing field; a pool; and a large playground with a variety of jungle gyms for kids of different ages. “It’s packed everyday, from Sunday to Sunday,” explained Eric Jackson, a local resident, pointing to the kids screaming on the swings and teens lounging against a front wall. The neighborhood boasts other new investments as well; Houston Elementary School recently was revamped with new facilities and a wide lawn. But otherwise, there isn’t too much available for kids in the neighborhood.

Deanwood: A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders: Figure 5
Sports fields at Deanwood Recreation Center

Convenient Enough

The Deanwood Metro station is on the Orange Line and the neighborhood is served by a few bus lines, including the U4, U8, W4, and V15. For drivers, the neighborhood is relatively convenient: on-street parking is ample and the neighborhood is near several main arteries, including Route 50 and the Anacostia Freeway.

Low Crime -- But Rising

Over the past year, the center of the Deanwood neighborhood experienced just over half the number of violent crimes (and a quarter of the property crimes) that occurred in a comparably sized area near Dupont Circle (the Circle itself). But unlike much of the rest of the city, crime has been increasing in the neighborhood over the past year. Still, Darrin Davis thinks it’s a safe place to live, and Nathan Campbell, who has lived in Deanwood for two years, agreed. “It’s an up and coming neighborhood, getting better. It feels safe.”

The Bottom Line

Moving to Deanwood and taking advantage of the area’s low housing prices isn’t for everyone. Home buyers that will find Deanwood to their liking will be those with more time and energy than money who are willing to go out on a limb and buy a home that might prove to be a good investment down the road. Amanda Abrams is a Washington, DC-based journalist who has written feature stories for The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Washington City Paper.

More Stuff about Deanwood

See other articles related to: river east, hoods, east of the river, deanwood

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/deanwood_a_little_bit_of_country/2408


  1. swested said at 3:31 pm on Wednesday August 25, 2010:
    Oh, Deanwood. A little bit of "country"? Which country, Iraq? Go ahead and take a walk around the Minnesota Ave or Deanwood metro stations in the evening and report back about how "safe" it feels.
  1. Dwood Res said at 3:41 pm on Wednesday August 25, 2010:
    Excellent portrayal of a neighborhood that has had its ups and downs in recent years. I have lived here for three years and have had to deal with the commentary of people like swested who feel unsafe because they are in unfamiliar territory at night. Let me just say that in three years, I have not had ANY experience with crime, and feel quite safe living here. P.S. -- The new rec center is AMAZING!!!
  1. Mike said at 4:16 pm on Thursday August 26, 2010:
    It certainly involves being an urban pioneer and long-term thinking if you are looking to move to Deanwood. Personally from living in the "Woodridge" neighborhood for 6.5 years now I would say you get a better deal all around in Woodridge when comparing the two neighborhoods although both lack significant amenities, which can be a drawback for some.
  1. Jason said at 5:55 pm on Thursday August 26, 2010:
    I dont get what type of 'pioneering' is involved when folks have lived happily in this neighborhood for years and years. As the old saying goes, everything aint for everybody...
  1. hoos30 said at 8:55 pm on Thursday August 26, 2010:
    Sorry to say, Deanwood is least my least favorite neighborhood in the entire city. Every other community at least offers SOMETHING: shopping, amenities, decent schools, easy access to work, nice housing stock, proximity to future development. Deanwood is simply JUST THERE, taking up space on the map.
  1. MikeWard7 said at 6:29 am on Sunday October 10, 2010:
    I was born and raised in the Deanwood area, in nearby Kenilworth. It always has that somewhat rural feel to it that I like, despite it having no commercial development outside of carryouts and corner store. Deanwood is a solidly southern neighborhood and I'll always love it, even though I recently moved to columbia Height after living in Deanwood/Kenilworth of almost all 20 years of my life. Its a big change, moving up here feels like I've moved to New York City.
  1. Renee Barrett said at 10:02 pm on Thursday October 21, 2010:
    Please note, I am in the market for a home and I am trying to get some information on Deanwood. Where should I begin? Can someone provide me with some information?
  1. Charmaine said at 7:32 am on Wednesday October 27, 2010:
    To Renee, I will give try to give some information to you tomorrow when I post. To the others who criticize Deanwood, let me tell you something. I've lived there for 3 years. With that being said, I've lived in the other 3 parts of DC and some of Maryland. For those of you who live in Columbia Heights, I remember when it was a hole, and when I make that statement, it was comparable to the Bronx, New York. And just like over time that area has developed well, so will Ward 7. Things don't just happen overnight, though if you are new to DC and just move to the first area you see with "big lights" , you would think that it has been like that for decades. Hell, I remember when the only thing that was open on U street was Ben's Chili Bowl, just as I remember how much in bad condition SW was, How run down Chinatown was, How much of a dangerzone it was to walk through or near the H Street Corridor, if you did not know anyone around Ledroit Park you might risk, being shot, and the only reason why anyone would even know anything about Woodridge is because of South Dakota Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue. So, with that being said, everything might not be for everybody which is true. But everything, especially progress, must take time. Deanwood is on the right track. Nuff said.
  1. Charmaine said at 7:04 am on Saturday October 30, 2010:
    @ Renee Barrett. I do apologize for not getting this information back to you sooner. So far, there are two people who are real estate agents that are knowledgeable about Deanwood and any available properties in the Deanwood area. Mr. Darrin Davis can be contacted at 202-678-REAL (7325), and Ms. Darshieka Smith is a real estate agent who is currently doing business with A&R Development who has built two townhouse communities (Capitol Gateway-which is completely sold out) and Glencrest, which has 51 homes left in that community from the last time that I've spoken with here. You can contact her via email at: info@glencrest.com or by phone at either, 202-396-4219 or 410-889-3191. I also know of one more person who can give information concerning homes in the Deanwood and Ward 7 area but I would need to locate that information. I will post that information no later than next Friday Night/Saturday Morning.I hope that this information is useful to you. Much Blessings.
  1. Uzi said at 9:44 am on Thursday September 29, 2011:
    Wait so y'all r gonna sit here n tell me that deanwood is not crime-ridden? Cmon now get real
  1. N said at 11:06 pm on Sunday January 8, 2012:
    Hello - I may be moving to the Capitol Gateway development, and I am interested in knowing if anyone has experiences (neg or pos) to share with me about the area. Thanks.

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