Foggy Bottom


Whole Foods Opens in Foggy Bottom

Richard / Flickr

Whole Foods now has four locations in D.C., including the P Street Whole Foods pictured above.

D.C. gets another Whole Foods today. The grocer, viewed by many as one of the most obvious signs of gentrification, has opened the doors at 22nd and I Streets NW in Foggy Bottom.

Foggy Bottom is a far cry from a rapidly changing neighborhood — it’s been decidedly wealthy for a couple of decades. But it wasn’t always that way. Washington Circle, a stone’s throw from the new Whole Foods, was an Irish gang crossroads in the late 1800s. Tenement dwellings, smoke stacks and slums dominated Foggy Bottom through the first half of the 20th century, when most residents lived in abject poverty. Much different from expensive homes and grocers with organic salad bars.

How Foggy Bottom Changed

By Mary-Alice Farina

Before the transformation of the Anacostia Waterfront and the Navy Yard began, there was Foggy Bottom. The fashionable Northwest neighborhood, now home to luxury condominiums, pristine river views and affluent seniors, was characterized by tenement dwellings, smoke stacks and slums 60 years ago.

At the end of the 18th century, the riverbanks now dominated by the Kennedy Center were D.C.’s gang-ridden and malaria-infested industrial hub. Breweries, lime kilns, shipyards and the Washington Gas Light Company facility brought an influx of European immigrants to Foggy Bottom. Foggy Bottom residents, mostly unskilled manual laborers, often spoke no English.

The area around Washington Circle, named “Round Tops” after the notorious gang that controlled it, was considered one of the most dangerous parts of town. During the population boom after the Civil War, Foggy Bottom’s “ethnic” and working class inhabitants were primarily Irish and German. A Washington Post article quoted a then-resident: “If you picked a fight with an Irishman at 17th Street, you’d have to fight every other Irishman down to the river at 27th Street before you could escape.”

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