Category Archives: Favorite Things

Favorite Things #1 – The History

While GM is on his honeymoon, he’s publishing his top ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today we’re finally at number one: the history.
Georgetown is an old place. People have lived here since the mid-eighteenth century. Over the 250 or so years it’s existed, Georgetown has seen many people and stories pass through it. First it was a rough and tumble port. Eventually it grew to be a finely built and respectable municipality. With the decline of the C&O Canal among other factors, the village became the location of poor Irish and African American slums. Roosevelt’s new dealers started the gentrification ball rolling, and now it’s almost uniformly expensive (although GM insists there are still deals to be found if you look hard enough).
That’s the broad-brush history of Georgetown. And yes, frequently the history of Georgetown is told like a walking tour of which famous politician lived in what house. That’s all fine and good, but GM is more interesed in the more obscure history, like how our streets used to be called something else, and the fact they used to make rope in Montrose Park, or the fact that according to the 1920 census, GM’s block was full of cops, government clerks, and tradesmen.
Is that a trait unique to Georgetown? No, of course not. Neighborhoods across DC have their own unique histories as well. And if GM lived in those neighborhoods, it would probably be his favorite thing there too. But as it is, he lives in Georgetown, on a street that was once called “Road Street”, in a home that once housed an Irish draftsman, and discovering odd things like that (or that 31st street used to be a hippy hangout) is by far his favorite thing about living here.
Sadly for GM, his honeymoon is over this weekend. He’ll be back Tuesday to cover all the things he missed while he was traveling on the rails through Europe. Thank you for bearing with him.

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Favorite Things – The Architecture

While GM is on his honeymoon he is publishing his top ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today number two: the architecture.
According to the rules of real estate lingo, every single home in Georgetown is a “federal” home. That’s simply not true. This ignorant and broadbrush depiction of Georgetown’s architecture ignores the fact that the village is actually a wonderful cross-section of 19th century architecture.
From pre-federal Georgian buildings, to legitimate Federal homes, through to the vast majority of homes, which are mostly Victorian, Georgetown has it all.
The variety is in style as it is in depth. We’ve got the mansions and grand homes in multiple styles, but we’ve also got a large variety of more modest homes whose original owners couldn’t even afford a “style” (many have had colonial decorations added over the years, which now seem as old as the house despite the fact that they’re probably 50-75 years newer).
GM loves walking through Georgetown gawking at the architecture, and that’s why he selected it as his second favorite thing about Georgetown.

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Favorite Things #3 – Montrose Park

While GM is on his honeymoon, he’s counting down his top ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today it’s number 3: Montrose Park.

Montrose Park lies along R St. between Oak Hill Cemetery and Dumbarton Oaks. It’s got open and shady fields, four tennis courts, winding paths, and a playground, all within its 10 acres.

And it’s basically an off-leash dog park to boot. (Just don’t tell NPS that…)

Montrose Park regularly appears on various “best kept secrets” but in GM’s view, the park is no longer a secret. During the mornings it’s full of dog-walkers and early strollers, by the afternoons it’s full of birthday parties and whiffle ball games. Not to mention more dog walkers and the late strollers.

Yet despite all this use, it’s still idyllic and and a peaceful spot is not hard to find. Whether it’s the gas-lamp lit Parrot Walk, the hedge maze, or a bench on the hill overlooking Rock Creek Park, Montrose Park offers a place to quietly read the paper, even when the rest of the park is packed.

We can all thank Sarah Louisa Rittenhouse, who with a group of women who petitioned Congress to buy up the land and preserve it for “the recreation and pleasure of the people”. Now that the secret is completely out, her wish continues to be fulfilled.

Previously:

4: Nathans

5: The Georgetown Current

6: Greater Dumbarton Oaks

7: Sara’s Market

8: Bistro Lepic

9: Q St.’s Elms

10: Abundance of Stores

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Favorite Things – #4 – Nathans

While GM is on his honeymoon he is publishing his top ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today at number 4 is Nathans Restaurant.

Nathans is not the nicest restaurant in Georgetown. It’s not the oldest restaurant in Georgetown. And it’s not the most popular restaurant in Georgetown. But what it is is the most improbable restaurant in Georgetown.

Why improbable? It’s sitting on one of the most expensive and sought after corners in Georgetown. It’s constantly surrounded by tourists and suburbanite teens out shopping at stores they could probably find in the suburbs.

Yet despite all of that, it still continues as a quiet and peaceful refuge and a local favorite. Saddle up the the bar on a Sunday and you’ll eventually see someone you recognize come through the doors. Better yet, come to a Q & A Cafe and you’ll probably recognize your fellow diners from the neighborhood and the guest from TV (and perhaps also from the neighborhood).

So yes, some may prefer other places like Clyde’s or Martins for the tavern needs, but none of them is quite as improbable as Nathans. If Nathans does eventually close, we’ll finally see how improbable its continued existence was when some bland and generic chain snaps up the space, rips out the bar, tears up the well-worn floorboards, and turns it into just another place to buy shoes or phones or whatever.

Previously:

5: The Georgetown Current

6: Greater Dumbarton Oaks

7: Sara’s Market

8: Bistro Lepic

9: Q St.’s Elms

10: Abundance of Stores

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Favorite Things – #5 – The Georgetown Current

While GM is on his honeymoon he’s listing his top ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today is number 5: The Georgetown Current.

GM grew up in a small town with a weekly newspaper that devoted as much ink to the local soccer league as it did to the zoning board. So GM gets a nostalgic joy from reading a weekly paper focused exclusively on the village he lives in.

