Neighborhood feature: Ivy City

The changing face of Northeast D.C.

For the past few years, DC Habitat has focused our building in Ivy City, one of DC’s smallest and oldest neighborhoods. To date, we’ve built and restored nearly 20 homes in the area, and are working now to build 11 more. Many DC residents don’t realize what the Ivy City area has to offer, that it’s full of history, beautiful architecture, gelato factories, and some of the best attractions in DC. Don’t worry– we have some suggestions of must-sees in this transitioning community.

History and Architecture

Ivy City is representative of DC’s complex, industrial, and sometimes-turbulent past. Ivy City’s history, particularly in its early years, has been defined in large part by the railroad. It grew from the expansion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and officially joined the District of Columbia with the Organic Act of 1871.

The Alexander Crummel School in Ivy City.

The Alexander Crummel School in Ivy City. (Photo: Ashley Lemley)

The Alexander Crummell School, located in the heart of Ivy City, is over a century old. It was built in 1911 in Elizabethan Revival style. It was constructed as the first colored school in the area and was a source of community and civic pride. Over the years, it’s been utilized as a school, a library, a daycare center, and most recently as bus parking. There have been many attempts to preserve it as an integral piece of Ivy City’s culture, and it currently has a place on the National Register of Historic Places. [photo]

The Hecht Company Warehouse, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places, is an excellent example of 1930s architecture in Art Deco style. It’s been vacant since 2006, when Macy’s took over the Hecht’s brand, and might be the site of a major new development. Other buildings nearby also provide a view into the history of industrial America.

Nearby Attractions

If you’re paying attention to food trends in DC, then you’ve noticed that Northeast DC is the place to be for DC foodies in 2014. Especially if you like gin or gelato– and really, who doesn’t?

New Columbia Distillers, aka Green Hat Gin, is the first distillery in the District in over a century. It’s received high praise since it’s recent opening, including reaching #3 in Paste Magazine’s Best New Spirits of 2013, a feature in Saveur, and a perfect 5-star Yelp rating. They offer free (yes, free!) tastings and tours on Saturdays from 1-4pm. [photo]

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America. (Photo: Brittany Jezouit)

At the end of 2013, Dolcezza opened a factory on Penn Street NE. It will eventually serve as “a gelato factory and coffee lab”, which is really just the best thing we can possibly imagine. They’re partnering with Stumptown coffee roasters to create an ultimate coffee/gelato experience, all housed in a beautifully renovated former flower market. You’ve missed the grand unveiling event, but they’ll be opening for regular business sometime in Spring 2014. [photo]

Of course, no visit to Northeast DC is complete without at least a quick stop to Union Market, a DC staple. It is an artisan food-lover’s paradise, with over 40 local vendors. If you’re still hungry, walk across the street to A Litteri, a little Italian grocery store nearby– it’s often referred to as a “hidden gem” for authentic Italian food. [photo]

H Street is also extremely close to Ivy City. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, concerts, and live theatre there to keep you entertained. The H Street Guide lists all of the events in the area.

The National Capitol Columns at the US National Arboretum.

The National Capitol Columns at the US National Arboretum. (Photo: Brittany Jezouit)

In our opinion, no list of Northeast DC attractions is complete without at least a brief comment about the National Arboretum, located about a mile and a half from Ivy City. If you haven’t gone yet– go now. From the intricate bonsai trees, to the expansive gardens, to the iconic Capitol Columns, the Arboretum is the perfect respite from the concrete jungle of everyday city life.

Honorable mentions: Mt. Olivet Cemetery, the largest Catholic cemetery in DC; Gallaudet University, a leading university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing; and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest (and perhaps most beautiful) Roman Catholic church in North America.

Mt. Olivet Cemetery. (Photo: Brittany Jezouit)

Mt. Olivet Cemetery. (Photo: Brittany Jezouit)

And, of course– there’s us. The DC Habitat warehouse is located right in the center of Ivy City (and if you’re interested, here are some photo updates on our progress in Ivy City III this year.) We’re on site building homes in Ivy City throughout each week. So, come build with us, and help to make Ivy City a home for families in need.


DC Habitat believes that everyone deserves a house they want to call home. That's why we work to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness in the nation's capital by building (and rehabilitating) affordable, energy- and resource-efficient homes for people in need.