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Hill Toppers: Capitol Hill

DC’s Capitol Hill boasts tree-lined boulevards, towering Victorians, and a more serious state of mind.

Who lives here: Lawyers, lobbyists, government workers, activists, politicians. Many come here in their twenties and never leave. The area is becoming more popular with young families. “You can’t walk down the street without running into strollers,” says resident and real-estate agent Don Denton.

Homefront: Gingerbread trim abounds in a mother lode of 19th- and 20th-century Victorian rowhouses. Some of the nicest streets—East Capitol, A Street, and North Carolina Avenue—have homes set back with large front lawns. Lots of people want to live near Eastern Market or around one of the neighborhood’s sprawling parks.

What houses cost: Living in the historic district—which runs roughly from 14th Street west to the Capitol—can cost $800,000 for a small house, more than $1 million for a larger one. In developing areas—around RFK Stadium, Congressional Cemetery, and H Street in Northeast—two- and three-bedroom fixer-uppers go for between $350,000 and $500,000.

For the kids: They can draw on the sidewalks, park tricycles on the front porch. Some join the Hill’s youth sports leagues. Others learn to paint at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.

Many families send their kids to private or charter schools, saying the DC public schools don’t make the grade. Others believe strongly in the neighborhood’s “cluster” schools, where prekindergarteners through fourth-graders enroll in a public Montessori program and middle-schoolers flow into a museum-based magnet program.

Drawbacks: Residents point to crime, particularly muggings outside the historic district. Police have had success with increased foot patrols.

Where the locals go: Martini bars and sidewalk cafes along the newly developed Barracks Row at Eighth Street in Southeast. The French bistro Montmartre and the Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar are often packed. Eastern Market, at Seventh Street and North Carolina, Southeast, where locals know the farmers, butchers, and other vendors by name. “You walk down the street, and it takes so long because you know everybody,” says resident Linda Park Gallagher.

Coming soon: A Harris Teeter grocery, to open soon at 14th and Pennsylvania avenues in Southeast. Waterfront development will include bike and running trails along the Anacostia River and a new neighborhood, Hill East, between the DC Armory and the river.

Why it beats Federal Hill: “You can be a part of history just by walking out your front door,” says resident Donna Scheeder.

On the Web: Barracks Row Main Street (www.barracksrow.org); Capitol Hill Association of Merchants & Professionals (www.capitolhillmap.com); Voice of the Hill newspaper (www.voiceofthehill.com); Old City Capitol Hill Neighborhood Association (oldcitycapitolhill.org).

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