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Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle Historic District
Location Roughly bounded by Rhode Island Avenue, NW; M and N Sts., NW, on the south; Florida Avenue, NW, on the west; Swann St., NW, on the north; and the 16th Street Historic District on the east[1]
Area 170 acres (69 ha)
Architect Mead McKim & White; Carrere & Hastings
Architectural style Late 19th And 20th Century Revivals, Queen Anne, Romanesque
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 78003056 (original)
85000238 (increase 1)
05000539 (increase 2)
Significant dates
Added to NRHP July 21, 1978
Boundary increases February 6, 1985
June 10, 2005

Dupont Circle is a traffic circle, park, neighborhood, and historic district in Northwest Washington, D.C. The traffic circle is located at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue NW, Connecticut Avenue NW, New Hampshire Avenue NW, P Street NW, and 19th Street NW. The Dupont Circle neighborhood is bounded approximately by 16th Street NW to the east, 22nd Street NW to the west, M Street NW to the south, and Florida Avenue NW to the north. The local government Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2B) and the Dupont Circle Historic District have slightly different boundaries.[1][2]


  • History 1
  • Architecture 2
    • Strivers' Section 2.1
  • Landmarks 3
    • Traffic circle 3.1
    • Embassies 3.2
    • Other landmarks 3.3
    • Institutions 3.4
  • Transportation 4
  • Annual neighborhood events 5
    • Capital Pride 5.1
    • High Heel Race 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Dupont Circle is located in the "Old City" of Washington, D.C.—the area planned by architect Kalorama and within a block of Dupont Circle, but the creek has since been enclosed in a sewer line.[5][6] Improvements made in the 1870s by a board of public works headed by Alexander "Boss" Shepherd transformed the area into a fashionable residential neighborhood.[7][8]

In 1871, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the traffic circle, then called Pacific Circle, as specified in L'Enfant's plan. On February 25, 1882, Congress renamed it "Dupont Circle", and authorized a memorial statue of Samuel Francis Du Pont, in recognition of his service as a rear admiral during the Civil War.[6] Unveiled on December 20, 1884, the statue was sculpted by Launt Thompson,[6] and the circle was landscaped with exotic flowers and ornamental trees. Several prominent duPont family members deemed it too insignificant to honor their ancestor, so they secured permission to move the statue to Rockford Park in Wilmington in 1917, and commissioned Henry Bacon and Daniel Chester French to design the fountain that sits in Dupont Circle today.[9] In 1920, the current double-tiered white marble fountain replaced the statue.[10] Daniel Chester French and Henry Bacon, the co-creators of the Lincoln Memorial, designed the fountain, which features carvings of three classical figures symbolizing the sea, the stars and the wind on the fountain's shaft.[1]

Dupont Circle in 1900

During the 1870s and 1880s, mansions were built along Massachusetts Avenue, one of Washington's grand avenues, and townhouses were built throughout the neighborhood. In 1872, the British built a new embassy on Connecticut Avenue, at N Street NW.[11] By the 1920s, Connecticut Avenue was more commercial in character, with numerous shops. Some residences, including Senator Philetus Sawyer's mansion at Connecticut and R Street, were demolished to make way for office buildings and shops.[12] The Patterson House, at 15 Dupont Circle, served as a temporary residence for President Calvin Coolidge while the actual White House was being repaired in 1927.[6] In 1933, the National Park Service took over administering the circle, and added sandboxes for children, though these were removed a few years later.[13]

Connecticut Avenue was widened in the late 1920s, and increased traffic in the neighborhood caused a great deal of congestion in the circle, making it difficult for pedestrians to get around. Medians were installed in 1948, in the circle, to separate the through traffic on Massachusetts Avenue from the local traffic, and traffic signals were added.[13] In 1949 traffic tunnels[14] and an underground streetcar station were built under the circle as part of the now-defunct Capital Transit project. The tunnels allowed trams and vehicles traveling along Connecticut Avenue to pass more quickly past the circle.[15] When streetcar service ended in 1962, the entrances to the underground station were filled in and paved over, leaving only the traffic tunnel.[16]

