Deanwood, a Northeast neighborhood in D.C.’s Ward 7, has been a Black enclave for over a century, but in a few years, it will become a part of the District’s gentrifying areas.
Deanwood is located in the far Northeast corner of the District and is bounded by Eastern Avenue to the northeast, sharing a border with Prince George’s County, Md., and Kenilworth Avenue to the northwest, Division Avenue to the Southeast and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue to the south. While Deanwood is one of the oldest Black neighborhoods in the District, longtime residents see a change is coming.
“I have lived here for 62 years,” Leo R. Hector Sr., the unofficial “mayor” of Deanwood, told the AFRO. “I see that change is coming and I think that is good. Sometimes Black people are afraid of change because we feel that we will be left out but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
What makes Deanwood unique among District predominantly-Black neighborhoods is its housing stock. Many of the houses date back to the early 20th century and consists of low-density, small wood frame and brick homes with dense tree cover. This gives Deanwood a small-town character unlike other neighborhoods in the city.
Deanwood’s main thoroughfares are Nannie Helen Burroughs and Sheriff Road. The Burroughs Road is named after late 19th and early 20th century Black, civil rights activist Nannie Helen Burroughs who had her nationally-known National Training School for Girls and Women in the neighborhood.
While Deanwood is largely a residential area, Hector wishes it had more amenities. “I wish they would build up around here,” he said. “We need more stores around here for people to shop and not have to go to other parts of town or Maryland. The city is building up other neighborhoods, why not mine?”
The District government has plans in the works for Deanwood. Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue is a part of the District Government’s Great Streets Program where grants are available to small businesses for capital improvements.
The Warrenton Group, with the help of the District, is constructing Deanwood Hills, a 150-unit apartment building slated for opening later this year. The Warrenton Group also will be revitalizing the historic Strand Theater to a development retail-residential project.
The Strand Theater, built in 1928, was the first theater east of the Anacostia River and served Deanwood residents for 31 years until it was shuttered. The Deanwood Metro Station, located in the western part of the neighborhood, lost its parking section on Jan. 25 when the Metro board voted to use the space for mixed-used development.
The Deanwood Recreation Center, built in 2010 and at a cost of $10 million, is considered state-of-the-art in the District and is heavily utilized.
Deanwood in 2017 received recognition from Redfin as one of 10 hottest neighborhoods in the country for affordable residential living. In a statement, Redfin real estate Steve Centrella said, “Deanwood is becoming more popular for a number of reasons.
“First, the neighborhood has access to two Metro stations, providing quick commutes to Capitol Hill and downtown. Second, there are a large number of single-family homes that are more affordable than similarly-sized homes in other parts of the city. You can get more home for your money, while staying within the city borders.”
Redfin’s literature said the median sale price on a home in Deanwood is $315,000, which is well below the District’s $545,000 average, according to Zillow.
Hector said rising prices have caused some problems for residents. “There is an apartment building here where a resident was evicted,” he said. “The tenant was paying $950 a month for a two-bedroom apartment but when the new tenants moved in, the rent was $1,850.”
Darlene Williams decided to move her family to Deanwood in 2006 because of affordability. “That is the only place my husband and I could afford,” Williams told the AFRO. “We weren’t trying to go to Maryland and Brookland [in Ward 5] was too high and we weren’t going to move to Ward 8.”
Williams holds the distinction of having one of the few solar homes in Deanwood. She notices that Whites are moving into the neighborhood. “You see them walking their dogs,” she said. “That’s no problem. I’m not prejudiced.”
Williams is the grandmother of Detroit Lions safety Tavon Wilson, who is a multi-millionaire. Wilson, who holds a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots, has offered to move Williams other places in the Washington metro area but she has refused. “Why should I leave Deanwood?” Williams said. “I can go a few blocks to the Deanwood Recreation Center and go to the library, swim in the pool and watch the kids play football on the field. There’s not much crime here, either.
“I love it here and I am staying.”