How 8 Washington, D.C. Neighborhoods Got Their Names 

iStock
iStock

Most people know that Washington, D.C. is packed with historic buildings, but its neighborhood names reflect a more intimate history that sometimes dates back all the way to the city's origins on the banks of the Potomac. Here are the stories behind a few of the District’s neighborhood names, plus a bonus story of one distinctively named neighborhood that is no longer.

1. ANACOSTIA

Anacostia gets its musical name from an Anglicization. In 1608, Captain John Smith made his first Chesapeake Bay voyage, sailing up the bay and exploring its many inlets and rivers. One of them led him to a village of Nactochtank people—one of many tribes that inhabited the region and used its rivers and plains for food and trading. As European traders kept coming to the region, someone Anglicized anaquash(e)tan(i)k, the Nacotchtank word for village or trading center, as Anacostia. The name stuck among white settlers, and despite being briefly named Uniontown, Anacostia is known by that name to this day.

2. KALORAMA

Another one of Washington’s most sonorous place names comes from Greek. In 1807, a poet named Joel Barlow moved into a house with some seriously sweet views of the newly built White House and Capitol. He nicknamed it Kalorama—“beautiful view” in Greek.

3. PLEASANT PLAINS

Awesome views apparently abounded in old Washington. In the 1700s, a farmer named James Holmead bought a huge tract of undeveloped land in what was then Maryland. The family named part of their estate “Pleasant Plains,” and it stuck. The Holmead family loved dramatic estate names—other properties included James’s Park and the fancifully named “Widow’s Mite.” Pleasant Plains was eventually divvied up, and part of the estate was turned into a luxury suburb called Mt. Pleasant. James’s son, Anthony, also opened a burial ground that has since gone defunct.

4. FOGGY BOTTOM

The Foggy Bottom Metro station.

Not all views in early Washington were pleasant, however. Take the area near where the Potomac and Rock Creek meet, now one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. It was settled early in the city’s history and initially known as Hamburgh, a German settlement that became part of Washington when the federal district was created. The area later became an industrial center, home to two breweries and a gas works. Foggy Bottom was never terribly inviting: The damp marsh was prone to mists and overrun by frogs. But the smoke and smog emitted by its industrial residents is thought to be responsible for its catchy nickname. Today, the neighborhood shares that handle with the U.S. Department of State, which is headquartered in the neighborhood.

5. FORT TOTTEN

The Fort Totten neighborhood shares a name with a one-time military base turned park in Queens, New York. The D.C. version was also once a real fort, built starting in 1861 to protect Abraham Lincoln’s summer home, and later became part of a park. The fort can still be seen—just one of the District’s many Civil War fortifications—and today, a tiny neighborhood is named after the fort and the park.

6. TRINIDAD

Spoiler alert: There are multiple Trinidads, too. The one not in the Caribbean is squarely in northeastern D.C. It’s named after the tropical country thanks to James Barry, a land speculator who once lived in the original Trinidad and who named his farm after the country, then sold it to another mogul, William Wilson Corcoran. Corcoran enjoyed life on Trinidad Farm until he decided to give it away, donating it in 1872 to what is now George Washington University. The college sold it to a brickworks, who sold part of it to a group of developers, who sold the land to residents of the new neighborhood of Trinidad.

7. CHEVY CHASE

Sunset on Western Avenue in the Chevy Chase neighborhood.

The D.C. area has two Chevy Chases: A neighborhood in the city itself, and an adjoining town in suburban Maryland. Both derive their name from a land company that still exists today.

As Washington, D.C. expanded, real estate investors began to vie for unoccupied land, including farmland in the northwestern part of the city. The Chevy Chase Land Company, which was founded by future Nevada representative and senator and noted white supremacist Francis G. Newlands, began snapping up that land in the 1890s. Newlands milked both his mining fortune and his government connections to create what he saw as the ideal suburb. Today, that neighborhood is known for its large collection of Sears kit houses—bungalows that land owners bought directly from the Sears catalogue and assembled themselves.

8. CARVER LANGSTON

Carver Langston doesn’t just have two names: It’s two neighborhoods that are too small to be referred to as individual neighborhoods. The first, Carver, was named after George Washington Carver, the African American inventor and botanist. The second, Langston, was named after John Mercer Langston, who became one of the first African-Americans to hold elected office in the United States (township clerk in Brownhelm, Ohio in 1855) before going on to establish Howard University’s Law Department and becoming Virginia’s first black Representative.

BONUS: SWAMPOODLE

Alas, the Washington neighborhood with the weirdest name is no more. In the 19th century, a shantytown on the banks of the Tiber Creek earned the name “swampoodle”—an apparent reference to the area’s swampy puddles. With a reputation for being wild and crime-ridden, it was known as “the ideal place to turn a dishonest dollar.” But the neighborhood didn’t make it out of the 19th century and was eventually displaced when Union Station was built. Oddly enough, Philadelphia had its own Swampoodle—a section of North Philly whose name disappeared at some point during the 20th century (although some residents are currently trying to bring it back as "Swampoodle Heights").

All photos via iStock.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Nintendo

- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

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- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

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- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

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New York Just Renamed Brooklyn’s East River State Park After LGBTQ+ Icon Marsha P. Johnson

A photo of Marsha P. Johnson from the 2017 documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.
A photo of Marsha P. Johnson from the 2017 documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.
Netflix

Brooklyn, New York’s East River State Park is now called the Marsha P. Johnson State Park, after the transgender activist who dedicated her life to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

NBC New York reports that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo mentioned plans to change the name at a Human Rights Campaign gala back in February, and made the change official yesterday, on what would’ve been Johnson’s 75th birthday. Johnson passed away in 1992 at age 46, and the circumstances surrounding her death are still being investigated.

In addition to having been present at the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, Johnson also founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to aid unhoused LGBTQ+ youth, and she took an active role in the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power in the 1980s. Her legacy as a trailblazer for trans and gay rights is so important that people sometimes credit her with throwing the first brick at Stonewall, though there’s no proof she (or anyone) actually did.

“Too often, the marginalized voices that have pushed progress forward in New York and across the country go unrecognized, making up just a fraction of our public memorials and monuments,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “Marsha P. Johnson was one of the early leaders of the LGBTQ movement, and is only now getting the acknowledgement she deserves. Dedicating this state park for her, and installing public art telling her story, will ensure her memory and her work fighting for equality lives on.”

A mock-up of what the park could look like after it's finished.NY State Parks, Flickr

Not only is this New York’s first state park to be named after a transgender woman of color, but it’s also the first in the state to be named after any member of the LGBTQ+ community. So far, some of the fencing around the park has been decorated with vibrant florals—something Johnson was known for wearing—and signs that explain her contributions to the movement. State park officials will also collaborate with New York’s LGBTQ+ community on a larger art installation in the park, which should be finished by next summer. They’re also planning on building a 1200-square-foot building on the grounds with restrooms, classroom space, storage, and a park ranger station.

[h/t NBC New York]