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East Of The River: At A Glance

In Washington, D.C., the Anacostia River flows by some of the most well-known neighborhoods. To the west are the neighborhoods of Southwest D.C., Navy Yard and Capitol Hill. To the east, historic Anacostia, Congress Heights and several other residential neighborhoods make up Wards 7 and 8. 

But it is more than just topography that divides the two sides of the river. The area is notorious for its high crime rate compared to the rest of the city. Many D.C. residents are reluctant to cross over to east side of the river, and many never do. But the neighborhoods of Anacostia, Congress Heights, Deanwood and others have a history and a culture those who live and grew up there defend fiercely.

“The people who don’t live [in Anacostia] don’t know Anacostia,” Anacostia Historic Preservation Review Board member Charles Wilson told Curbed D.C. “They know what they read in the newspapers about the crimes, the statistics, and just the perception of the neighborhood.”

Thanks to several new planning and development initiatives east of the river, that perception is slowly beginning to change. Offices, bookstores and coffee shops are popping up throughout Wards 7 and 8, and once-vacant buildings are being repurposed as affordable housing.

Increased development and leasing activity is also bringing more fresh food options to the area, which has historically lacked access to the same healthy food options as the rest of the district. 

As neighborhoods east of the river continue to grow, developers are mindful of the area’s history. During the 19th century, Anacostia and the neighborhoods surrounding it were home to Washington’s working class, providing more affordable living options than areas closer to the center of the city. Its riverside location offered workers easy commutes to and from the Navy Yard, where many of them were employed. 

In 1877, abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass purchased Cedar Hill, the house where he and his family resided until he died in 1895. Located at 1411 W St. SE, the property is now a National Historic Site and boasts one of the best views in D.C.