Dupont Circle

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Aerial photograph of Dupont Circle.

Dupont Circle is a traffic circle in the northwest quadrant of Washington, DC, at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue, P Street and 19th Street. Dupont Circle also gives its name to the surrounding neighborhood, which is bounded approximately by 15th Street to the east, 22nd Street to the west, M Street to the south, and Florida Avenue to the north.

Construction of the traffic circle, originally called Pacific Circle, began in 1871. In 1882, Congress authorized a memorial statue of Samuel Francis du Pont in recognition of his service as a rear admiral during the Civil War. A bronze statue was erected in 1884 in a park at the center of the circle. The Dupont family moved the sculpture to Wilmington, Delaware in 1920, and commissioned the current double-tiered, white marble fountain from sculptor Daniel Chester French and architect Henry Bacon (the co-creators of the Lincoln Memorial). The fountain was installed in 1921. Three classical nude figures symbolizing the sea, the stars and the wind are carved on the fountain's shaft.

The circle is divided between two counterclockwise roads. The inner road is reserved for Massachusetts Avenue traffic, and the outer road serves the other intersecting streets. Connecticut Avenue passes under the circle via a tunnel, and its traffic accesses the circle via service roads that branch from Connecticut near N Street and R Street. The Connecticut Avenue tunnel was built in 1949 for Washington's now-defunct streetcars to alleviate the traffic congestion created when they traveled around the circle's western side. When the tunnel was constructed, an underground station (different from the present Metro station) was also built. The station is no longer used, and its entrances on the east and west sides of the circle are boarded up. An attempt in the 1990s to redevelop the old station as commercial space (called Dupont Down Under) failed.

The park within the circle is a common gathering place for those wishing to play chess on the permanent stone chessboards or to relax on the grass during warmer months. It has also frequently been the location of political rallies, especially those supporting gay rights and protesting the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. The park is maintained by the National Park Service.

Dupont Circle has a subway stop on the Washington Metro's Red Line; the entrances are north (20th & Q) and south (19th & Dupont Circle) of the circle.

Dupont Circle neighborhood

The neighborhood, whose name is often abbreviated to 'Dupont,' is one of the more popular—and expensive—areas of D.C.

The area was a rural backwater until after the Civil War, when it first became a fashionable residential neighborhood. Some of Washington's wealthiest residents constructed houses here in the last quarter of the 19th century and the early 20th century, leaving a legacy of two types of housing in the historic district. Many of the grid streets are lined with three- and four-story rowhouses built primarily before the end of the 19th century, many of which are variations on the Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque Revival styles. Rarer are the palatial mansions and large freestanding houses that line the broad, tree-lined diagonal avenues that intersect the circle. Many of these larger dwellings were built in the styles popular between 1895 and 1910.

One such grand residence is the marble and terra-cotta Patterson house at 15 Dupont Circle (currently the Washington Club). This superb Italianate mansion, the only survivor of the many mansions that once ringed the circle itself, was built in 1901 by New York architect Stanford White for Robert Patterson, editor of the Chicago Tribune, and his wife Nellie Patterson, heiress to the Chicago Tribune fortune. Upon Mrs. Patterson's incapacitation in the early 1920s, the house passed into the hands of her daughter, Cissy Patterson, who transformed it into a hub of Washington social life. The house served as temporary quarters for President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge in 1927 while the White House underwent renovation. The Coolidges welcomed Charles Lindbergh as a houseguest after his historic transatlantic flight. Lindbergh made several public appearances at the house, waving to roaring crowds from the second-story balcony, and befriended the Patterson Family, with whom he increasingly came to share isolationist and pro-German views. Cissy Patterson later acquired the Washington Times-Herald (acquired by the Washington Post in 1954) and declared journalistic warfare on Franklin Delano Roosevelt from 15 Dupont Circle, continuing to push throughout World War II her isolationist and pro-German policies, which were echoed in the New York Daily News, run by her brother Joseph Medill Patterson, and the Chicago Tribune, run by their first cousin, Colonel Robert R. McCormick.

The neighborhood's fortunes and importance began to decline after World War II and reached a nadir after the race riots of the late 1960s. Its residential character was threatened by encroachment of commercial development from downtown and many fine buildings were demolished. Beginning in the 1970s, however, Dupont Circle began to enjoy a resurgence fueled by urban pioneers seeking an alternative lifestyle. The neighborhood took on a bohemian feel and became a gay area. Along with the Castro in San Francisco and Greenwich Village in New York City, it is considered a historic locale in the development of American gay identity. Gentrification accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s, and the area is now a more mainstream and trendy location with coffee houses, restaurants, bars, and upscale retail stores.

Notable stores include a 24-hour bookstore and restaurant, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe & Grill; and D.C.'s first gay bookstore, Lambda Rising. In addition to its residential components, comprised primarily of fairly pricey apartments, Dupont Circle is home to a number of D.C.'s public policy institutions.

The Dupont Circle neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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