Eclectic Avenue Georgia Avenue is changing. But it’s always been.

Photo Slideshow: Eclectic Avenue
Photographs by Darrow Montgomery

For an exercise in cognitive dissonance, there’s no better place to go than Mothership. Grab a seat on the patio at the new restaurant at 3301 Georgia Ave. NW, order a few small plates and a drink, and take in your surroundings. Gaze over your Moshi punch toward the Eddie Leonard carryout, the neighborhood’s best bet for a wee-hour mumbo-sauce fix. Glance up from your oxtail and bone marrow patties toward the stoic bars guarding the windows of the Grays Market bodega. Look left from your slow-cooked wild boar bucatini and you’ll see the usual loiterers outside of the grimy, bullet-proofed Petworth Liquors; look right and you might catch a glimpse of a young consultant, still in his work suit, dashing out of Lion’s Liquors—home, before its recent renovation, to the strangest cast of characters this side of the X2 bus—with a bomber of one of the store’s many craft beers in hand.

Welcome to Georgia Avenue, the street that’s eternally on the cusp. Which is exactly where many of us would like it to stay.

A bit of history: Georgia Avenue wasn’t always Georgia Avenue—or rather, it wasn’t always where it is today. The ur-Georgia ran through the Southeast and Southwest quadrants, until the Peach State’s Sen. Augustus Octavius Bacon, horrified at the condition of the street, requested a name change in 1906. A few years later, he got his wish: Georgia became Potomac Avenue, and Brightwood Avenue—stretching from the northern boundary of the L’Enfant City through the old plantations of Petworth and the Civil War battlegrounds of Fort Stevens up to the Maryland border—became Georgia.

Like its companions U and H and 14th, Georgia emerged from the 1968 riots deeply scarred. These days, it’s not exactly getting a facelift, just the odd botox injection here and there that leaves it more mottled than ever. There may be luxury apartments and a French restaurant by the Petworth Metro, but there’s also the check-cashing joint and the beauty parlors and the Fisherman of Men Church and scores of little markets and carryouts.

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The scattered splotches of bourgeois are really nothing new: Georgia has always been a socioeconomic gradient, its nearly five miles tracing a crooked line from the dancing guy with his blaring boombox at the corner of Florida through the stately Howard University campus up to the upper-middle-class enclave of Shepherd Park. City planners may divide the avenue into Lower Georgia and Upper Georgia; in reality, there are a thousand different Georgias, one in each auto body shop, in each storefront oozing the aroma of its deep fryer, in each mom-and-pop shop that holds on and each that doesn’t.

The history and the future of the District are written on its longest commercial corridor, and they’re not necessarily in opposition. May they long live side by side. May the swanky new restaurants and condos always look out of place alongside the funky age-old institutions. May the old-timers and the newcomers mingle awkwardly but peaceably. And the more you change, Georgia, may you always stay the same.

Photo Slideshow: Eclectic Avenue

Our Readers Say

Great premise.
This begs to be serialized.
Great premise.
This begs to be serialized.
My comments, not so much.
This is an interesting article.
Howard's campus is "stately"? Come on, no.

That's like saying Prince of Petworth is "newsworthy." Which, sadly, a lot of Petworth residents consider the Prince or Petworthn to be, when really it's just a breeding ground for comically scared white people.
Cast of Real Characters Found Aboard 70 Bus

By Robert Samuels
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/24/AR2006072401020.html
I agree with the other commenter that Howard isn't very stately. It has a couple nice buildings but many ugly or blah buildings.

I also hate that big police radio tower. With all the technological advances how can that still be necessary? It's so ugly.
YO WEINERSCHNITZEL THE HISTORY LESSON ASIDE POOR OL' GEORGIA AVE DESERVED A LIL MORE THAN 6 MEASLY PEASLY GRAPHS! WHAT THA FUCK DUDE?

THIS COLUMN IS EQUIVALENT TO SOME HEAVY PETTING AND FOREPLAY THEN A SUDDEN STOPPAGE IN ACTION. IM NOT SAYING GEO AVE GET ME ALL RON MOTEN HELPING HIS PEOPLE BUT I DO RESPECT THE AVENUE AND ALL THE CHANGES (SUTTLE AND GRANDIOSE) IT HAS ENDURED OVER THE PAST 40 YEARS.

WHAT I AM SAYIN' IS YOU COULD HAVE TOUCHED ON A LOT OF THE CHANGES TO GEO AVE GOOD AND BAD TO EDUMACATE ALL THOSE LIL TWITTY'S & OL TIMERS WHO HAVE TO COEXIST ON THE DC'S CAROTID ARTERY.

