Congress Heights — a Southeast neighborhood nestled between St. Elizabeths Hospital, Joint Base Bolling-Anacostia and the Washington Highlands neighborhood — is in the midst of a major development revitalization. The opening of the Congress Heights metro station triggered dozens of development projects as urban developers quickly recognized the untapped potential the area had to offer. In 2005, THEARC (The Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus) opened on Mississippi and Southern Avenues, followed by the opening of a Giant supermarket (the first new supermarket in Ward 8 in 40 years) in 2007. Since then, the Gateway DC Pavilion, the Rise Demonstration Center and the newly renovated Ballou High School have opened.
At the epicenter of the neighborhood’s urban development is the St. Elizabeths Campus, adjacent to the US Coast Guard Headquarters. Divided into two campuses, West and East, the campus will be home to Department of Homeland Security’s new headquarters (to house the executive and operational arms of the department that are currently spread amongst 40 buildings in the DC Metro Area), as well as the Washington Wizards practice facility (a state of the art complex offering a stadium, two practice courts, a pool and a concourse for special events). The East Campus will also offer office space with Microsoft serving as the anchor tenant, making it the District’s new tech hub.
Prior to its foundation in 1890 by Colonel Arthur E. Randle, the area was forest and farmland. It’s closest sites of interest were Civil War era military sites (Forts Greble and Carroll, and the George Washington Young cavalry magazine), the Government Hospital for the Insane (now known as St. Elizabeths Hospital), the Barry Farm housing development for freed slaves and the first residential neighborhood east of the river, Uniontown (now Anacostia).
Randle, a successful entrepreneur, took advantage of the new Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge (known now as the John Philip Sousa Bridge) and created the successful Congress Heights development, subsequently founding the Capital Railway Company and the Belt Railway to ensure easy transportation to and from Congress Heights. His financial successes resulted in his further developments in Southeast: Randle Highlands, Dupont Park and Penn Branch.
The D.C. National Guard and the US Army military reserve facility were installed in the area, and many of the early residents worked at the US Naval Research Laboratory and Gun Factory at Joint Bolling-Anacostia Base. However, following the close of WWII, the neighborhood saw a decline in vitality and remained somewhat neglected through the remainder of the 20th century. That time, however, now seems to be in the distant past as Congress Heights continues to grow, flourish and buzz with vitality.
Neighborhood Development Information
St. Elizabeths West
St. Elizabeths Development