On Friday, regular reader William posed this question in the comments section to this post:
[W]here exactly does the north end of Georgetown end?
Georgetown is one of the few neighborhoods in the District whose boundaries are actually laid out by federal law. The Old Georgetown Act states that:
there is hereby created in the District of Columbia a district known as “Old Georgetown” which is bounded on the east by Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway from the Potomac River to the north boundary of Dumbarton Oaks Park, on the north by the north boundary of Dumbarton Oaks Park, Whitehaven Street and Whitehaven Parkway to Thirty-fifth Street, south along the middle of Thirty-fifth Street to Reservoir Road, west along the middle of Reservoir Road to Archbold Parkway, on the west by Archbold Parkway from Reservoir Road to the Potomac River, on the south by the Potomac River to the Rock Creek Parkway.
What does that look like in Google maps? Voila:
It gets a little fuzzy just what they mean by “on the north by the north boundary of Dumbarton Oaks Park, Whitehaven Street and Whitehaven Parkway”. It probably doesn’t border Whitehaven St. all the way to Massachusetts, since the homes on the south side of Whitehaven St. up there, such as the Italian Embassy, don’t seem to be subject to the Act.
Also it’s a little fuzzy east of Dumbarton Oaks Park since the park doesn’t actually border Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. It would seem, however, that the line travels on the north boundary of Montrose Park over to the parkway.
The bigger question is whether the act itself is definitive. Well, in GM’s mind it’s definitive as far as the act is concerned. In other words, homeowners at R and 37th never need come before the Old Georgetown Board. Moreover, the properties that fall just north or east of the border generally were built at different times and part of different development projects than the ones within the border.
The odd duck in the whole equation is that triangle formed by Reservoir, 35th, and Wisconsin. According to the act, it’s Georgetown. But some would consider it Burleith. And regardless of what it is, those on the east side of 35th would probably think that they live in the same neighborhood as those on the west side.
11 responses to “What Are Georgetown’s Boundaries?”
That is a great map, it clarifies a number of questions. One wishes the north boundary was a bit more geographically consistent, perhaps, but having three geographic boundaries is pretty neat. Thanks!
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Bravo, GM. Glover Park is not Georgetown. Burleith is not Georgetown. West End is not Georgetown. Even Arlington is not Georgetown. Only Georgetown is Georgetown. The Whole Foods is def not Georgetown and arguably the Georgetown Safeway is not Georgetown….but close enough.
I agree with Medusa – the Social Safeway (and indeed even the Georgetown Flea Market) is part of what we might call “Questionable Georgetown” along that northern edge.
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As GM observed, the definition of the north boundary of Georgetown, as spelled out in the Old Georgetown Act, is a bit fuzzy, but I suspect it was indeed intended to include (as stated in the Act) Whitehaven St. Reason: the east boundary of G’town is defined in the Act as Rock Creek northwards as far as the north boundary of Dumbarton Oaks Park. But there is no such intersection. Dumbarton Oaks Park (as donated to the National Park Service in 1940-41 by the Bliss family) terminates at Lover’s Lane, after which the tributary valley which forms its backbone continues behind Montrose Park until reaching Rock Creek. I suspect the framers of the legislation mistakenly assumed that Dumbarton Oaks Park incorporated that additional segment. (Both are administrative units of Rock Creek Park.) In that event, the north boundary in fact was intended to encompass both those elements, i.e., all of Rock Creek Park west of Rock Creek, and Whitehaven St., being essentally an enclave sticking part way in between those sections, was incorporated in order to create a clean boundary line for Georgetown running from Rock Creek to Observatory Circle.
That said, if the folks living on Whitehaven St. nonetheless by oversight, now compounded by tradition, have escaped the jurisdiction of the Old Georgetown Board, I congratulate them on their good fortune 🙂