Grant Circle Historic District

The Grant Circle Historic District is located in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The boundary of the district encompasses Grant Circle and its associated triangle parks as well as the private residential and religious properties in the immediate vicinity.

Grant Circle is a major urban and visual feature of the Petworth neighborhood, marking the intersection of Fifth and Varnum Streets and Illinois and New Hampshire Avenues, N.W. These parks are defined by a mix of hedges, lawns, and mature trees, organized into geometric patterns that reflect the strong geometry of the surrounding streets and avenues. In addition to the circle and triangle parks, the district includes nineteen contributing properties, all of which have postal addresses on Grant Circle, N.W. This includes sixteen residential properties (4- 16 and 29-32 Grant Circle) and two religious properties, St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church (26 Grant Circle) and Petworth Methodist Church (33 Grant Circle). The residential properties are defined by their continuity of scale, material, and character, exhibiting subtle variations on the Washington rowhouse prototype influenced by early-twentieth-century revivalist styles. The religious properties, although each distinct in architectural character and stylistic treatment, complement the revivalist and residential character of the historic district, acting as both architectural and civic landmarks in an otherwise residential neighborhood.

The Grant Circle Historic District is part of the larger 19th -century residential subdivision of Petworth--the city’s first subdivision to be planned in accordance with the 1888 Subdivision Act, a Congressional act requiring new subdivisions to conform to the plan of the City of Washington (the L’Enfant Plan). Although other subdivisions, such as Brightwood, the Palisades and Ingleside were also platted as part of this act, none of them presented a street plan as grand as Petworth, complete with circles and diagonal avenues that aligned directly with those of the L’Enfant Plan.

The three distinct periods of development in Grant Circle
illustrate broad trends in the evolution of urban areas, particularly Washington, D.C., during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as Washington sought to reconcile the legacy of the planned Federal City with the suburban expansion necessary to support its growing population. In 1889, Petworth became the first suburban subdivision in the District of Columbia to conform to the pattern of the L’Enfant Plan for the City of Washington, extending its nomenclature of broad avenues, streets, and circles into former Washington County. Together with Sherman Circle, Grant Circle was one of only two traffic circles outside the boundaries of the L’Enfant Plan that corresponded to the scale and character of the original circles. The form and monumental of Petworth and Grant Circle reversed a trend of incompatible, speculative subdivision that had characterized the earlier three decades.

National Register: February 13, 2015

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