For more than 90 years, the Burleith Citizens Association has represented the interests of homeowners just north of Georgetown in a small but distinct neighborhood that calls itself “the Village in the City.”
The boundaries of Burleith are 35th Street to 39th Street, Reservoir Road to Whitehaven Park. It boasts no commercial enterprises, not even a corner grocery store, but is home to two adjacent schools: the recently reopened Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a dual-curriculum public high school, and the primary school of the private Washington International School. Burleith is bordered by Georgetown University, the French Embassy and the Glover Park neighborhood.
“Burleith has always had its own sense of community,” said Eric Langenbacher, BCA president for the past four years. “It was developed in the 1920s as a planned neighborhood of small affordable homes meant for the buyer of modest means but good taste,” he explained. Of the 535 homes in the area, 430 of them were built in the 1920s.
After buying the vacant land from the Huidekoper family in 1922, Shannon & Luchs, Inc., began residential development. In most of the area, the two-story homes with sloping roofs on one side of the block exactly mirror the ones across the street, while the larger homes with peaked roofs at the ends of each block are bisymmetric, with front doors at the corner facing the ones across the street.
Founded in 1925, BCA was incorporated in 1973. Before joining the board five years ago, Langenbacher had been an active volunteer for years. “Our most popular event is the annual summer picnic at the Green Lot on Whitehaven and 37th Streets,” he said. “It always features a live band, lots of food including Rocklands barbecue and activities like a petting zoo for kids.” Other events include spring and fall clean-up days and holiday programs throughout the year.
On Feb. 4, the BCA held its seventh annual Winter Glogg Party at the home of Linda Brooks and Ross Schipper, co-author of a history book on Burleith. The association also supports special interest groups that meet regularly, including a book club and groups that get together for history discussions, movies and dining.
In 2008, the Burleith Community Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was launched. To date, the BCF has funded the landscaping of Ellington Field and the restoration and rededication of the Daniel Boone monument on the grounds of Duke Ellington School. In addition, it has organized neighborhood walking tours.
Langenbacher and his wife bought their home in 1997, when he was in graduate school at Georgetown University, where he is now an associate teaching professor in the government department and managing editor of “German Politics and Society,” based in the BMW Center for German and European Studies. They have raised two sons in Burleith. “It was supposed to be a starter home,” he said. “But we’ve stayed and recently have done much-needed renovations.”
That’s the biggest issue in the community: How much renovation should be allowed in Burleith? Already, a very contemporary glass home sits on R Street, and expansion projects pop homes up to three stories or down below ground level. All need permits. How many zoning restrictions should there be?
Despite its significant student population, Burleith appears to have more families with small children moving in, as in Georgetown, Langenbacher said. The BCA has had a number of lively meetings on “managing change” in the area.
This year marks the 95th anniversary of Burleith’s creation, which Langenbacher wants to celebrate with a party. This focus on history leads to the question of whether or not Burleith should seek designation as a historic district, a question debated for a good decade, Langenbacher said. If possible, he would like to see the issue decided this year.
“Zoning and historic designation decisions will impact how Burleith develops and looks in the future,” he said. “I don’t want my grandkids asking 20 years from now: ‘How did this ever happen?’ — without being able to say: ‘We made that decision, for better or worse, in 2018.’ “
BURLEITH CITIZENS ASSOCIATION
The purpose of the BCA is the promotion of the common good and general welfare of the people of Burleith through activities designed to bring about civic betterment and social improvement. It will not in any way engage in any political campaign for any candidate for public office.
Burleith is included in Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, represented by commissioner Ed Solomon. It is also part of the Georgetown Community Partnership.
Eric Langenbacher, president
Nan Bell, vice president
Francine Steininger, treasurer
Brian Garback, co-recording secretary
Robert Russell, co-recording secretary
Linda Brooks, corresponding secretary
BURLEITH CITIZENS ASSOCIATION
P.O. Box 32262
2336 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20007
The BCA also maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts and a Yahoo Groups listserv.