For some it is hard to believe that there is a neighborhood with green lawns, beautiful houses, and quiet streets virtually devoid of traffic just to the north of Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant. And if you’ve never heard of Crestwood, you’re not alone. The relatively peaceful, upscale residential area that sits between 16th Street and Rock Creek Park is located near some of the city’s more popular neighborhoods, but is simultaneously isolated.
A Set-Apart Pocket of Land
The area that now makes up most of Crestwood was originally a large 300-acre estate purchased by a single owner in 1720. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the area started seeing single-family home development. Located just north of Mount Pleasant, it lies on a pocket of land west of 16th Street and surrounded on three sides by Rock Creek Park.
Crestwood is distinctly quieter than neighborhoods just a few blocks away, and there’s almost no through traffic. Many of the homes sit on large plots of land that haven’t been subdivided for new construction, and just about every lawn is green and dotted with flowering bushes.
Big and Spread Out
Crestwood is one of those DC neighborhoods where every other house seems to be a towering brick colonial with four or five bedrooms, however there are a mix of styles, including large Tudors, some sprawling ranch homes, and a few blocks lined with row houses. This is not the neighborhood for condo buyers, and rentals are rare: while there’s one apartment building on 16th Street, homeowners are discouraged from renting out their houses, said a longtime resident.
Kevin Wood, a realtor with William Sawyer and Company, said that homes currently on the market range in price from $535,000 to $1.28 million. While those prices might sound high relative to nearby neighborhoods like Petworth, the homes are considerably bigger and include much more land, and should instead be compared to areas like Cleveland Park and Tenleytown. “It’s not a cheap neighborhood, but it’s cheaper than west of the park,” Wood said.
Crestwood is not a large neighborhood by DC standards. A civic association website puts the number of residences in the 600-ish range—and there are only nine properties on the market right now, evidence of the small amount of turnover in the area. “People are very proud to be from Crestwood,” said Wood.
Several decades ago, Crestwood was one of DC’s pre-eminent neighborhoods for successful African Americans. But as earlier residents have grown older and passed away, the community has become more diverse. Arte Dunning, a realtor, moved to the neighborhood from Chevy Chase less than a year ago.
“We’ve always had our eye on it—it’s one of the best kept secrets in Washington,” he said. “It’s got big lots, and a genuine neighborhood feel that belies being so close to the White House.”
“I’ve been noticing that when [a family’s] young kids get to be school age, they leave the area,” said Beth Spence, an 18-year resident. Others send their kids to private schools.
Still, the park, big lawns, quiet streets, and a cohesive set of residents who communicate via an active listserv and organize regular events for holidays like Easter and July 4th are all aspects that continue to attract families.
A No Commercial Zone
Crestwood is an entirely residential neighborhood, but none of the residents that UrbanTurf spoke with complained about that.
“The stores are close,” said Spence, who does her grocery shopping at an organic foods market in Petworth. Columbia Heights, meanwhile, is just a mile and a half to the southeast. Dunning said the area is so well-placed that he can easily get to Silver Spring, Bethesda, or downtown DC when he wants to go out to eat.
For drivers, the neighborhood has ample parking and is near several major arteries running north and south through the city, including 16th Street, Beach Drive, and Connecticut Avenue.
A Vigilant Citizens Association
Mark this on the “disadvantage” list: crime can be an issue.
“Sometimes there’s a rash of burglaries,” Mrs. Robinson (declined to give her first name), who’s lived in the neighborhood since 1956, told UrbanTurf. “We’re always having items from cars taken.” Still, she called it negligible, and added that the Crestwood Citizens Association is quite vigilant about keeping crime to a minimum, discouraging residents from renting their homes and otherwise being on the lookout for potentially suspicious activity.
And crime is not the only thing that the association is keeping tabs on. A walk around the neighborhood reveals multiple signs warning against illegal dumping, asking neighbors to clean up after their pets, and reminding visitors that a neighborhood watch program is in effect.
The Bottom Line
Crestwood’s location and lack of commercial activity, along with its many large leafy lots and the park at its fringe, give it a serene feel, even though it sits next to a bustling urban environment. However, a low turnover rate among homeowners means that getting in can be tricky.
Amanda Abrams is a Washington, DC-based journalist who has written feature stories for The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Washington City Paper.