SITTING AT THE GATEWAY OF GEO AVE IS HOWARD UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL WHICH LAST I CHECKED IS THE ONLY FULL SERVICE FUNCTIONING HOSPITAL ON A HBCU (THAT ORIGINATED AS FREEMAN'S WHICH IS STILL LOCATED RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER) AND PROVIDES A STABLE ECONOMIC BOOM FOR THAT AREA OF DC AND STATELY HOWARD UNIVERSITY!

THE DENTISTRY SPOT ON GEO AVE & MORTON USED TO HOUSE THE BLACK HOLE, DC'S 3RD GREATEST GO-GO SPOT (BEHIND THE COLUSEUM AND HOWARD THEATRE). IM WILLING TO BET YA THE TWITTY'S WHO LIVE ABOVE THE GEO & NEW HAMP AV METRO DO NOT KNOW THAT THE FACADE OF THE FIRE STATION(METRO HOUSING)ON NEW HAMPSHIRE WAS ACTUALLY ON GEO AVE WHERE METRO'S ENTRANCE IS LOCATED BUT THEY MOVED THE FACADE AROUND THE CORNER TO PRESERVE IT.

SLIM FROM SHAW, PARK VIEW, PETWORTH, BRIGHTWOOD AND SHEPARD PARK GEORGIA AVE PROVIDES SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. DID YOU KNOW THEIR IS A BATTLEGROUND CEMETERY UP BY FORT STEVENS NEAR THE DEFUNCT WALTER REED? DUDE THEIR IS HISTORY, LIVELIHOOD, BIKEWAYS, WALKWAYS, THE 70 AND JUST PLAIN OL' DC CHARM THAT YOU FAILED TO TOUCH ON.

TO COMPARE GEORGIA AVE TO 14TH STREET, U STREET AND H STREET JUST SHOWS THE DISMISSIVE WAY YOU JOTTED DOWN THESE BLURBS ABOUT ONE OF THE MOST ENDURING STREETS OF MY BELOVED CITY AND JUST MADE ME REALIZE HOW IMMERSED YOU ARE IN LIL' TWITTYDOM! DID YOU KNOW THAT BILL CLINTON I BELIEVE BEFORE HE GOT ELECTED WALKED DOWN GEORGIA AVE ON GEO AVE DAY SHAKING HANDS WITH DC FOLK? HE CHOSE GEORGIA AVE OVER GEORGETOWN!

JUST FOR THE RECORD YOUR DC CARD JUST GOT HOLE PUNCHED! TWO MORE PUNCHES AND YOUR DC CRED WILL BE REVOKED!

DARROW GREAT PICS AS USUAL!

ONE CITY.
HELP! HELP! MY CAPS LOCK KEY IS STUCK!
noodlez

Your right, well said.
The tire place on Georgia is the best place to get tires.
The owner is just mad about tires.

An article with so much potential, but never even given a chance to bloom.Why even write anything? Just add three or four more photos and call it photojournalism.

"a young consultant, still in his work suit, dashing out of Lion’s Liquors—home, before its recent renovation, to the strangest cast of characters this side of the X2 bus..."

Wow, really? The strangest cast of characters huh? Care to elaborate on that? Sounds like that might be an epic article in itself. I'm intrigued - you have my curiosity - go on, please do go on! But no, the article barely gets started before it fizzles.

Another classic weekly lottery for the sometimes a newspaper/ sometimes a glorified high school yearbook staff.

i counted like 20 barbershops on my section of gae ave---brightwood. police actuivity out there last nite in the rain; only got 1 gogo show left.
CORRECTION! Howard University is more than just stately, IT'S THE MECCA! Ask any successful American!
No mention of Lincoln commuting on his horse most days from the White House to the Lincoln Cottage when he resided in the latter (like 25% of his presidency). (See: http://travel.usatoday.com/destinations/story/2011/04/DC-cottage-became-Lincolns-wartime-retreat/45836454/1 and http://lincolncottage.wordpress.com/2007/09/19/the-daily-commute/)Think about that next time you're hangin with that loco cast of characters on Georgia or bouncin around on the 70 bus! Would love to see a reenactment during the summer months with full stove top hat (but no guards - just a lone Lincoln trudging to work and back each morning on his horse). Since I learned of this commute on a visit to the Cottage, I can't help thinking that a Lincoln Bike Trail (horse ride?) from the Lincoln Memorial, past the White House, through Logan Circle, and meandering up to Georgia Av, past Howard to Upshur to the Cottage would be a nice treat for Lincoln fanaticos and a boost for Lower-Mid GA Ave and Petworth...bike trail could return on the Red Line trail, or west to Rock Creek...
Great writing, Weiner. The moaners will whine about a fart's scent in an airless chamber. Dismiss em.

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