A neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., centered on a traffic circle at the intersections of Connecticut Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, 19th Street NW, and P Street NW. In practice, the neighborhood is considered to extend from the P Street Bridge (into Georgetown) to 16th Street NW and from N Street NW to T Street NW.
In 1882, this intersection of avenues was designated as Dupont Circle by Congress in honor of Rear Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont, who, in the Civil War, captured the Confederate fort at Port Royal, South Carolina. A bronze statue of the admiral was erected in the circle at this time. In 1921, the present marble fountain replaced the bronze statue, which was moved to Delaware. The massive sculpture represents the allegorical figures of the sea, the wind, and the stars.
In 1949, the Connecticut Avenue trolley stop was built under Dupont Circle. In 1950, an automobile underpass was built which sends Connecticut Avenue underneath the circle. Trolley service ceased in 1962 and the tunnels were closed. (However, in 1995, an underground food court opened in the western trolley tunnel named Dupont Down Under. It closed in 1996.) As a part of the centennial improvements to the Capitol City, the Metro station was built in 1976 and opened in 1977. All of this excavation underneath the circle requires the D.C. Metro station to have the second longest escalator in the subway system. These can be ascended and descended at the south entrance to the station. It is rumored that the massive doors at the foot of the escalators would close to seal the station as a fallout shelter in the event of nuclear attack.
Dupont Circle is the neighborhood with the highest density of bookstores. While I favored Second Story Books on P Street and Kulturas on Connecticut, Kramerbooks is the place to be seen for Sunday brunch (George Stephanopoulos lived above the café and bookstore while he was with the Clinton administration). There is also an Olssons’ Books and Records down on 19th. Add a mystery bookstore up near Kulturas. And several others I cannot recall.
Many fine restaurants are scattered about the circle. City Lights Chinese restaurant, up on Connecticut is very fine. Also Pizza Paradiso, over on P Street, serves what might be called the "D.C.-gourmet style" of pizza. If the line there is too long, across the street is a nice sushi place, Sakana. If you have cash to spare, the $65 pris fixe dinner at Obelisk is rumored to be quite good (P Street again). Just avoid Nora's Restaurant, whose reputation for healthy gourmet fare (the Chez Panise of D.C., it is acclaimed) is not borne out by their conservative meat and potatoes menu.
Just south of the circle, on Connecticut is xando, a chain cafe. Better coffee can be found all the way over on 17th Street (and Q Street), at Java House, where the propriator roasts his own. (Actually, if anyone goes there from the Bay Area, would you maybe please get me a pound of Sumatra?) A very fine tea house with interesting asian inspired food, Teaism, can be found on R Street.
A few blocks east is the international headquarters of the Order of the Eastern Star.
Dupont Circle is the center of the male homosexual community in D.C. Evidently this has been true for most of the 20 th century, as a memo written in 1936 within the Park Police complains that the park "has become the favored nightly meeting place for all the homosexuals in the city. They are here in great numbers every night, filing in and out of the comfort station in a steady stream until it is closed at midnight." (This from "Dupont Circle, Washington, D. C.," by George J. Olszewski of the Division of History, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, National Park Service.) The gay presence is out and friendly, good looking men may expect to be acknowledged, and the many cafes in the area would be an ideal place to meet people on summer nights.
Dupont (along with Adams Morgan) is one of the few areas in D.C. that has an evening presence. The downtown pretty much closes at 6pM. There is a single street of bars in the Capitol Hill area, but they all have political affiliations. Georgetown is also confined to a single strip after dark. However, Dupont Circle is always hopping with young clean men in the evenings.
It’s been a few years since I lived at 1744 1/2 Swann Street and did my shopping at the Soviet Safeway. Do /msg me with updates or corrections.