A great neighborhood with a great history
Shaw’s place in DC history is as varied as it is interesting. Shaw has a strong residential character, with a true neighborhood feel and a number of locally owned businesses. The mix of beautiful 19th century Victorian row houses with big front porches and pockets of commercial development on tree-lined streets makes the area very walkable. The historic charm of the area is still evident in many parts of Shaw, notably the 1300 block of Ninth Street.
Originally called “Uptown,” the neighborhood began to be referred to as Shaw because of the junior high school named after Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
The neighborhood thrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries as a center of African-American cultural and intellectual life. Howard University opened its doors in 1866, providing a vibrant influx of new thinking and ideas. Shaw was also a hotbed of jazz in the 1920s and 1930s, hosting some of the premier jazz musicians of the day and its most famous resident, Duke Ellington.
In the 1990s, new residents started moving in, drawn by its central location and reasonable housing prices, and the area began to emerge as an attractive place to live in DC.
Today, Shaw is one of the District’s most-loved neighborhoods, with beautiful housing, a great location, and civically engaged residents.
Shaw is very centrally located – with boundaries roughly at M Street, NW, or Massachusetts Avenue, NW, to the south; New Jersey Avenue, NW, to the east; Florida Avenue, NW, to the north; and 11th Street, NW, to the west, also including the U Street Corridor, where a myriad of shops and restaurants are centered – with the Shaw-Howard University Metro station (also walkable to the U Street and Mount Vernon Square Metro stations) providing access to all of metro DC. There is good bus service as well and, for those who have cars, there’s easy access to the highways.
Things to See and Do
Among Shaw’s most notable landmarks are the Lincoln Theatre, the Howard Theatre, 9:30 Club, The Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library, the Twelfth Street YMCA Building, Ben’s Chili Bowl and the north portion of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Shaw is also home to some great locally-owned establishments with new restaurants and retail popping up all the time, like Dacha Beer Garden, La Jambe and Baby Wale. There’s a bevy of bars and nightclub options in the area, providing entertainment for any mood or time of day. You can also check out the independent neighborhood stores including Wagtime, a dog store and kennel that bills itself as a “pet resort,” and Old City Farm & Guild, a non-profit green space that provides educational programming and facilitates community activities surrounding gardening, nutrition, and environmental education. And for artistic endeavors, Long View Gallery is one of the area’s largest art spaces and a great location for hosting an event.