I live in Petworth, a turn-of-the-century rowhouse neighborhood in what might be called a ‘transitioning’ area of Washington DC. Petworth was developed in the early 1900s as a streetcar suburb, and was mostly working to middle-class white (Jewish/Italian/Irish) for its first few decades. Mass migration of southern blacks in the 1950s, combined with the racial tensions and 'white flight’ of the period, made Petworth mostly black (same class, different race) by the 60s.
Many of those residents are still here. People keep their yards nice, go to church on Sunday, wave and say hello to you on the street. There is some drug dealing, mostly under the radar, a hangover from the rough 1980s and early 90s. You also see cases of increasingly elderly homeowners under the boot of live-in grandkids who are up to no good.
But much is changing, like watching grass grow. It began in earnest in the late 1990s as, all across DC, homebuyers suddenly couldn’t afford to live in neighborhoods that they once were afraid to walk in. During my formative running-around years, 16th Street NW was a clear demarcation line. Then gentrification rolled over it like a wave. My wife and I barely planted our flag in time, almost priced out of our own city. We’re living in a kind of social experiment - for the first time in its existence, the neighborhood is becoming successfully mixed.
I was just interviewed by the editor of a local newsletter about the Petworth News blog I publish - how it impacts the evolution of the neighborhood, the role of online media in community-building, etc.
Click the title of this post for a PDF of the newsletter, the article starts on the first page.