Editor's Note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated with the most recent information.
For those who really want to know Washington, D.C., don’t hesitate to check out the following books. The literature listed below takes a deep dive into some of the many neighborhoods in the nation’s capital as well as the architects that built them, from James Goode’s “Best Addresses” to Scott W. Berg's "Grand Avenues.”
The main focus of this list is how D.C. came to be built, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on the city that are also worth reading. Have a favorite book that wasn’t included here? Let Curbed DC know in the comments.
“AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C.” by G. Martin Moeller Jr.
Form the Watergate to the Cairo, the American Institute of Architects provides insight into more than 400 landmarks in Washington, D.C. with descriptions and historical facts on each one.
“Best Addresses” by James Goode
This massive, well-researched book is the authoritative guide to every apartment building in and around Washington, D.C. Along with photography and examinations of the people who built and lived in these properties, Goode goes above and beyond when it comes to documenting the architectural wonders of the nation's capital. Goode was the winner of Washingtonian's prestigious "Washingtonian of the Year" award.
“Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings” by James Goode
Take an architectural tour of Washington, D.C.'s architecture lost to the wrecking ball with photography and history into not only the properties, but the people who inhabited them.
“Capital Drawings: Architectural Designs for Washington, D.C., from the Library of Congress” by C. Ford Peatross
After 10 years of research, Peatross published this illustrated text with stories of how Washington, D.C.'s architecture was linked with the zodiac, while providing the significance of the symbols found throughout the nation's capital.
“Buildings of the District of Columbia” by Pamela Scott
Every aspect of Washington, D.C. is investigated in this publication, from the District's major government buildings to its monuments to its neighborhoods, while unearthing the myriad number of changes the city's architecture has experienced since the Revolutionary War.
“Worthy of the Nation: Washington, D.C., from L'Enfant to the National Capital Planning Commission” by Frederick Gutheim and Antoinette J. Lee
This well-documented publication focuses on the work of the National Capital Planning Commission and how the District has grown over the past few decades.
“Grand Avenues: The Story of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, D.C.” by Scott W. Berg
This narrative account explores the story of how Pierre Charles L'Enfant was chosen to design the nation's capital, why he was turned away only 11 months later, and what became of his designs.
“Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004” by Pamela Scott
In this book, architectural historian Pamela Scott delves into the depth of the the Corps' involvement in the design and development of Washington, D.C. This publication received the Blue Pencil Award for "Most Outstanding Soft Cover Book" from the National Association for Government Communicators in 2007.
“The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capital: The Masons and the Building of Washington, D.C.David Ovason” by David Ovason
While most argue that the design of Washington, D.C. is thanks to Pierre Charles L'Enfant, Ovason argues that it was Masonic architects like Thomas Jefferson who truly influenced the making of the city.
“A History of Rock Creek Park: Wilderness & Washington, D.C.” by Scott Einberger
Rock Creek Park should be known for more than its trails. It should also be known for its influence on the Civil War, U.S. Presidents, and poet Joaquin Miller.
“Wicked Capitol Hill: An Unruly History of Behaving Badly” by Robert S. Pohl
Get to know the nitty gritty side of this Southeast neighborhood by learning about historic crimes and misbehaving government officials.
“A History of Dupont Circle: Center of High Society in the Capital” by Stephen A. Hansen
Today, Dupont Circle is known for its variety of retail and restaurant options, but at one point it was full of small farms. In this publication, one can learn about its beginnings as well as how it eventually became a home for U.S. President William Taft, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and extravagant balls.
“Foggy Bottom and the West End” by Matthew B. Gilmore & Joshua Olsen
One upon a time, Foggy Bottom was an industrial center. Now, it's home to mansions, the Kennedy Center, and Watergate. In this publication, the authors discuss how this Northwest neighborhood evolved.
“Adams Morgan” by Celestino Zapata and Josh Gibson
Adams Morgan has experienced a myriad of changes over the past few decades, and soon there will be even more changes planned. What more can you learn from Washington, D.C.'s most racially diverse neighborhood? You can find out with this book.
“Kalorama Triangle: The History of a Capital Neighborhood” by Stephen A. Hansen
The Kalorama that we know and love today was once used as barracks and hospitals during the Civil War. See what information historian and longtime resident Stephen A. Hansen has to provide on this transition to what it is now.
“The Neighborhoods of Logan, Scott, and Thomas Circles” by Paul K. Williams
According to this publication, Logan, Scott, and Thomas circles are historically significant in their influence on the Civil War, the elite, and politicians.
“The National Mall: Rethinking Washington’s Monumental Core” by Nathan Glazer and Cynthia R. Field
This publication is a collection of essays from historians, poets, planners, and more. Expect a look at the Mall's past and future.
“Historic Georgetown: A Walking Tour” by Thomas J. Carrier
With a location so close to the Potomac River, this neighborhood was a site where Europeans colonials settled. As a book meant to be a walking tour of Georgetown, you will be able to discover the homes of John F. Kennedy, Francis Scott Key, and more.
“Park View” by Kent C. Boese with Lauri Hafvenstein
Due to its location on a streetcar line, this Northeast neighborhood experienced a housing boom in the 20th century. In this book, you will be able to learn which builders helped transform the area from farms to row houses.
“Greater U Street” by Paul K. Williams
In the early 1900s, U Street was mostly populated by African Americans due to racial segregation in Washington, D.C. It was the site of culture, music, and later the riots of 1968. See what else causes this Northwest neighborhood to be so unique and so significant in the nation's capital.
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