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Old Posted Oct 12, 2010, 4:25 PM
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DC Autumn Streets: Sixteenth Street

(Scroll down to skip the intro.)

Fall is the best time to be outdoors in Washington, DC. Reasonable temperatures, blue skies, and low humidity. Fall's arrival is always a welcome respite after our hot and humid summers. This fall I am taking on a small project. Each weekend, or whenever I have the opportunity, I will prepare a photo tour of one of Washington's important streets. I'll pick start and end points and simply walk straight down that one corridor, without major deviation.

For today's first installment, I present to you Sixteenth Street.

16th Street is one of the city's grand residential avenues, and is most famous for serving as the United States' Prime Meridian up until the US adopted the Greenwich standard. It runs directly north from the White House and is lined with historic mansions, luxurious apartment buildings, embassies, and important churches. One thing it doesn't have much of is commercial activity (except immediately downtown), which is due to the presence of several nearby commercial streets, most notably 14th, 17th, 18th, Columbia Rd, Mt Pleasant Street, and Connecticut Avenue.

If you'd care to orient yourself, here is a map showing the tour route. I begin at the north end of the red line and walk straight south, ending at the bottom. The two main parks we will encounter are outlined with narrow red.

Since 16th Street isn't a commercial street, it tends to be the border between neighborhoods rather than the center of them (commercial main streets are usually the center). We begin at the north end of the line, with the Mount Pleasant neighborhood to the west and Columbia Heights to the east. As we move south we will be straddling the border between Adams Morgan and the U Street District, then between Dupont and Logan Circles, before finally crossing into downtown.

And so we begin at the edge of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, with the first of many large churches.



I also promise many interesting residential buildings, both large:



... and small:



And while we're at it, a school or two. This is a DCPS high school.



This part of the city is outside the original planned L'Enfant street grid, but predates the more regular grid further north. The streets are laid out haphazardly in a European-like manner, resulting in a number of leftover spaces at sharp corners. Many of them are small parks.



The building on the left of that photo:



When commercial streets Columbia Road and Mount Pleasant Street come together with 16th, they form in a starburst intersection that is an important Mid City landmark due to its three distinctive church steeples.









Moving south, residential character takes over. This part of the street is lined with historic mansions, some of which have been converted to national embassies.







Arriving at the crest of Meridian Hill affords us a nice view of where we'll be walking. The statue in the middle of the street is Scott Circle, which we will reach later in the tour. Beyond that you can see the north portico of the White House and the dome of the Jefferson Memorial, which sit in front of the Potomac River and, in the distance, the Wilson Bridge (part of the I-495 Beltway).



Turning around to look from where we've come, the steeples of Columbia Road are still prominent.



As we descend the hill, Meridian Hill Park is to the west. I posted a photo set of the park last week, so I won't go into details of it now.

Along the 16th Street sidewalk, all you get is the base of a terrace.



The west side of the street is lined with apartment houses.





The base of the park.



Near the base of the park on the opposite side of the street there used to be a particularly grand mansion. It was torn town and redeveloped into some of the city's most bland rowhouses, but the mansion's terrace wall and gate structure remain as a reminder of what once occupied the land.





Let's keep moving.









We reach U Street, an important commercial cross street. Note the bike box.





South of U Street the scale drops to more of a rowhouse/walkup vibe for a few blocks before picking up into elevator apartments again as we approach downtown.



16th Street's large landscape setback is apparent in this picture, also showing a rare retail use.











Taller apartments begin to sprinkle in.





At S Street we run into the Scottish Rite Temple of Freemasonry. It's only the second most impressive mason's building in the DC area, after the tower in Alexandria.





Beyond it, the impressive Chastleton apartments.



The closer we get to downtown, the more each block is filled with elevator apartments rather than walkups.



Note the narrow contemporary infill building.



Walkup character does remain, however. Each block is different.









This is R, a typical cross street.



Back to 16th.









Looking down the street you can see we're getting closer to Scott Circle.



More public buildings appear.





For make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan, the Kazakh embassy:



Scott Circle generally marks the boundary into downtown. Just north of the circle we spot our first office building.



It's an interesting building, lined it with reliefs showing natural scenes.



Looking back north.



Scott Circle is the worst circle in DC. Some of our circles, like Dupont and Logan, are excellent urban parks. This one is unfortunately more like a highway interchange plopped in the middle of the city.

16th Street avoids the whole mess by just tunneling beneath.



You can take a local lane to get to the circle.



I almost rented an apartment in the building on the left in this picture. Nice enough building, but I didn't want to live on such a barren street.







