News & Politics

East of the Park vs. West of the Park: Which One Are You?

It's more complicated than you think.

The great divide: In DC, west and east transcend geography. Photographs by Jeff Elkins

EOTP /ē-ō-tē-pē/ Acronym for “east of the park,” a term that stokes resentment and envy in upper Northwest DC residents.

Dan Silverman’s announcement in July that he had moved across Rock Creek Park, from Petworth to Van Ness, in search of better schools, was met with a mix of derision and melancholy. The man behind the blog PoPville (originally called Prince of Petworth), Silverman has chronicled the gentrification of his old neighborhood since 2006. Upon his news, the comments section devolved into a familiar debate.

“I always hold back a chuckle when I see the West of the Park residents, so stiff and uptight, as I drive back and forth from Petworth to take my kids to the good schools over there!” wrote a reader called Petworth Res, adding, “Or is the chuckle really pained envy for not having to deal with all the gun violence from some of the East of the Park residents, probably a bit of both.”

Rock Creek Park has traditionally been a line of segregation through residential DC, dividing whites in upper Northwest (sometimes jokingly called upper Caucasia) from African-Americans in the wealthy, so-called Gold Coast neighborhoods around upper 16th Street and in middle-income and poorer areas to the south and east.

In the past 20 years, whites have moved east into Petworth, Columbia Heights, Bloomingdale, and Shaw, pushing out longtime black residents. But the racial divide still pertains in the public schools. On internet forums frequented by gentrifiers, especially the parenting site DC Urban Moms, the abbreviations WOTP and EOTP—for west and east of the park—now fly like poison-tipped arrows.

WOTP: suburbanized, overanxious parents with kids at upper Northwest schools (such as notable elementaries Janney, Key, Lafayette, Mann, and Murch, often rendered as JKLMM).

EOTP: cooler-than-thou urbanites who envy the westerners’ school choices.

Yet no one can really agree on where EOTP is. Capitol Hill is excluded, apparently because it has Brent and Maury elementary schools and is doing just fine. “Whenever a Cap Hill parent chimes in on a EOTP thread, I just roll my eyes,” one post read. Other eastern neighborhoods are also out. “Lady, you Shepherd Park, Crestwood, Colonial [Village] people are TECHNICALLY EotP, but live [west of the park] lifestyles with single family homes with yards and such,” another commenter said. “Stop trying to act like that experience mirrors the urbanness of REAL EotP . . . .” Even individual schools might be east on the compass, but, you know, not east. (“[The School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens] . . . is it really EoTP in mindset?”).

The more one reads, the clearer it is that WOTP and EOTP, like the two sides of the park itself, are connected by more than divides them.

This article appears in our September 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Britt Peterson

Britt Peterson is a contributing editor for Washingtonian.