Dupont Circle Farmers Market occurs year-round on Sunday mornings

The neighborhood declined after World War II and particularly after the 1968 riots, but began to enjoy a resurgence in the 1970s, fueled by urban pioneers seeking an alternative lifestyle. The neighborhood took on a bohemian feel and became popular among the gay and lesbian community. Along with The Castro in San Francisco, Hillcrest in San Diego, Greenwich Village in New York City, Boystown in Chicago, Oak Lawn in Dallas, Montrose in Houston, and West Hollywood in Los Angeles, Dupont Circle is considered a historic locale in the development of American gay identity. D.C.'s first gay bookstore, Lambda Rising, opened in 1974 and gained notoriety nationwide.[17] In 1975, the store ran the world's first gay-oriented television commercial.[18]

Gentrification accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s, and the area is now a more mainstream and trendy location with coffeehouses, restaurants, bars, and upscale retail stores. Since 1997, a weekly farmers market has operated on 20th Street NW.[19]


Homes located on the 2000 block of N Street, NW, are considered some of the city's finest examples of Second Empire architecture.

The area's rowhouses, primarily built before 1900, feature variations on the Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque revival styles. Rarer are the palatial mansions and large freestanding houses that line the broad, tree-lined diagonal avenues that intersect the circle. Many of these larger dwellings were built in the styles popular between 1895 and 1910.

One such grand residence is the marble and limestone Patterson Mansion at 15 Dupont Circle. This Italianate mansion, the only survivor of the many mansions that once ringed the circle, was built in 1901 by New York architect Stanford White for Robert Patterson, editor of the Chicago Tribune, and his wife Nellie, heiress to the Chicago Tribune fortune. Upon Mrs. Patterson's incapacitation in the early 1920s, the house passed into the hands of her daughter, Cissy Patterson, who made it a hub of Washington social life. The house served as temporary quarters for President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge in 1927 while the White House underwent renovation. The Coolidges welcomed Charles Lindbergh as a houseguest after his historic transatlantic flight. Lindbergh made several public appearances at the house, waving to roaring crowds from the second-story balcony, and befriended the Patterson Family, with whom he increasingly came to share isolationist and pro-German views. Cissy Patterson later acquired the Washington Times-Herald (sold to Washington Post in 1954) and declared journalistic warfare on Franklin D. Roosevelt from 15 Dupont Circle, continuing throughout World War II to push her policies, which were echoed in the New York Daily News, run by her brother Joseph Medill Patterson, and the Chicago Tribune, run by their first cousin, Colonel Robert R. McCormick.

The 1700 block of T Street NW, in the Strivers' Section

Strivers' Section

Today's Dupont Circle includes the Strivers' Section, a small residential area west of 16th Street roughly between Swann Street and Florida Avenue. The Strivers' Section was an enclave of upper-middle-class African Americans—often community leaders—in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The area includes a row of houses on 17th Street owned by Frederick Douglass and occupied by his son. It takes its name from a turn-of-the-century writer who described the district as "the Striver's section, a community of Negro aristocracy".

The area, which was once considered an overlap of the Dupont Circle and Shaw neighborhoods, is today a historic district.[20] Many of its buildings are the original Edwardian-era residences, along with several apartment and condominium buildings and a few small businesses.


Traffic circle

Maypole in Dupont Circle

The neighborhood is centered around the traffic circle, which is divided between two counterclockwise roads. The outer road serves all the intersecting streets, while access to the inner road is limited to through traffic on Massachusetts Avenue. Connecticut Avenue passes under the circle via a tunnel; vehicles on Connecticut Avenue can access the circle via service roads that branch from Connecticut near N Street and R Street.

