Happy 100th Birthday, Burleith!
By March 6, 2023 One Comment 913•
Described as “a village in the city,” Burleith is located in Ward 2 of Northwest Washington, D.C., and is a quiet, almost purely residential community of about 535 households nestled alongside Glover Archbold Park. Adjacent to Georgetown, this 100-year-old enclave is bounded by Whitehaven Parkway on the north, 39th Street on the west, Reservoir Road on the south and 35th Street on the east.
There was a village reportedly named “Barlyth” in 17th century Scotland. It is believed that an immigrating Scotsman Matthew Hopkins affixed the name B(e)rlieth on land he purchased in the Province of Maryland along the Potomac River.
Frederick W. Huidekoper subdivided part of this land in 1887 as the Burleith Addition to West Washington and sold it to Shannon & Luchs, which built some 450 row houses homes in Burleith — beginning in 1923 and continuing to 1928 — for sales prices between $7,000 and $14,000. Other Burleith builders included the Cooley Brothers; Muhleman & Kayhoe; Paul D. Crandall and Harry Wardman. They intended to establish a complete neighborhood that included schools and businesses. There were three schools at the time: Gordon Junior High, Fillmore Elementary and Western High.
Shannon & Luchs had indicated that the company planned to leave land for stores, but none have been built. There were two stores already along Burleith’s eastern border. A corner store at 35th and Reservoir, reputed to have been built about the time of the Civil War, had been occupied by numerous businesses, such as the Hoya Inn. The Burleith Market, a grocery store at 35th and T, closed in the 1960s. Both of the stores were converted into residences.
Notables who resided or spent considerable time in Burleith include Katharine Graham, Joseph Lieberman, Aldrich Ames and Mia Hamm.
An advocate for the neighborhood, the Burleith Citizens Association was formed in January 1925. In the early years, the association was instrumental in getting superior streets, street lights, sidewalks and improved bus service. Later, it fought for and obtained playgrounds for its children, a community center at Gordon Junior High, night classes at Western High as well as the Georgetown branch of the D.C. Public Library, built in 1935 at Wisconsin Avenue and R Street.
“Burleith has always been a special ‘village in the city’ with its leafy streets, great location in Northwest D.C. and its mix of families, retired folks, students and people from all around the world,” says BCA President Eric Langenbacher.
The group is going strong with many neighborhood activities, including — but not limited to — an annual picnic, semiannual neighborhood cleanup, Halloween party, Santa visit and Christmas decoration judging contest. (Visit Burleith.org for more information.)
Today, three schools remain in Burleith: Hardy Middle School, which replaced Gordon, Duke Ellington School of the Arts which replaced Western High and the Washington International School, a private pre-K-12th-grade school, just west of Ellington, which underwent a $180-million renovation in 2017. To the west, educational musical chairs continue with Georgetown Day School’s former lower campus on MacArthur Boulevard set to reopen as a public high school. Of course, next door is Burleith’s biggest educational neighbor: Georgetown University.
So goes life in the little hamlet of Burleith, founded in 1923 when Warren G. Harding was president. What’s in store for the next 100 years?
— Dwane Starlin, a Burleith resident and D.C. licensed professional tour guide, co-authored “Burleith” with Ross Schipper by Arcadia Publishing.
The Burleith Centennial Gala will take place 6 to 10 p.m., Friday, March 10, in Georgetown University’s Copley Formal Lounge. The evening will include a buffet dinner, celebratory cake and performances by students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Dignitaries invited include Mayor Muriel Bowser, Council member Brooke Pinto, and Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia. Starlin will reminisce about Burleith’s first century.
To read a 2018 Georgetowner article about the Burleith Citizens Association, click here.