Obama, The Tenant: A Chat With The President’s DC Landlord

by Shilpi Paul

President Obama’s first DC home.

This article originally ran on UrbanTurf in 2013.

When Johnsie Walsh rented a unit in her Stanton Park apartment building to a newly-elected senator named Barack Obama in 2005, she had no idea that she would be turning 227 6th Street NE (map) into a future stop on a presidential bus tour.

“People would say, ‘He’s going to be the next president, you should keep a copy of those checks!’” Walsh told UrbanTurf. “I’d just laugh and say ‘Yeah, sure’.”

Then-Senator Obama lived in the one-bedroom on Capitol Hill for about three years, Walsh remembers, holding on to the place even after he started campaigning for the presidency.

The sitting president, who was a very good tenant according to Walsh, apparently had simple needs during those years. Walsh said the apartment is very “plain jane,” with an old bathroom, a tiny kitchen and a half-sized stove. “It was just a meager space in a convenient location,” she said.

Though he wasn’t president yet, Obama’s lucrative book deals meant that he surely had enough money to rent a pricier place if he desired. But Walsh admires his decision to keep things simple.

“I really respect people who have money or status or both and can live a minimal existence like he did,” she said. Walsh, who voted for her former tenant in both elections, identifies as neither a Democrat or Republican.

Even though she lives in California and never met President Obama in person, Walsh has a few memories of his stay. Once, a fire in the building brought her back to the property. In order to check out the smoke damage to in the apartment, she had to first go through Secret Service: the current president already needed protecting. Walsh remembers a very tastefully decorated place with a nice sleigh bed. The apartment wasn’t quite up to the tastes of the future first lady, though, who said in an interview that she would never have stayed there.

The lease on the one-bedroom ended when the presidential race started heating up in 2008; the Secret Service decided that it would be easier to protect Obama if he stayed in a hotel. The apartment has been passed on to various Obama staffers ever since.

For posterity, Walsh did hold on to a copy of a $1,200 rent check, dated May 2008 and signed by Michelle Obama. Perhaps it will find its way into a presidential library one of these days.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/obama_the_tenant_the_presidents_landlord/6518


  1. D.B. said at 10:12 am on Tuesday January 15, 2013:

    Very cool! I’d like a one-bedroom for $1,200 a month on the Hill…

  1. Ibrahim said at 6:45 pm on Tuesday January 15, 2013:

    Fun article.

    One note of correction.  Stanton Park is not located on Capital Hill.  Rather, a but farther east.  It is essentially a stable working / middle income African-American community.

    Another note, I well remember an article about one of the complaints Obama’s earlier 2008 campaign volunteers. Some of these volunteers felt a bit unsafe walking to Obama’s home for meetings.  They believed the candidate Obama should have moved into a safer neighborhood.

    Life is strangely funny

  1. Andrew said at 6:54 pm on Tuesday January 15, 2013:

    In point of fact, Stanton Park is squarely inside of the boundaries of Capitol Hill (Capitol not Capital). Stanton Park is located between 4th and 6th Streets on the West and East respectively and borders C St on either side North and South.  The characterization of the economic and racial makeup of this large Washington DC neighborhood is also incorrect - but that is of little importance - previous comment is mis-informed.

  1. linda said at 7:00 pm on Tuesday January 15, 2013:

    @Ibrahim I agree with Andrew 110%. Stanton Park is most certainly Capitol Hill and the characterization is also incorrect.

  1. ibrahim said at 7:36 pm on Tuesday January 15, 2013:

    Hello Linda and Andrew.

    I concede on one point:  “o” in Capitol.

    Most people who have more than a pedestrian knowledge of the lay of the land, as well as Obama’s old unit could probably give you better insights.  And, so could many of his earliest volunteers wink.

  1. kasdccle said at 4:12 pm on Tuesday January 17, 2017:

    I certainly have more than a pedestrian knowledge of the Stanton Park neighborhood, having lived there for 4.5 years, and I agree with both Andrew and Linda. I find it difficult to believe that anyone other than the most sheltered of people would have felt unsafe walking in the area in 2008.

  1. DLG said at 6:12 pm on Tuesday January 17, 2017:


    There is a map link in the article.  Click it.  You’ll be quite surprised to see that Stanton Park is in fact part of Capitol Hill and only about 6 blocks from The Capitol. 

    And the neighborhood is mostly white and professional and very safe.

  1. JoDa said at 1:48 pm on Wednesday January 18, 2017:

    I lived around the corner from him AT THAT TIME.  Definitely Capitol Hill, definitely a safe neighborhood in 2008.  In fact, I moved out shortly afterwards because rents started galloping upward and I could no longer afford it.  But, sure, stable working/middle-class neighborhood…where I just happened to live next door to a Senator’s kid and across the street from high-level Democratic party operatives who hosted millionaires for fundraisers in their home.

Comments are closed.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