Rich in history and economic potential, the neighborhoods surrounding St Elizabeths East form a vibrant tapestry of classic architecture, culture, community engagement, and public and private investment. Variously known as Congress Heights, Anacostia, and Wards 8 and 7 (a reflection of DC’s eight electoral regions), these neighborhoods have been home to some of America’s most notable scientists, artists, and policy-makers, from abolitionist Frederick Douglass to naturalist Solomon G. Brown, the first African American employed by the Smithsonian Institution.
Many of the neighborhoods surrounding St Elizabeths East were once farmland, and the rural character remains laced between the houses, apartment buildings, and institutions that have replaced the farm buildings and fields.
- Nearest to St Elizabeths East, the neighborhood of Congress Heights can trace its history to a billboard placed by a hopeful developer, Colonel Arthur Emmett Randle in the 1890s and reading, “Watch for a Town—Congress Heights.” A Mississippi native who moved to the nation’s capital in 1885, Randle owned a parcel immediately south of the National Race Course and a small frame public schoolhouse that served all the children in this corner of the District. Congress Heights residents (originally truck farmers, nurserymen, bulb growers, florists, and fruit dealers) coupled with travelers from Maryland created a demand for the basic services and eventually the commercial establishments that today populate an area intersected by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X Avenues.
- The historic Anacostia neighborhood was founded as Uniontown in 1854. Washington’s first planned suburb hosts a variety of wood frame and brick houses and townhouses, as well as grander homes such as Cedar Hill, which today is the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
- Located in the far eastern quadrant of Ward 8 in southeast Washington, the Washington Highlands neighborhood is dominated by multi-housing and single family housing consisting of mostly duplex homes and rowhouses. With most of its commercial interests located along South Capitol Street, the topography of the area offers some views into downtown core as well into Prince Georges County, Maryland.
- Bellevue, which sits at the far southern end of the District, hosts the new William O. Lockridge/Bellevue Neighborhood Library, a 22,000 square foot facility with more than 40,000 books, DVDs and other library materials, and a capacity to hold up to 80,000. The neighborhood also features many garden and high-rise apartments, and some 1940s era detached homes with yards.
Ward 8 is also home to several large federal and local institutions, including Bolling Air Force Base and the St Elizabeths West campus, being developed today as a future home for Department of Homeland Security offices, including those of the U.S. Coast Guard.