The park within the circle is maintained by the National Park Service. The central fountain designed by Daniel Chester French provides seating, and long, curved benches around the central area were installed in 1964.[13] The park within the circle is a gathering place for those wishing to play chess on the permanent stone chessboards. Tom Murphy, a homeless championship chess player, is a resident.[21] The park has also been the location of political rallies, such as those supporting gay rights and those protesting the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

In 2009, a tug of war was sponsored by the Washington Project for the Arts.[22]

In 1999, Thelma Billy was arrested handing out Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless.[23][24][25]

In 2014, the city proposed to turn an 850-square-foot (79 m2) concrete sidewalk on the south side of the traffic circle into a "kinetic park". Currently occupied by bike lockers, the parklet would be repaved with 100 PaveGen pavers, which generate electricity when people walk on them. Designers ZGF Architects say the $200,000 project will also rebuild the sidewalk and curbs and add seven granite benches, six bollard bicycle racks, and two flower beds. The pavers are expected to generate 456.25 kilowatts annually, which will power lights under each bench.[26]


The Iraqi consular services office, located in the William J. Boardman House on P Street

The Dupont Circle neighborhood, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to numerous embassies, many of which are located in historic residences. The Thomas T. Gaff House serves as the Colombian ambassador's residence, and the Walsh-McLean House is home to the Indonesian embassy.[27] Located east of Dupont Circle on Massachusetts Avenue is the Clarence Moore House, now known as the Embassy of Uzbekistan, and the Emily J. Wilkins House, which formerly housed the Australian embassy and now is occupied by the Peruvian Chancery.[27] Iraq operates a consular services office in the William J. Boardman House on P Street.[28]

Other landmarks

Other landmarks, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, include the

  • Dupont Circle at DMOZ
  • Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets
  • Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (local elected government)
  • Dupont Circle Citizens Association
  • Dupont-Kalorama Museums Consortium
  • NPS Dupont Circle Historical District
  • WETA Neighborhoods - History of Dupont Circle
  • Dupont Circle Metro station
  • Washington Post's Guide to Dupont Circle
  • D.C. High Heel Drag Queen Race Photo Galleries
  • History of Dupont Circle Documentary produced by WETA-TV

External links

  • Dupont Circle: A Novel (Houghton Mifflin, 2001), by Paul Kafka-Gibbons
  • Dupont Circle (Images of America Series) (Arcadia Publishing, 2000), by Paul Williams
  • Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. (U.S. Department of the Interior, Division of History, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, 1967), by George J. Olszewski