No other outlet in town would devote so much space to issues like whether there will be lights on a Chevy Chase ballfield. That issue alone has produced a series of unbelievable long letters to the editor. For someone as obsessed with local politics as GM is, this is manna.

And despite its narrow focus, the Georgetown Current still takes its job seriously and produces solid reporting, particularly on development issues. GM looks forward to every Wednesday night when he can get home and read about all the local stories and issues he missed. (He can normally get one to two posts per week piggybacking on their work). 

On top of its solid local reporting, the Current covers high school sports, gives you a weekly calender, and runs Tom Sherwood’s excellent column.

For all these reasons, the Georgetown Current is always sitting on GM’s coffee table and is his fifth favorite thing about Georgetown.

Previously:

6: Greater Dumbarton Oaks

7: Sara’s Market

8: Bistro Lepic

9: Q St.’s Elms

10: Abundance of Stores

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Favorite Things – #6 – Greater Dumbarton Oaks

While GM is on his honeymoon, he’s publishing his top ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today number 6: Greater Dumbarton Oaks.

What does “Greater Dumbarton Oaks” mean? It’s meant to refer to all the aspects of Dumbarton Oaks, including those that get ignored in preference for the gardens. So for the record, this is what GM means:

  • Dumbarton Oaks Gardens
  • Dumbarton Oaks Park (the part of Rock Creek Park just north of the mansion that is open and free all the time)
  • The Byzantine Collection
  • The Pre-Columbian Art wing designed by Phillip Johnson
  • The Friends of Music Series

There’s a lot to Dumbarton Oaks. But as GM has complained in the past, Harvard does a terrible job engaging the institution with the wider population. Whereas Tudor Place hosts holiday parties and Easter Egg hunts, Dumbarton Oaks maintains overly restrticted hours and runs few special programs. The buildings and grounds are maintained almost exclusively for the benefit of the lucky few Harvard landscape architecture students who are resident there.

But that criticism aside, Dumbarton Oaks truly is an incredible collection of spaces and natural and manmade beauty. And one exception to the general rule that Dumbarton Oaks doesn’t host many special events is the aformentioned Friends of Music. Once a month from November to April, the ridiculously grand Music Room of the mansion is turned over to its intended purpose. The series invites top notch musicians to play in an intimate and unique space. GM’s been a subscriber for about six seasons, and it’s absolutely worth the price.

Add the artwork of the two collections and the formal gardens to the rambling and overgrown faded glory of Dumbarton Oaks Park and you have a priceless treasure. If it weren’t for their stand-offish attitude towards the public, Dumbarton Oaks would be much higher on GM’s list. As it is, they remain at number six.

Previously:

7: Sara’s Market

8: Bistro Lepic

9: Q St.’s Elms

10: Abundance of Stores

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Favorite Things – #7 – Sara’s Market

While he is on his honeymoon, GM is publishing his top ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today is number 7: Sara’s Market.

Sara’s Market is one of the stars in Georgetown’s neighborhood market constellation. It’s been “Sara’s” for over 80 years and shopping at a store like Sara’s is what makes living in a city so enjoyable. GM normally hops off the D2, walks across the street, grabs milk or whatever else he’s lacking, and walks a couple blocks home. No driving to a huge parking lot. No lines. No huge loads of groceries. Just what you need for a couple of days to get you to your next unpleasant trip to Safeway wherever your going to for the next year.

Proprietors Andy and Suk Yang Johnson are on a first-name basis with many customers and are happy to chat about the comings and goings in the neighborhood. As the lower East Village fears the potential loss of their neighborhood market Scheele’s, GM is happy to note that the Johnsons own their property and are thus in control of their destiny. Also, they are proposing to add a dry cleaner drop-off service, which will only increase the store’s utility to its neighbors.

For these reasons, GM selects Sara’s Market as his seventh favorite thing about Georgetown.

Previously:

8: Bistro Lepic

9: Q St.’s Elms

10: Abundance of Stores

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Favorite Things – #8 – Bistro Lepic

As GM is away on his honeymoon, he is publishing his ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today is number 8: Bistro Lepic.

Bistro Lepic is an authentic French restaurant perched on Georgetown Heights. It has an intimate dining room on the first floor and a stylish wine bar on the second. Between the French accents from the waiters and the wrap-around Toulouse Lautrec mural, you could easily believe you’ve slipped away to Paris.

For GM, the appeal to Bistro Lepic is as much is locality as its food. Nestled up on Wisconsin between R and S, the restaurant offers those living in upper Georgetown fine dining without having to trek all the way down to M St. For that reason, it’s a favorite of locals.

So for these reasons, GM has select Bistro Lepic as his eighth favorite thing about Georgetown.

Previously:

9: Q St.’s Elms

10: Abundance of Stores

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Favorite Things – #9 – Q St. Elms

GM is on his honeymoon across Europe for the next two weeks. In place of timely articles, he is publishing his top ten favorite things about Georgetown. Today is number 9: Q St.’s elm trees.

As GM has discussed before, we are blessed with a row of beautiful and healthy American Elms along Q St. Cathedral-like canopies of American Elms once shaded countless streets across the country until the dreaded Dutch Elms Disease decimated the population. Only in a few isolated locations do the trees live on. Q St. is one of those locations.

While luck has played a large part in keeping these trees healthy, credit also goes to Trees for Georgetown, an organization that makes sure the trees receive regular inoculations against DED. They perform a great service to our community.

So for the comfortable shade that they create on hot summer days, GM has selected the resilient American Elms of Q St. as his ninth favorite thing about Georgetown.

Previously:

10 – Abundance of Stores

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