DC has a lot of different neighborhoods, and who among us hasn't confused Brightwood and Brentwood? There's a good chance the District has at least a handful of neighborhoods you've never even heard of. Barnaby Woods? Gateway? Mayfair? Burrville? Check out this map to see a whole slew:
This is the first thing that comes up when you Google “DC neighborhood map.” And while it doesn't seem like you can find out who made it through Google Maps, it does look like it's the same as the DC neighborhood map on Wikipedia, created by someone named Peter Fitzgerald.
The Wikipedia article there says DC has 131 neighborhoods that are “unofficially defined by the DC Office of Planning” and that definitions come from the “boundaries of historic districts, ANCs, civic associations, and business improvement districts.”
But as the word “unofficial” implies, even OP isn't the final arbiter of neighborhood names. I sent the map to our contributors to ask if they had any thoughts, and it seems that title belongs to… nobody, really. It turns out both here in our region and outside of it, universally-agreed upon definitions of neighborhoods are rare.
Justin Lini, an ANC commissioner who lives in what the map calls Mayfair, explained how not all of his neighbors would agree with its boundaries:
Some of these borders in my part of town (Northern Ward 7) are a bit off. Being a resident of the neighborhood identified on the map as Mayfair I can tell you that neighborhood names can also be political. Only about a third of “Mayfair” is actually Mayfair- the other two thirds are Paradise and Parkside. People can get quite passionate about what community they identify with. Few Parkside residents would say they were from Mayfair and vice versa.
Our civic association has been having a months-long discussion about what to call itself that would be both recognizable and inclusive of the entire community.
Abigail Zenner elaborated on where she lives depends on who you ask:
I live in what I refer to as Navy Yard but it's part of the Capitol Riverfront BID so people call it Capitol Riverfront. I also live just outside of Capitol Hill. Sometimes I say I just live near the ballpark. Others have told me I live in “Near Southeast” which is an odd name for a neighborhood. Of course, the Navy Yard is a specific place which is about a half a mile away from where I live.
Sam Norton said he has experienced the same thing:
One aspect of DC neighborhoods that I find interesting is that oftentimes they go by a different name from their official name. For instance, I lived in Forest Hills for a year and a half. When I told people where I lived, they usually had no idea what I was talking about - in many people's minds, the neighborhood is called “Van Ness” since that's the name of the nearest Metro station. Likewise, I find that people are more likely to say “H Street” rather than “Atlas District.”
And, Sam continued, those thoughts only get into questions about what places are called now:
There are also cases where neighborhood identities change over time. I've read that in the years before Logan Circle became trendy, realtors would describe listings in Logan Circle as “Dupont East” since Dupont Circle had more cachet than Logan Circle. And of course, there are examples of neighborhoods fabricated out of whole cloth, like NoMa.
Dan Reed added more context about why neighborhood names change over time:
As recently as the 1960s, much of what's now called Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, U Street, etc. was called Shaw, but as those areas became more desirable, the name started to recede.
Speaking of realtors: most areas (in DC and beyond) have an official subdivision name (presumably with some historic association) and an “advertised subdivision name” (whatever the developer calls it, or even the vernacular use. When I was growing up in the 1990s, basically all of DC south of Florida Avenue had the “official” name “Old City #1” or “Old City #2.” I'm not actually sure what the origin is. But occasionally you'll still see listings that refer to it.
And there's a whole separate post in here about the place names that went away, or were invented but never stuck (like Atlas District, etc).
My favorite example is probably North Bethesda, which people complain isn't a real place (though it is officially recognized by the US Census Bureau) but replaced not one, but several then-rural villages who ultimately got gobbled up into the sprawl between Bethesda and Rockville. Had things gone differently, that area might have been called “Beane.”
“My tax bill still says Old City #2,” said David Alpert, who lives in Dupont Circle. “#1 is Capitol Hill. Obviously nobody says 'I live in Old City #2.'”
Geoff Hatchard put a very good point on the conversation:
I love that this topic will never die and can always be re-discussed every few years as new people learn about, debate, argue, and discuss DC neighborhoods.
But while learning about places that are new to you is fantastic, I think it's very important to point out that nearly every place you're unfamiliar with is very familiar to someone else whose point-of-view is equally valid to your own.
When I first moved to DC, a lot of these places were foreign to me, but not to those who lived in the neighborhoods all their lives.
Is this map accurate to you? And be honest: how many neighborhoods could you name without clicking to see what the map calls them?