Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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This section of the map marks our walk along Southern Avenue.

DC is a small city when you think about it. Just 68.3 square miles. It’s lovely diamond shape is easy to navigate. There are four separate quadrants with numbered and lettered streets (and state streets that cross diagonally). Thanks to the grid-like structure courtesy of city planner Pierre L’enfant, it’s easy to get around DC.

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The yellow pins mark all the boundary stones that exist along DC’s borders.

But after four years (this month!) since moving to DC, I realized that for all my adventures, there are still neighborhoods I have yet to explore. Sometimes I look at a metro map and think, “Have I been to that stop? What’s there?

This weekend, a like-minded friend organized a “DC Border Walk” to explore the southern edge of the city via its historic boundary stones. Quick history lesson: When Washington, D.C. was first built, city planners laid stone markers to signify where the edge of the city would be. Most of the markers are still there, although some have been destroyed. Some are on public ground, while others reside on residential property. Like a treasure hunt, finding these markers requires a sense of adventure, but it also provides the opportunity to see lesser-traveled neighborhoods.

On Saturday, we embarked on a 6-hour walk hike along Southern Avenue, starting at Capitol Heights and making our way southwest to very tip of DC at South Capitol Street. Just a few highlights from our (very hilly) urban hiking adventure:

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National Capitol Hebrew Cemetery: Located on the Maryland side of Capitol Heights, we stumbled upon the grounds of this Jewish cemetery en route to the first boundary stone.

Johnny Boy Carryout: At the recommendation of a colleague, we planned for a lunch break at Johnny Boy Carryout, where I had arguably the best BBQ chicken sandwich (the “hot” version of the BBQ sauce lived up to my expectations — and maybe then some!) Grateful I had some cooling cole slaw on the side!

Francis A. Gregory Library: We took a quick detour after lunch to find some shade, and a restroom, at the closest library. The Francis A. Gregory branch was redesigned just a few years ago, and boasts a stunning modern, light-filled design.

St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church: Perhaps my highlight was meeting the rector of this local Episcopal church in the picturesque Hillcrest neighborhood. She spotted us walking and immediately introduced herself as a native Washingtonian. She was thrilled that we were out walking and learning more about our city, and we even got a personal invitation to Sunday’s service.

Hillcrest: If you thought gorgeous real estate only existed in Georgetown, think again. It’s amazing to see homes with such expansive grounds in the Hillcrest neighborhood. The Post calls it “Southeast’s answer to Northwest’s Cleveland Park” neighborhood. Fun fact: Hillcrest is also home to DC Mayor Vincent Gray.

Sometimes I think about how it easy it is get into a routine, and really only experience a sliver of what this city has to offer. It’s amazing the people you meet and conversations you can have when you decide to just go for a walk — even if it is 6 hours long!


About Meg Biallas

Thoughts From A DC Intern Turned DCist. A twenty-something goes beyond traditional tourism to achieve Washingtonian authenticity.
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2 Responses to Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

  1. Dorothy Vaughan says:

    Meg–How fun to do the city inspections of the neighbords. Love the map and info . . would like to tag aoo9ng with you as the tour guide!! Enjoy it. Aunt D


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