The Last Time that Kalorama Was the New Georgetown

Photo by M.V. Jantzen.

Yesterday a writer at the Washington City Paper mused whether Kalorama is the “New Georgetown”? While the article was really more an excuse to explore Kalorama and didn’t really get around to answering the question, it reminded GM of the interesting history of the two neighborhoods. Kalorama has been the “New Georgetown” for so long that we got a new bridge out of it.

The development of the Kalorama neighborhood took off in the 1890s. Perfectly timed for the gilded age, it was were Washington’s wealthy barons built their castles. Georgetown, on the other hand, had lost its municipal independence and was headed on a downward trend that would not reverse until the 1930s. Hell, it even lost its name as this was during the short lived attempt to rename the neighborhood “West Georgetown”.

To keep up with the development to the east, Georgetowners proposed two solutions: fill in the Rock Creek gorge, or build a bridge. The gorge-filling was ruled out by the McMillan Commission in 1901, so a bridge connecting upper Georgetown to Kalorama was chosen. After moving Dumbarton House and extending Q St., the Dumbarton Bridge was constructed and opened in 1915.

(For more on the bridge’s story, check out this old GM article.)

So as for the question: no, Kalorama is not the “New Georgetown”. They are just far too dissimilar neighborhoods. Georgetown has far more commercial activity, and probably a lot more residential diversity. Except for a few apartment buildings, Kalorama is almost entirely large, and extremely expensive homes. They’ve both got their charms, it’s just that they’re different charms.

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