Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do you live in Pleasant Plains?

Just saw this on the South Columbia Heights listserve: There's a neighborhood group for Pleasant Plains -- but what is Pleasant Plains?

According to their website, the neighborhood goes from Florida Ave on the south to Spring Rd on the north, and 16th on the west to Georgia on the east. However, on the South Columbia Heights listserve posting, they say it's from Florida to Park Rd and 14th east to 4th and Warder Street. Either definition includes basically all of what is usually considered south Columbia Heights. But on Wikipedia page, it says its western boundary is Sherman Ave, meaning 16th to Sherman is not included. That makes more sense to me.

I emailed Pleasant Plains Civic Association head Sylvia Robinson about the differences and how her group fits in with Columbia Heights and the South Columbia Heights Civic Association, and here's what she said:
I don't think there is overlap in the efforts in the Pleasant Plains network and the South Columbia Heights Community Assocation. Pleasant Plains is an old established neighborhood and we are making an effort to strengthen the resources of the neighborhood by giving a voice to its residents, businesses, youth, arts organizations, etc. and establishing communications to these groups about issues affecting neighborhood changes. It is also important to educate people about the neighborhood history and culture, which is different from Columbia Heights (visit for more info on the upcoming Heritage Trail). I am aware that the city has blurred the lines between the two neighborhoods over time and extended Columbia Heights to Georgia Avenue but I believe this has been because the residents of Pleasant Plains did not have a strong enough voice in this process.
Regarding the boundary issues, she CCed Darren Jones, who had this to say:
There is lots of overlap in the boundaries of the civic associations. Pleasant Plains was established in 1921 and has met faithfully since then. The boundaries during its founding were 4th and Warder Streets on the east; 16th Street on the west; Spring Road on the north; and Florida Avenue on the east.
He noted the South Columbia Heights Civic Association was founded in 2006.

Now I've heard of Pleasant Plains before, but it's not used very much; to me it's kind of like Lanier Heights or Reed-Cooke: the neighborhood name exists but most people just call it by some more well-known name (Adams Morgan in those cases). The only place I've seen it written in the area is this sign above at Georgia and Irving. IntangibleArts, the photographer, said the sign popped up one day in 2007.

I told Sylvia and Darren that I think most people see the area between 16th and Georgia as Columbia Heights, and Sylvia responded:
There may be a lot of people who do [think that]- understandably since realtors could sell quicker if they said their properties were in Columbia Heights, but they are in fact living in Pleasant Plains. A quick look at the deeds on their property will verify this.
However, the city's tax assessment data seems to show the whole area as Columbia Heights.

You could make the argument that the eastern part of the neighborhood does need its own name, as east of Georgia it's sort far to be called Columbia Heights -- like Park View on the north and Pleasant Plains on the south. However, I wouldn't include anything from Georgia to 16th as that neighborhood, since that's pretty well-established as Columbia Heights. The Wikipedia definition, which I'm pretty sure is taken from the city, seems pretty good. Your thoughts?

UPDATE: Forgot to include an article on Pleasant Plains that Robinson sent me.

UPDATE: Here's a map showing the boundaries of Pleasant Plains from the three places above:
Red = Pleasant Plains website
Blue = post by Pleasant Plains presz on South Columbia Heights listserve
Green = Wikipedia.

View Columbia Heights vs Pleasant Plains in a larger map

Sign photo by IntangibleArts


  1. look at the photos in the examiner article—those places are all completely within the ledroit park historic district.

    sure, pleasant plains exists as a neighborhood, but it's not as large as people are trying to push it to be. i feel like there must be some other motive here.

  2. Map posted! So basically there is no Columbia Heights, according to them.

  3. and according to the wiki definition mapped here, there's no such thing as ledroit park either.

  4. I live in Pleasant Plains (near Fairmont and Sherman) and honestly, I think only the area where all three overlap is Pleasant Plains. It's roughly congruent with Howard Town.

  5. I was wondering where "South Columbia Heights" got its genesis. I'd never heard of that distinction until people (actually, mostly one guy) started posting about it on the interwebs a couple of years ago.

  6. Well, to go back to the Wikipedia entry, it has this gem which helps explain the confusion of Pleasant Plains ... "In 1918, the city returned the name "Pleasant Plains" to the entire area of the original estate, but this is a semi-formal name for the section of town and not a neighborhood in and of itself."

    What this means is that property deeds that are in other neighborhoods will have Pleasant Plains listed on them. So, Sylvia, to direct someone to look at their deeds is not a way to confirm or deny is they live in that neighborhood.

    I'm all for fighting for your own neighborhood, but not at the expense of encroaching on other folks neighborhoods.

    Living in Park View, I assure you that ALL of Warder is in that community and not a border with Pleasant Plains!

  7. split the difference:

    sherman ave south, to florida south east, up georgia ave north, to columbia rd west.

    pleasant plains

  8. I just bought a place on Warder Street and according to the DC deed records, I am in Columbia Heights. The realtors don't decide that stuff.

  9. city's tax assessment data seems to show the whole area as Columbia Heights - Correct

  10. frankie: you can't trust the tax database either. that's just a nice, clean way for the tax office to lump houses into a limited number of neighborhoods. according to them, the vast majority of the l'enfant city is "old city 1" and "old city 2". bloomingdale doesn't exist. shaw doesn't exist. it's not an accurate representation of neighborhoods.

  11. why bother having neighborhood names?
    does it really do anything for you?
    if there is so much debate, who actually gets to decide, and what rules do you go by in making that decision? historical? but at what date? present day?

    if its a marketing ploy let the Realtor decide. if its about meeting your neighbors, walk around the block.
    if its about pride, go pick up trash off your street.
    if its about bragging rights, just make up some obscure name and tell everyone you live their. or just call everywhere "the heart of dc"
    whats it about?

  12. Although I am pushing for acknowledgement of the existence of Pleasant Plains, I also want to say a few words about neighborhood identity. I grew up on Quincy & Georgia, what is technically Petworth but at the time the name didn't matter. Our neighborhood focus was about a 2 block radius and our concerns were not only crime and parking (not a big deal at the time anyway) but who our neighbors were, who was sick, who had a baby, whose child was misbehaving etc. I believe that was the reason why we were not overwhelmed with the major issues we have today.

    I have no particular interest in taking someone who identifies strongly with Columbia Heights, no matter where they live, and changing their focus to Pleasant Plains - provided they DO take an interest and choose to participate in that community. For many that live in both Columbia Heights and Pleasant Plains their neighborhood doesn't exist. They come and go without making any connections to the community, meeting neighbors, attending civic meetings, or volunteering. The Emergence Community Arts Collective at 733 Euclid St., which is also my home, is in Pleasant Plains and its our mission to get people out of their homes and engaged in the community. The Pleasant Plains identity, culture and history is rich, the people interesting and diverse and the future promising. Find out more about what we do at and email me at if you want to receive our monthly Pleasant Plains newsletter.

    Sylvia Robinson

  13. Not to be picky, but the Pleasant Plains website says the western edge is "14th St. on the west", not 16th St. (Or maybe they changed it?)

  14. Oh, interesting. It used to say 16th, so maybe we're winning!


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