Ledroit Park is arguably DC’s most beautiful neighborhood and was also, believe it or not, the city’s first suburb. It was founded in 1873 by businessman Amzi Barber, who named his new development after his father-in-law, a breathtaking kiss-up that was undercut by the fact that he misspelled his name. (His father-in-law was named Ledroict Langdon.) Barber knew it was going to be tough attracting people to his then-remote new suburb, so he poured a ton of money into world-class landscaping and exceptional design. The result is that even today, Ledroit is like a tiny idealized version of DC, in the middle of DC. If the boxlike rowhouses and asphalt streets of the District are a “no makeup selfie,” the Victorian houses and cobbled lanes of Ledroit are two hours of professional hair and makeup. It’s that dramatic of a difference.
LEDROIT IN ONE WORD
There are about 50 original houses still left, so if you get your hands on one, you should definitely start mentioning it at every possible opportunity. “Oh great,” people will say when they see you at parties. “Mr. One of Only Fifty Original Structures is here. Sure hope he comes over and talks about wainscoting for twenty-five minutes straight again!” (Ignore them, they’re just jealous.) Living in Ledroit means you’ve joined a neighborhood tradition that includes Duke Ellington, Jesse Jackson, Walter Washington (DC’s first real mayor), Ralph Bunche (first African-American Nobel winner), and countless other cultural pioneers. When you walk down the street in Ledroit, you can actually feel the history all around you, judging you for wearing flip-flops. Which is to say, history is a double-edged sword. If you want to make even minor changes to your historic house, you’ll have to run a gauntlet of bureaucracy that makes the DMV on Saturday seem like a paragon of efficiency. Residents also take a noticeable pride in lawn upkeep, so if you’re like me, and subscribe to a “natural yard” philosophy, you should either plan on hiring a landscaper or look elsewhere. (Or wear a suit made of aluminum foil every time you leave the house, to deflect the white-hot withering glares your neighbors will be sending your way.)
Still, why would you want to change one of these houses? You don’t see them repainting the Eiffel Tower every time a new color palette becomes fashionable. Don’t mess with the classics.
The Park at Ledroit is one of the best parks in the city, probably because it’s one of the newest parks in the city. When they tore down the old elementary school in 2010, Ledroit residents were able to persuade the city to turn the site into a park instead of a mixed-use blah blah blah anchored by a combination Cinnabon/Lululemon. Which, considering how valuable undeveloped lots are in this area, is a testament to how influential the Ledroit brand is. There’s a playground, a huge dog park, and a community garden. Throw in some kind of bike-related something and you’d have a New Urbanist’s dream come true. It’s so nice that the Prince of Wales visited!
There are bars and restaurants nearby, although not IN Ledroit, which I think is huge. Having bars and restaurants right outside seems great until some interns have a vomiting contest under your window the night before you have to catch an early flight. It’s much better to be a short walk away from the action, and Ledroit is a short walk away from all the action worth actioning. U Street and Shaw are literally one minute away, and from under the Ledroit entrance arch you can throw a rock and hit a handful of fantastic bars including Shaw’s Tavern (brunch on their patio is *almost* worth getting up before 2PM) and my personal favorite, Bistro Bohem, whose collection of Eastern European beers (I recommend the Golden Pheasant) has aged my poor liver far beyond my actual years. Also juuuuuust outside the Ledroit borders are Thai X-ing (maybe the best Thai in the city, and I swear the homemade ginger beers – an eyewatering amount of fresh ginger grated into a draft beer – will instantly cure a cold), and Zenebech Injera, a hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian joint that those in the know will tell you serves by far the best Ethiopian in the city.
But yeah, Ledroit proper is 100% residential, and at night it’s totally quiet and peaceful – so quiet, in fact, that when I cut through the neighborhood late at night I can’t help but think “wow, if someone murdered me right now, there would be no witnesses and no one would even hear me scream.” A perfect neighborhood to raise kids in!
CAN YOU GET A DEAL HERE?
Possibly! The data shows that prices in Ledroit are somewhat volatile compared to the rest of the District, but seem to be heading towards a period of high value. (See chart above.) Sure, prices are still securely in that bracket where when you see the number, you’ll break out in a cold sweat and force a dead-eyed mouth-only panic smile onto your face, but, you know, everything’s relative. If there was ever a time to call your parents and give them the spiel about how it never made sense to you how kids were expected to wait until their parents’ death to get their inheritance, especially when the kids could put it to such good use right now, on, say, a down payment on a Ledroit Park rowhome, well, that time is now. (Pro tip – wait until the holidays to ask, when that empty nest wistfulness is peaking!)
WHAT YOU’LL FIND ON THE CURB ON TRASH DAY
Hardcover editions of nonfiction books by New Yorker writers, fruit infuser water bottles, MCAT study guides that have barely been used but you just know they passed it anyway, giveaway day planners from corporate weekend “ropes” courses, and well-thumbed coffee-table-book-style Restoration Hardware catalogs.