Out of 16 nominated neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., Curbed readers voted Petworth as the champion of this past year's Curbed Cup. As the reigning champion, that means that Petworth comes with bragging rights as the best of the best neighborhood in the city. (What "better" means exactly was up to the voters.) For those who may be a little unfamiliar with the primarily residential neighborhood, Drew Schneider, who writes the Petworth News blog, was able to answer some of Curbed's questions, ranging from what the favorite neighborhood joint is to if there are any stereotypical residents you might be more likely to find. Schneider also asked Petworth News readers if they had any additional comments to help his answers. For more of their input, be sure to check them out here.
How long have you lived in Petworth?
I've lived in Petworth for 11 years. After renting in D.C. for almost 2 years, my wife and I chose Petworth after looking across the city for a house. We found the area through the blog that Bill Crandall wrote back then called Petworth News, which he stopped around 2007. That blog attracted us to the area, and we fell in love with the neighborhood feel right away as well as the architecture of the almost 100-year-old house. Seemed like a good fit, and still is.
What caused you to want to start Petworth News?
I began writing the Petworth News blog almost by accident — totally wasn't planned. I had been active in my community for a long time and decided to run for ANC commissioner last year when the seat opened due a retirement. I thought being on the ANC would help give me a way to feel more useful in the community. To help with the campaign, I started a Facebook page to share local news.
I ended up narrowly losing the election and for some reason decided to keep up the page to keep sharing small news stories. Back then, I think I had 100 Likes, give or take. Then in December, not long after the election, some violent crime occurred that I covered on the Page. To my amazement, the number of likes kept going up. Next thing I knew, I had a few hundred readers and decided to change the name of the Facebook page to "Petworth News" to make it not about me but about the neighborhood.
Six months after I started writing, the page hit 1,000 Likes. I launched the website PetworthNews.org in June to give me more creative freedom, and now have just under 9,000 readers a month on the site. The Facebook page is at 1,700 Likes and climbing.
I think the blog filled a void for local news and information in Petworth and offers people a way to stay informed and engaged. My goal with writing it is to help foster a sense of neighborhood and community. I hope that it helps people feel good about Petworth, much like Bill Crandall's blog did 11 years ago for my family. Ultimately, I think it has made me feel and be more useful to the community than a seat on the ANC ever could have.
What is it about Petworth that you think helped it win the 2015 Curbed Cup?
I think people truly like living here. Petworth definitely is a residential neighborhood, calmer than other parts of the city but still in the city. I think residents responded to the competition because they wanted to represent their neighborhood.
I felt these questions deserved more than just my opinion, so I reached out to readers to get their thoughts. And they're so very consistent in message.
Rachel Maisler wrote to say that "Petworth is a really friendly neighborhood. We really look out for one another. It's is a true community." Another neighbor, Colin, who hails from Britain and pushes a stroller along with his two dogs around the neighborhood, said, "I know more and have a bigger social interaction with my neighbours here than anywhere else I've lived in the world."
What's something that most don't know about Petworth?
Most readers agreed with resident Jean-Pierre LeGuillou, who told me he was surprised more people didn't know about Lincoln's Cottage (off of Rock Creek Church Road), where President Lincoln used to vacation when he wanted to get away from the city. Carol Herwig shared that the Rock Creek Cemetery dates back to 1712, and that both the Cemetery and the Armed Forces Retirement Home are on the National Register of Historic Places. Oh, and the church at 8th and Shepherd was once a synagogue.
Others talked about the diversity of the area, from the richness of the past to the current mix today. People see that diversity as one of the strengths of Petworth.
Any local customs in the neighborhood?
Without a doubt, it's all about the porch culture. Many readers shared stories with me about walking down the street and greeting people on their porches, hearing people with guitars, and sharing a frosty beverage or three and a shout of hello to each other.
It's also becoming events like the free Petworth Jazz Project and the Dance Project along with the Celebrate Petworth Festival, the Upshur Street Art & Craft Fair, and the many Petworth Library book sales. People love the Petworth Library. All of those events are free, created by residents and for residents.
Do you need a car to get around?
It really depends where in Petworth you live, but it's easy to walk around. The Metro's Green Line is close by, and there's many options to get around, from bikeshare to buses to Uber, Car2Go, Bridj, and just walking. But a lot of people own one car—most don't put much mileage on them, though.
Would you say that the neighborhood is good for kids?
I definitely would say Petworth is kid-friendly. I often say if people move here and they don't want kids, don't drink the water. Petworth is now a stroller city, as the number of young families has dramatically increased over the years. When I moved here 11 years ago, it was rare to see a stroller. Now, it's rare not to. More common still is the stroller-dog combo walking down the street.
The local Socials (Grant Circle, Sherman Circle, and Southwest Petworth) all bring neighbors, and their kids, together monthly. It's really nice.
What's the most beloved neighborhood joint?
The Library got a lot of love from readers, who felt that the recently renovated building offers many free classes and opportunities for civic engagement and kids activities.
For restaurants, the Hitching Post has been serving Southern cuisine for almost 50 years. New places like Upshur Street Books and Qualia are becoming favorites.
Despite being so popular, is there anything that's not so swell about the neighborhood?
Packages being stolen from the porch tops reader's comments. While "theft from auto" may top MPD's list of most common crime for Petworth, it's package theft and the occasional street crime that raises fears and frustration. Overall, crime is low in Petworth, especially violent crime. MPD has worked hard to be present, and neighbors do look out for each other, but crime is an issue here as it is across the District.
Any stereotypical residents? Hipsters? College kids? Yuppies?
Petworth runs the gamut and is pretty diverse. Not too many college kids in Petworth, but a lot of long-time residents and new people moving in. It's common to go to a block party and see 30-somethings hanging out with 60-somethings. Petworth is more about being a place to live and thrive, not to go out and party (though you can get some great food and drinks around here, from Caribbean at Andrene's to Eastern European/Scandinavian at Domku to cocktails at the new Twisted Horn).
Any final words on Petworth?
I write Petworth News because I want to celebrate the neighborhood—and it's that sense of neighborhood that draws people here and holds them here. Over and over, the most common thought readers shared was their strong sense of community, of getting along with their neighbors. That's why so many voted in the Curbed Cup, and why people want to live in Petworth. Also, as one reader said, "You need a dog and a stroller to fit in… and possibly a beard."
· Petworth News [Official Website]
· All Petworth coverage [Curbed DC]