Neighborhood of the Day, Day 21 Truxton Circle

Thomas Truxton
Thomas Truxton

Today, Truxton Circle is a phantom circle. It used to sit at the intersection of North Capitol St., Florida Ave., and Q St. It was constructed in 1900 and named for Commodore Thomas Truxton. The decision to name the circle after him was made because the land on top of which it was built originally was owned by the Truxton family.

Truxton was born on Long Island in 1744 and is notable for being a naval officer  in the early days of the U.S. Navy. He was appointed one of the first six commanders appointed to the navy by President George Washington to command the six original frigates: ChesapeakeConstitutionPresidentUnited StatesCongress, and Constellation. Truxton was the first commander of the Constellation, and also commanded the President.

As a side note, Constitution, is the oldest commissioned naval vessel that’s still afloat. She sits in Boston harbor, and is regularly used for ceremonies.

The circle used to have a beautiful fountain sitting in the middle of it (read about it here). It was quite hazardous to drive through the circle, and there were countless accidents. Ultimately, North Capitol St. was widened to facilitate moving commuters in and out of the city. As a result, sadly, the circle was demolished in the 1940s, yet the name remains, and is still applied to the neighborhood. If you want to read a little more on the lost circle, check out this post on Left for LeDroit.

The map below shows part of the Truxton Circle neighborhood, as well as Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park. The circle itself is at the bottom right.

 

Winter street scene in Truxton Circle

Truxton Circle within the District of Columbia

Truxton Circle is a neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C., bordered by New Jersey Avenue to the west, Florida Avenue to the north, New York Avenue to the south, and North Capitol Street to the east. Politically, it is partially in Ward 5. It is bordered on the north by Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park, to the east by Eckington, to the west by Shaw and Mt. Vernon Square Historic District, and the south by NoMa. Named for a traffic circlethat was demolished in 1947, the neighborhood is reclaiming its identity after decades of being presumed nameless.

A traffic circle was constructed at the intersection of Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street around 1900.[1] The circle was named Truxton Circle, after Navy Commodore Thomas Truxtun.[1] A fountain was moved from the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street NW to Truxton Circle in 1901.[2][3]

A police officer conducted traffic at the traffic circle until a traffic light was installed there in 1925.[4]

Because the traffic circle was a site of traffic jams and traffic accidents, it was demolished in 1947 at a cost of $500,000.[1][5] The adjacent fountain was removed at the same time.[1]

As the traffic circle slipped into history, so did the identity of the predominantly African American neighborhood. It was sometimes lumped in with Shaw, or mistaken for Eckington to the north, or called by the dubious name of “Florida Park,” but most residents considered it nameless.[citation needed]

The neighborhood of Truxton Circle contains late 19th-century houses and historical schools, including Armstrong Manual Training School (where Duke Ellington graduated) and the original Dunbar High School, the first public high school for black students in the United States. Along with Armstrong, the former John Mercer Langston SchoolJohn Fox Slater Elementary School, and the Margaret Murray Washington School buildings are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood has several parks and playgrounds, such as Truxton Park, which lies at the corner of First Street and Florida Avenue, New York Avenue Playground at the corner of First Street and N Street, and Bundy Playground between O Street and P Street.

 

Truxton Circle is actually more of a triangle, a small sliver of a neighborhood north of Union Station and adjacent to the better-known communities of Eckington, Bloomingdale, Shaw and Mount Vernon Triangle.

The neighborhood is architecturally diverse — new condo buildings are sprouting up on empty lots next to 19th-century rowhouses. It’s lively, too, with two public libraries, outdoor movies in the summer, and nearby entertainment and cultural venues such as the Howard Theatre, Verizon Center, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

Housing is dominated by two-level, flat-roofed rowhouses, many of them freshly renovated, some with English basements, said Larry Bivins, a sales associate with Long & Foster.

Bates Street, which runs across the neighborhood, exemplifies Truxton Circle. It’s an attractive, tree-lined street with house facades in an array of red, brown, gray and yellow, with flowers in front yards and contemporary numerals on doors.

Florida Avenue Park, at First Street and Florida Avenue NW, is typically teaming with toddlers on colorful play equipment on weekdays.

“Four or five babies were born within a week of each other nearby,” said Jennifer Lewis, who bought a three-bedroom rowhouse when she was single in 2006 and is now married with two children.

“We take our kids and meet a lot of neighbors,” she added.


Both sides of change:
 Like many D.C. neighborhoods, Truxton Circle is seeing an influx of new people, a situation that is drawing a mixed reaction.

“The neighborhood is definitely changing,” said Eric Ahearn, who just graduated with a master’s degree from George Washington University and rents a four-bedroom, five-bathroom apartment with several roommates. “I see lots of development — an increase in the number of houses that are under renovation, for sale or flipped. And they seem to go fast. You don’t see a sign up for long.”

“My impression is that a lot of young professionals are moving in,” he said.

M Marie Maxwell, a local historian who created and runs the history Web site www.truxtoncircle.org , has also witnessed transformation since buying an 1874 rowhouse in 2001. “When I moved in,” she said, “there were no restaurants, and drug dealers were on the corners. Each year I love it more and more.”

But Quinzenia Mack, a homeowner since 1966, said: “I like the neighborhood, but how long can I stay? Each time someone remodels, my taxes go up.”

“The people who’ve been here longest are mostly African Americans,” Mack said. “Many of us are paid minimum wage. Those new condos aren’t affordable for us. And I don’t have the money to renovate.”


Plenty to do:
 There are two neighborhood libraries — Waltha T. Daniel-Shaw Library at 1630 Seventh St. NW and Northwest One Neighborhood Library at 155 L St. NW.

During the summer, outdoor movies, co-sponsored by the Bates Area Civic Association, attracted crowds. Kennedy Recreation Center at 1401 Seventh St. NW offers a playground, basketball court and baseball field.

The eight-lane indoor pool at Dunbar High School is open to the public Saturdays from 2 to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Big Bear Cafe, Beau Thai, Red Hen and Boundary Stone are neighborhood restaurants. Safeway is at Fifth and L streets NW, Giant at Seventh and O streets NW. Bloomingdale Farmer’s Market at 102 R St. NW is open Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The nearby H Street NE corridor is lively with entertainment and dining venues.


Living there:
 Truxton Circle is bordered by Rhode Island Avenue NW to the north, Florida Avenue NW and NE to the east, New York Avenue NW and NE to the south, and New Jersey Avenue NW to the west.

Thirteen properties are on the market, with prices ranging from $324,555 for a one-bedroom, 11 / 2-bathroom condo to $1.1 million for a rowhouse with five bedrooms and 21 / 2 baths, according to Bivins.

Seven properties are under contract, from a Colonial-style rowhouse with two bedrooms and 11 / 2 bathrooms for $364,000 to a three-bedroom, 21 / 2-bath condo for $729,000.

Over the past year, 76 houses sold, ranging from a $270,000 short sale for a three-bedroom, 11 / 2-bathroom Colonial rowhouse to $1.02 million for a five-
bedroom, three-bath semi-detached contemporary house.


Transit:
 Walking, biking and public transportation are the easiest and most popular ways of getting around.

Lewis walks to and from her office at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Her husband, Josh Lewis, bikes to the same location. Ahearn biked to classes.

Two Metro stations on the Green and Yellow lines, Shaw-Howard University and Mount Vernon Square, are within walking distance. The area is served by several Metrobus lines.


Schools:
 Cleveland and Seaton elementary; Langley and Walker-Jones education campuses for elementary and middle; McKinley Technology Education Campus for middle and high; and Dunbar High.

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