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Does the triangular neighborhood between 395, Massachusetts, and Louisiana Avenues—a land of hotels, homeless, and Georgetown Law, centered on the venerable Kogod Liquors—have a name?
First things first: The only name a neighborhood has is what people call it. The city doesn’t keep official lists of neighborhoods and their boundaries, which would only spark fights over exactly where one neighborhood stops and the next one begins. “We avoid it like the plague,” says Planning Director Harriet Tregoning.
As a result, certain neighborhoods have contentious boundaries, while others appear to have no name at all. The one you mention doesn’t really have permanent residents—Georgetown Law students come and go, as do homeless shelter residents and hotel guests—so there aren’t many people to claim ownership over it.
That’s not to say there aren’t theories. D.C. geographer and inveterate neighborhood-name fact-checker Geoff Hatchard suggests two designations for the neighborhood: part of historic Swampoodle, which was centered to the east of the land in question; or, more likely, part of the East End, a nebulous term that has, at various points, referred to everything from Chinatown to Anacostia. “The East End as a label has kind of fallen into disuse, but perhaps [with] things like Capitol Crossing and a rebuild of some of the shelters … East End might really become an analogue to the West End,” Hatchard says by email.
But who better to ask than the people who spend their time there? The manager of Kogod Liquors seemed befuddled by the question, but Georgetown Law spokeswoman Marisa Kashino provided a good response. “Prior to the late 1960s, this neighborhood was considered part of an area called the East End of downtown,” she writes. “However, we today consider ourselves a part of the Capitol Hill community, given that we’re within blocks of the Capitol building, Union Station, the U.S. Supreme Court, and other Washington landmarks.” For what it’s worth (and for obvious reasons), the hotels in the neighborhood all brand themselves as Capitol Hill destinations as well.