Come around the circle and look into downtown.



Let's visit Australia for a quick minute, then head on our way.





I like this building. Specifically, I like that it is clearly contemporary, but they didn't cheap out on ornament. Human scaled things to look at for humans passing on the sidewalk. I'll take it over a monolithic box 10 times out of 10.





Proximity to the White House breeds boutique luxury hotels. About half the buildings you see in this picture are hotels much too expensive for me to ever stay in.



Note the Russian flag. This isn't their main embassy (the Soviets replaced it with a huge one elsewhere), but this does remain part of the Russian embassy complex.



Looking back on the circle.



Lots of office buildings.



Some institutional.



And naturally, Planned Parenthood. It's closed for the day in this picture, but when you're this close to the White House you'd better believe that protesters are pretty much always here.



We cross K Street, an important downtown cross street.



From I Street we'll turn around and look back north. The concrete bunker on the left is the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, and is one of the more hated buildings in the city.



The last downtown block before Lafayette Square and the White House (therefore the most proximate to the President) features the headquarters of AFL-CIO, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Hay Adams Hotel, and a historic church.

Here's the Hay Adams. It is one of the most famous and luxurious hotels in the city, and is one of the places where foreign heads of state frequently stay while visiting Washington.



The United States Chamber of Commerce:



Saint John's Episcopal church is the traditional church of the President. It was built in 1815.



The AFL-CIO building is the box behind/left the church in the picture above. They have a gorgeous mosaic in the lobby.



Lafayette Square and the White House.



Lafayette Square is named for the Marquis de Lafayette who joined the Continental Army and fought for George Washington during the American Revolution. However, for some reason the central equestrian statue is of Andrew Jackson.



Crossing through the park onto the section of Pennsylvania Avenue that has been closed to car traffic since the Clinton years.



There are always lots of tourists milling about.



And always always always protesters of one variety or another.



And finally, Barry and Mishy's simple unassuming home.



Watch out in a few days for the next installation of the series.
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Last edited by Cirrus; Oct 12, 2010 at 8:44 PM.
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Old Posted Oct 12, 2010, 5:13 PM
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I applaud this series. I think SSP is at it's best when we get detailed neighborhood tours like this. DC is deserving of in-depth neighborhood coverage.

16th was a great place to start. It's an important street, and surely looks the part.
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Old Posted Oct 12, 2010, 6:42 PM
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Very beautiful street views! The buildlings on the first 2 pictures reminds of Eastern Europe in some way.
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Old Posted Oct 12, 2010, 7:41 PM
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We don't get enough of these types of photo tours, but I always enjoy them when we do.
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Old Posted Oct 12, 2010, 8:20 PM
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Pound-for-pound, the best residential architecture city in the country.
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Old Posted Oct 12, 2010, 11:13 PM
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oh man, great tour!
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Old Posted Oct 13, 2010, 6:11 PM
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Thanks guys.
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Old Posted Oct 13, 2010, 6:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thundertubs View Post
I think SSP is at it's best when we get detailed neighborhood tours like this.
Agreed! Such a fantastic photo thread... thanks Cirrus!
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2010, 2:14 PM
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The US Chamber of Commerce should be transparent so American voters can know if foreign money is being used to purchase our elections this November.

Exclusive: Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads

http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/05/...amber-commerce
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2010, 9:21 PM
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I heart D.C.
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Old Posted Oct 16, 2010, 1:43 AM
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I try to get any visitors I'm escorting around the city a trip up 16th Street. It's a gem. Wonderful pics and tour Cirrus. But where are the street hockey players on PA Ave?

btw, the last time I was in the Hay Adams I saw Barabara Walters. She looked old, frail and tiny. And that was about 15 years ago.


Thanks.
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Old Posted Oct 17, 2010, 1:28 AM
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Great set! I miss DC.
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Old Posted Oct 18, 2010, 3:51 PM
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Fantastic! Keep up the good work.
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Old Posted Oct 18, 2010, 5:08 PM
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good job
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Old Posted Oct 21, 2010, 2:05 AM
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Love it, miss it, wish I could afford it

Thanks!
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Old Posted Oct 21, 2010, 5:15 AM
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DC is the definition of liveable.
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Old Posted Oct 21, 2010, 9:06 PM
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fantastic, man. just fantastic.

(but again i say: a statue of james buchanan?!?)
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Old Posted Oct 21, 2010, 9:48 PM
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I really loved this. Great photos, thanks!
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Old Posted Jan 4, 2011, 9:19 AM
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10/10.

Great shots of my home town!
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