The four quadrants of DC

16 Feb

DC is divided into four quadrants with the Capitol Building’s rotunda as the center. The dividing streets are North Capitol, East Capitol, South Capitol and the National Mall. Therefore, the Mall is basically split down the middle: The Smithsonian Castle, Air and Space Museum and Lincoln Memorial are in southwest DC, while the Natural History Museum and American History Museum are in northwest DC.

Street and number addresses start out at the Capitol so there are many identical addresses. That’s why it’s VERY important to note the quadrant, otherwise, you could be looking for a building on K Street SE, for example, when you are really meant to be on K Street NE.

Streets running north and south are numbered (1st, 2nd, etc.) and streets running east-west are letters (interestingly, there’s no J).

The quadrants aren’t identical sizes and they never were. At one time it was an almost perfect square but now—see that big chunk out of southwest?—that’s Arlington and Alexandria, which the district eventually gave back to Virginia.

Northwest is the largest of the quadrants, covering over a third of the city. Its neighborhoods include Federal Triangle, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, Adams Morgan and Georgetown, among others.  This quadrant is typically what people think of when they think “DC.”

Southwest is the smallest quadrant and is really just a sliver of the city. Southwest is dominated by the waterfront area as well as the Bolling Air Force Base and Anacostia Naval Station.

Northeast’s neighborhoods include Pleasant Hill, Fort Totten and much of Capitol Hill, among others. The National Arboretum and Gallaudet University (a well-known school for the deaf) are also found here.

Southeast is bisected by the Anacostia River and contains the Library of Congress, Eastern Market, Nationals Stadium and the newly revamped Navy Yard.

8 Responses to “The four quadrants of DC”

  1. Taz February 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    The ballpark is actually on the SE side of South Capitol, not SW.

    • marseadc February 16, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

      Gah! Thanks for catching that Taz. I’ve made the correction.

  2. Victoria (District Chocoholic) February 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Another very cool thing about the east-west streets is that after running through the alphabet up to “W,” the streets are named with two-syllable words in alphabetical order (with no J, X, or Z), and are then named with three-syllable words in alphabetical order (with no X, Y, or Z). Then, if you are really far out from downtown, the streets are named after flowers and trees in alphabetical order. Helps if you need redirection outside downtown neighborhoods.

    • marseadc February 16, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

      Thanks Victoria! Good tip. Lord knows I’ve gotten lost in DC more than a few times;c)

  3. Toddy February 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    I’ve lived in DC my whole life and I must say this is an excellent and concise wrap up. Cheers, T.

    • marseadc February 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

      Yay! Thanks Toddy! That means a lot.

  4. marseadc February 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    Hi Doug,

    Thanks for your feedback. I’m sorry you feel it’s racist, that certainly wasn’t my intent. DC statistics show that part of the city to have the highest crime rate. That’s why I urged readers to be diligent, but I also wanted to point out that crime can–and does–happen anywhere.

  5. marseadc July 27, 2014 at 2:32 am #

    Love this! Thanks for your thoughts. I’m planning on writing a post about each of the quadrants, and I’ll certainly include this info. Thanks again!

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