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c "Dupont Circle Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  2. ^ "Dupont Circle ANC2B: Maps". Dupont Circle ANC2B. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  3. ^ Ramsdell, Henry J.; Benjamin Perley Poore (1884). Life and Public Services of Hon. James G. Blaine. Hubbard Brothers. p. 173. 
  4. ^ Lanius, Judith H.; Sharon C. Park. "Martha Wadsworth's Mansion: The Gilded Age Comes to Dupont Circle". Washington History: 24–45. 
  5. ^ Evelyn, Douglast E.; Paul Dickson; Evelyn Douglas; S J Ackerman (2008). On This Spot: Pinpointing the Past in Washington, D.C. Capital Books. p. 202. 
  6. ^ a b c d Proctor, John Clagett (July 25, 1937). "Dupont Circle Memorial". Washington Evening Star. p. 46. 
  7. ^ "Local History: Neighborhoods, Dupont Circle". WETA Public Broadcasting. 2001. Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  8. ^ When the White House's roof and upper floor were under construction in 1927, President  
  9. ^ "Dupont Circle". connavedotcom. 2011. 
  10. ^ "Scenes from the Past" (PDF). The InTowner. March 2004. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 10, 2008. 
  11. ^ Goode, James M. (1979). Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings. Smithsonian Institution. p. 231. 
  12. ^ "Scenes from the Past" (PDF). The InTowner. March 2008. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 9, 2008. 
  13. ^ a b c Bednar, Michael J. (2006). L'Enfant's Legacy. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 181. 
  14. ^,a,1250,q,639677,ddotNav,|32399|.asp
  15. ^ "D.C. Transit Track and Structures". 2008-04-01. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  16. ^ The  
  17. ^ "Dupont Circle/Sheridan-Kalorama". Cultural Tourism DC. 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  18. ^ Muzzy, Frank. Gay and Lesbian Washington D.C., Arcadia Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-7385-1753-4
  19. ^ Kettlewell, Caroline (2003-06-27). "Harvest Home". The Washington Post. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Tower, Wells (September 30, 2007). "The Days and Knights of Tom Murphy". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  22. ^ Marchand, Anne (April 18, 2009). "Tug-Of-War At WPA". 
  23. ^ Loose, Cindy (1999-11-25). "Hassles Over Feeding the Hungry Are Warmly Rewarded". 
  24. ^ Riechmann, Deb (1997-03-16). "Kind Act Grows into Hunger Crusade". Los Angeles Times. 
  25. ^ "Thelma vs. the Park Police.". Washington Times. January 14, 1997. 
  26. ^ Neibauer, Michael (August 21, 2014). "Step On It: D.C. Plans 850-Square-oot, $200K Kinetic Pocket Park at Dupont Circle". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  27. ^ a b c d "DC Geographic Information System (GIS), Historic Structures". District of Columbia, Office of the Chief Technology Officer. Retrieved 2007-07-22. 
  28. ^ "Contact Us". Embassy of the Republic of Iraq. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  29. ^ Save Outdoor Sculpture! (1993). "Nuns of the Battlefield, (sculpture)". SOS!. Smithsonian. Retrieved 18 December 2010. 
  30. ^ Jacob, Kathryn Allmong. Testament to Union: Civil War monuments in Washington, Part 3. JHU Press, 1998, p. 125-126.
  31. ^ Peck, Garrett (2015). Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C.: The Civil War and America’s Great Poet. Charleston, SC: The History Press. pp. 16–17.  
  32. ^ Chandler, Michael Alison (June 11, 2007). "Street Fest Lets Gays Revel in Freedom".  
  33. ^ "Parade Route Map".  
  34. ^ High Heel Race DC
  35. ^ "25th Annual D.C. High Heel Drag Queen Race 2011". DC Metromix. Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  36. ^ "High Heel Drag Race at Dupont Circle". Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  37. ^ "High Heel Drag Queen Race 2009". DC Metromix. Retrieved 2009-10-27. 



See also

The event is sponsored by the nonprofit Dupont Circle Main Streets and by JR's DC Bar and Grill.[36][37]

Held annually since 1986, the Dupont Circle High Heel Race takes place on the Tuesday before Halloween (October 31). The race pits dozens of drag queens against each other in a sprint down 17th Street NW between R Street and Church Street, a distance of about three short blocks. The event attracts thousands of spectators and scores of participants, who begin the festivities in late afternoon; the race proper starts at 9 p.m. and lasts a few minutes.[34][35]

High Heel Race

Capital Pride is an annual LGBT pride festival held each June in Washington. As of 2007, the festival is the fourth-largest LGBT pride event in the United States, with over 200,000 people in attendance.[32] The Capital Pride parade takes place annually on Saturday during the festival and travels through the streets of the neighborhood.[33] Dupont Circle is still host to the parade, and the street festival is held in Penn Quarter.

Participants in the High Heel Race on 17th Street NW.

Capital Pride

Annual neighborhood events

Dupont Circle is served by the Dupont Circle Station on the Red Line of the Washington Metro. There are two entrances: north of the circle at Q Street NW and south of the circle at 19th Street NW. The northern entrance is framed by a quote from Walt Whitman's 1865 poem, "The Wound-Dresser", that was carved into the entrance in 2007 and echoes the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s.[31]


In addition to its residential components, consisting primarily of high-priced apartments and condominiums, Dupont Circle is home to some of the nation's most prestigious National Museum of American Jewish Military History, the Laogai Museum and the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center are also located in Dupont Circle.


a luxury boutique hotel, private club, events venue and museum has been a fixture in Dupont Circle for over 30 years and includes over 100 rooms and 32 secret doors. The Mansion on O Street [30][29] sculpture, which serves as a tribute to over 600 nuns who nursed soldiers of both armies during the Civil War was erected in 1924.Nuns of the Battlefield The [27]

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