The Secret DC Neighborhood

You may hear people refer to it as Georgetown. They might call it Glover Park. You may even hear it called Upper Georgetown, which I don’t think is real.

Today I’m going to tell you about the 4 square blocks of Burleith.

Burleith Location

Where is Burleith? It’s a small neighborhood with the northern boundary at Whitehaven Parkway, the eastern boundary is 35th Street, the southern boundary is Reservoir Road and the western boundary is Glover Archbold Park. In the late 1800’s, the Huidekoeper family owned this tract of land before selling it to developers Shannon & Luchs. They hired architects to turn it into the community we know now. The original marketing material from the 1920’s stated that the homes were designed for “a buyer of moderate means but of more than ordinary good taste with a kitchen to delight the housewife.”

Also included in Burleith, is a neighborhood called Hillandale. This is a gated community set on 42 acres with 268 homes that were built throughout the 1980’s. Hillandale has its own pool, tennis courts, clubhouse and playground.

Burleith Real Estate

What you will find in Burleith are rowhomes. Many many rowhomes and that’s all that’s here. Do they have condos? No. Do they have single family detached homes? No. Only rowhomes.

The earliest homes here were built in 1915, but the bulk of the building occurred between 1924 – 1928. This makes sense with what we know about Georgetown to the south with homes that predate the 1900’s and with Glover Park development starting in the 1930’s. Georgetown was the first area developed in DC, and the movement expanded north from there.

Burleith homes historically had a smaller footprint from surrounding neighborhoods, with more of a front yard and slate mansard roofs. They were usually around 1300 – 1400 finished square feet above ground with a lower level as well. The homes in Burleith always sold for a slight premium over Glover Park, though they are not as pricey as Georgetown. This was always a mystery because the facades of many of these homes looked run down to me, and Glover Park was just a few streets away with larger houses. Burleith houses also rented very quickly as well.

Generally what I know is that up until a few years ago, Burleith had a lot of residents who had either grown up here and inherited the home from their parents, or they had been in their homes for many decades. Sometimes neighborhoods change their personality and makeup in a few years, but often it takes decades. When I was digging around for more information on Burleith, I found a document from many decades ago about the history. It said, “the best proof that Burleith has a permanent attraction for its residents lies in the fact that children of Burleithians often make their home here.”

Because these homes have a small footprint, and because many seemed to look worn down from the outside, things started changing a few years back. Enter: The “popup.”  The popup in DC has a reputation for being a disgraceful atrocity on the city’s architectural landscape. When done improperly, they are a despicable eyesore for a neighborhood. Because rowhomes are attached to other rowhomes on either side, they don’t always lend themselves well to being torn down. But you can pop it up another level.

When the first few popups happened in Burleith, it seemed that there was a lot of contempt for them. Truth be told, some of them weren’t done well. But as time has passed, and this well-located neighborhood has attracted a lot of development, there are many popups here. As the neighborhood changes, you will see them mixed in with the original homes. Some of the homes are very modern and look nothing like the old homes at all. Others are more of a craftsman style. The new generation of buyers can now have a home in Burleith that gives them the square footage they need with the lifestyle they want.

They also have the prices to go with it. In the last year, 41 homes have sold in Burleith. The lowest price was $750,000 for a total gut job. The highest price was $4.1M inside the Hillandale Community. Outside of Hillandale in Burleith, the highest price was $3.23M for a home that was popped up. The average price was $1.87M and the median price was $1.725M.

From the 1955 History of Burleith document, “In years past, many spendidly designed houses in Georgetown were spoiled by their exteriors being changed. It has been necessary to spend much time and money in recent years to restore these houses to their original condition. Lest we of Burleith become too smug, we should remember that these mutations could happen, in time, to the houses of Burleith.”

Who Lives in Burleith?

There is a huge mix of people here. I know some long-time families who are in homes they grew up in or who had parents who left the home to them. There are empty nesters, medical staff who work at Georgetown, families and students. All walks of life live here, but the Burleith Citizens Association works hard to ensure there is a prevailing sense of community.

Fun Fact

In 1983, the Dean of Student Affairs and the head of the Burleith Citizens Association wrote a letter to the students in the neighborhood asking them to keep their blaring music down – especially at 3 a.m. At current prices of real estate, it feels safe to say that these homes are no longer a magnet for undergrads.

UnFun Fact

When you’re approaching Burleith from Glover Park, there is a stop sign on 37th Street and Whitehaven Parkway. For close to a decade, there was a defunct “stop sign camera” which didn’t work. One day, without warning, they put it back in service. Every single car was getting tickets. It was so sensitive that if you didn’t stop for 3-5 seconds, you got a ticket. People reacted.

First, the camera was knocked over. They came out and fixed it. Then someone glued something over the face of the camera. They came out and fixed it. After several more attempts to murder the camera, they came out and lofted it on to a pole. The big outrage was that in two years the camera generated more than $1.3M in fines! Each ticket was $100. The math on that comes to about 18 tickets a day.

Burleith Family & Fun

Burleith’s location feels very much like an enclave in the city without any actual businesses in the neighborhood. Hillandale truly is a gated enclave in the city. Adjacent neighbors include Georgetown University Hospital across Reservoir Road and behind (or south of) the hospital is Georgetown University. Just to the west of Hillandale is the Embassy of France.

Between Glover Park and Burleith is Glover Archbold Park with trails that lead to different neighborhoods to the west and north. There’s a large open park in the middle where you will often find people and their dogs, though there’s been neighborhood rumblings that it’s not an approved off-leash park.

South of Burleith is Georgetown with all the shops and dining options. Trader Joes and Safeway are right on Wisconsin Avenue where 35th Street ends.

For schools, the kids will go to Hyde Addison in Georgetown, Hardy Middle School which is on the edge of Burleith and MacArthur High School which is new as of the 23-24 school year.

Two Final Fun Facts

In the 1890’s, they used to bury dead horses at the end of 38th Street. In the mid 1900’s these alleys parallel to 38th and 39th Street were called the Hanging Gardens of Burleith. There were flowers and shrubs to last through all seasons.  In the 1950’s, 35th Street was called “Incubator Row,” because so many babies and children were living in the houses there. It’s almost like the more things change, the more they stay the same.