Riding the 96? (From Capitol Heights to Tenleytown)
Stretching across the District from Capitol Heights to Tenleytown, the 96 Metrobus route provides public transit to Washingtonians throughout numerous neighborhoods, as it travels several miles along major commercial thoroughfares past many historic landmarks and districts.
The 96 starts its journey at the Maryland stateline, near the far eastern corner of the District. The bus travels west along East Capitol Street, just north of Woodlawn Cemetery, the final resting place for many important Washingtonians, including Senator Blanche K. Bruce, the US Senate's second African American senator (1875-81), and Representative John Mercer Langston (1889-91), one of the first African American congressmen. After traveling over the Anacostia River and Kingman Island, the 96 makes two turns before moving northwest along Massachusetts Avenue.
As the 96 drives along Massachusetts Avenue, it passes through the Capitol Hill Historic District, DC's largest historic district. The bus also passes historic green spaces, including Lincoln Park —with its memorial to Mary McLeod Bethune — and Stanton Park, before arriving at the grand, Beaux-Arts style Union Station, which has served rail passengers since 1907. Shortly thereafter, the bus turns onto New Jersey Avenue NW and passes near the historic M Street High School. At one time, this was one of the premier institutions of African American education. The school included many well-known and influential faculty members and students in the years prior to Dunbar High School's opening in 1916 (just across New York Avenue).
At Florida Avenue NW, the 96's route joins up with the 90's route — the latter of which travels between the Anacostia Historic District and Adams Morgan neighborhood. As Florida Avenue turns into U Street, the two bus routes continue past important landmarks connected to "Black Broadway," the name given to U Street when this was the heart of Washington's Black culture and entertainment. These landmarks include the Howard and Lincoln theaters, amongst many others. Native Washingtonian Duke Ellington is just one artist who performed at venues in this neighborhood.
The bus then passes through the Strivers' Section Historic District, a small neighborhood of row homes and apartment buildings that was once the center of Washington's African American middle class and the home of many important leaders in the city's African American community.
The 96 then travels through Adams Morgan, where the 18th Street NW commercial strip is a popular, late night and weekend spot for locals, who congregate at the many restaurants and bars — and enjoy a slice (or two!) of jumbo slice pizza. The 90 ends its journey at the Duke Ellington Bridge, while the 96 continues across Rock Creek Park and through Woodley Park past three historic mansions: Woodley, Tregaron, which includes publicly-accessible grounds, and Twin Oaks.
After passing by the monumental Gothic architecture of the Washington National Cathedral, the 96 turns onto the last major thoroughfare of its cross-city route, Wisconsin Avenue. The bus passes by various landmarks, including the Williamsburg-inspired City Ridge development — the former home of the Equitable Life Insurance Company and Fannie Mae — the Grant Road Historic District, which is a remnant of rural Washington, and the one-time Sears, Roebuck, & Company in Tenleytown. This neighborhood is also the home of Fort Reno Park, the highest point in the District, and the former site of a Civil War era defense. The green space is adjacent to the Jesse Reno School, a physical reminder of Reno City, a once thriving African American community that was demolished, leading to the displacement of its residents.
This tour hopes to draw your attention to the historic and architecturally-significant gems along the 96 Metrobus route. Start at the historic site that’s closest to you! If you’re traveling northwest on the 96, click “Next” to follow along. If you’re traveling southeast, click “Previous.”