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Sixteenth Street Historic District
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. Historic District
16th Street at R Street NW
Location: 16th St. between Scott Cir. and Florida Ave. NW
Added to NRHP: August 25, 1978
NRHP Reference#: 78003060

16th Street Northwest is a prominent north-south thoroughfare in the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C.

Part of Pierre L'Enfant's design for the city, 16th Street begins just north of the White House across Lafayette Park at H Street and continues due north in a straight line passing K Street, Meridian Hill Park, Rock Creek Park, and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center before crossing Eastern Avenue into Silver Spring, Maryland where it ends at Georgia Avenue. The Maryland portion of the street is designated Maryland State Highway 390. The entire street is 7½ miles (12 km) long. From K Street to the District line, 16th Street is part of the National Highway System.

The Washington meridian, a prime meridian once in use in the United States, follows 16th Street NW.

Significance

Early in the city's history, many foreign countries located their embassies on 16th Street because of its proximity to the White House. Many religious denominations followed suit by building churches on the street to serve symbolically as embassies, thus earning the street the nickname "Church Row." These include Foundry Methodist (attended by President Clinton), First Baptist (attended by Presidents Truman and Carter), St. John's ("Church of the Presidents"), All Souls Unitarian, Universalist National Memorial Church, and Third Church of Christ, Scientist, which was designed by an associate of I.M. Pei in 1972.[1] After most of the embassies relocated to Embassy Row and other parts of the city, the churches became more prominent in 16th Street's identity.

Hampton P. Denman House (right) on 16th Street NW is considered one of the city's best examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture

Other notable sites include the Scottish Rite Masons' House of the Temple, Carnegie Institution for Science, Robert Simpson Woodward House, Carter Barron Amphitheater, the D.C. Jewish Community Center, and the Toutorsky Mansion.

House of the Temple on 16th Street NW

The northern and central portions of 16th Street (and the Crestwood neighborhood, in particular) have for a half century been the chosen neighborhood of accomplished African Americans in Washington. Known colloquially as "The Gold Coast", these sections of 16th Street are lined with early 20th-century Tudor mansions.[2]

The street's proximity to Rock Creek Park and importance as a thoroughfare has made it a natural dividing boundary for Washington neighborhoods. Outside of the downtown area, no neighborhood in the city falls on both sides of 16th Street; the neighborhoods that surround it have 16th as either their eastern or their western boundary.

A pair of similarly named streets, 16th Street Northeast and 16th Street Southeast, are three miles (5 km) away in the northeast and southeast quadrants of Washington. They are contiguous with each other and parallel to 16th Street NW.

Ronald Reagan Boulevard

In July 2005, just before Congress's summer recess, Texas Republican congressman Henry Bonilla quietly introduced resolution H.R. 3525 to rename 16th Street NW "Ronald Reagan Boulevard" in honor of the former president of the United States. Mayor Anthony A. Williams objected on the grounds that the proposal changes Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 design for the city and would have cost an estimated $1 million for new signs and maps. The plan was ultimately quashed by Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and a fellow Republican representing Washington's Virginia suburbs.[3]

References

  1. ^ Conroy, Sarah Booth (March 18, 1979). "16th Street—The Avenue of Aspirations; A Street Of Dreams". Washington Post: pp. C01.  
  2. ^ The Shifting 'Gold Coast' - New York Times
  3. ^ Hsu, Spencer (August 5, 2005). "A Roadblock for Reagan". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/04/AR2005080401514.html.  
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