The topic of this Off the Beaten Turf is an unexpected moment of peace right in the middle of the city: Kalorama’s Spanish Steps.
Tucked away in one of the city’s toniest neighborhoods (and the topic of an upcoming neighborhood profile) are the Spanish Steps, a beautiful solution to a topographical dilemma.
Located on what would be 22nd Street NW, just below S Street and above Decatur Place (map), the steps were constructed in 1911 on a slope deemed to steep for carriages. Instead of continuing 22nd Street, city planners built steps to allow pedestrians to cross.
What may have been a simple staircase in another era became the Spanish Steps in the early 20th century; at the time, city planners were deep into the “City Beautiful“ philosophy, believing that beauty would instill in residents a sense of civic duty and pride.
As a result, the steps, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are quite aesthetically pleasing, with a lion-head fountain, sturdy balustrade, and a dignified air. There is greenery lining them and two lamp posts at the bottom. The steps are pretty well hidden from the north, but imposing and impressive when entering from the south. After decaying for a few decades, they were restored in 1999.
You can find couples relaxing on them at night, and one UrbanTurfer has attended a wedding there. So grab some gelato from Connecticut Avenue, sit and watch residents stroll home, or sneak away with a date to enjoy a public space less conspicuous than Dupont Circle at almost any time of the day.