Thomas Circle is much more complex than people may think. In fact, there are a myriad of facts that I’ve learned about this location that I would never have known just from looking at the location. For example, in his book, S Street Rising, Ruben Castaneda describes the corner of M Street and 13th Street as a place where people used to pick up prostitutes. Walking through that neighborhood now, it would never have even crossed my mind. The neighborhood of Thomas Circle is part of an elite community, with many apartment complexes, small shops and a few restaurants. The National Christian City Church is right behind a beautiful crosswalk and a statue planted right in the middle. Throughout this Built Environment Description, you will learn about things you never thought were found in Washington D.C. I hope you enjoy this journey of discovery.

The corner of 13th street and M. Street is not just a street corner. At first, I was confused as to what I would write about the interior of my location, then, when I went to visit my site, I realized that there were many buildings in the area that I was eager to explore. This is very different from what Ruben Castaneda described in his book, S Street Rising. Although Castaneda talked mostly about the exterior of the location, I am positive that if this was a street corner where many prostitutes were being picked up, it would not have all of the buildings and elegant apartments that I saw nearby.


When I got to the exact address of my location, the first thing I noticed when I looked up was a building with a sign that says, “Thomas Circle Apartments”. This sign was located right in front of a beautiful brick building, which was very surprising to see.  I decided to take a look inside and it was luxurious and beautiful and nothing like I expected it to be. The atmosphere felt friendly, welcoming, and the opposite of what was expected. I went to the front desk and told them about my project, but the woman working there must have been having a bad day, because she just looked at me with a blank stare and told me to check the website. So unfortunately, I was unable to get a view of the actual rooms (although I’m sure they are as beautiful as described on the website), and I decided to take the woman’s advice, and visit the website. The website talks all about what a great neighborhood Thomas Circle is, and how convenient it is that it’s so close to such a great area and community. In fact, it is noted on the website that there are very wealthy residents that live in the area. Although Castaneda does not talk much about the interior of this location, with  his description of the exterior, it is pretty obvious that the inside of these buildings are nothing like they used to be.


This is what the building looks like currently


This is what the building looks currently

This is what the building looked like in 2007


On Google earth, it doesn’t show the sign for the apartment until August of 2014, which means this building must be relatively new. Before then, it seems like it was more of a small restaurant. The building looked a lot less polished in 2007 than it does now. As seen from the pictures above, there is definitely someone that is taking care of the building. It definitely has a more modern feel to it, especially with the white walls and fancy door.


I walked a little bit further to Thomas Circle, where the National City Christian Church is located. The inside of the church was mesmerizing. There were columns that went all the way up to the ceiling, and it was obvious by the looks of the people attending the church service that they were of very high class.

The corner of M Street and 13th street is a beautiful area, unlike what was described in the novel S Street Rising by Ruben Castaneda. When I first arrived at my site, one of the first thoughts that struck me was how rich everything was. The people walking around the area were also relatively rich, (or at least they looked the part). The corner is populated with beautiful green trees– that is, until fall season begins– and is a relatively quiet area. There are numerous buildings around the corner, mostly offices and apartments, aside from a huge area built like a hotel right on the corner, known as “Thomas Circle Apartments”. I’ve also noticed that most of the buildings on this street are made of brick, which could show that  When visiting the site, I noticed that there were cars parked all down the street, showing that this area must be very popular. There are virtually no bars or restaurants or anything food related on the specific corner, or a couple of blocks down 13th street for that matter. A less than two minute walk away from the infamous street corner, there is Thomas Circle.

Thomas Circle, present time

Thomas Circle, present time

Thomas Circle is also known as a traffic circle that became very developed from when it was first built, in the mid 1860s. Thomas Circle was first used as a roundabout to stop people from driving too fast when they went by the street, but it soon developed into something much bigger than that. Luther Place Memorial Church was built right behind it, giving the area a beautiful view. A very big and elegant hotel is located diagonal from the church. This attracted many wealthy citizens to this part of town. Then, Thomas Circle itself started to undergo construction. There are now flowers planted in the circle, making it look more like a fairy-tale garden rather than a “prostitute hot-spot”, as Castaneda described in his novel. This location shows how overturned the city has definitely become gives a rise to the theme of the novel as a whole. It is evident by Ruben Castaneda’s description of not only this location but the description of most locations in Washington D.C. that he didn’t believe that these places would ever be as developed as they’ve become today.

This also relates to City of Rhetoric, by David Fleming. In the novel, Chicago is described as a place that is split in two, between the poor area and the rich area. Throughout the novel, David Fleming made it sound like the ‘north side’ of town had no hope and could never be as evolved as the ‘south side’. That is, until a building known as Cabrini Green came into place and started to turn the city around. This building was supposed to help the members of the community to live a normal life with the same privileges as anyone else. After many struggles to get the town’s and the people’s attention, Cabrini Green finally became more and more developed and soon turned into a very nice part of town. There is a building just like this in this part of town. Although I wasn’t able to get too much information about it, I saw on google earth how underdeveloped it was in 2007 and how great it looks now. This shows how much a location can change.