Graduate students in the University of Maryland Historic Preservation Program developed a historic resource documentation and preservation plan for the Brightwood neighborhood in northwest Washington, DC. The community, whose earliest settlement predates the Civil War, experienced significant growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a “streetcar suburb.” It is also the site of Ft. Stevens, part of the ring of forts that protected the capital during the Civil War. Today, the neighborhood is facing renewed development interest, especially along the Georgia Avenue commercial corridor that bisects the community. The Brightwood Community Association, which served as the client for the project, wanted to know more about the area’s historic resources and ways to preserve neighborhood character.
The study area was bounded by Kennedy Street on the south and Aspen Street on the north and from 13th Street on the west to 8th Street on the east. The primary focus was the Georgia Avenue commercial corridor. The student team researched library and city archives to evaluate the area’s historic resources and also conducted a neighborhood survey and interviewed residents to understand the community’s sense of place. In its final client presentation and written report, the team recommended the community pursue creation of a Main Street program along Georgia Avenue, as well as designation of historic districts in the residential sections of Brightwood Park and Ft. Stevens Ridge and in the commercial core of Georgia Avenue from Kennedy to Rittenhouse Streets. The team also suggested the use of overlay zoning as a tool to encourage historically sensitive reuse of commercial buildings along Georgia Avenue. It was recommended that the city pursue funding from the federal transportation enhancement program for streetscape upgrades in the community. Finally, the team suggested that civic organizations active in the community could make small grants available to teachers in the neighborhood schools to develop local history enrichment activities for students.
Amy Bolusky Susan Nolan