Dupont Circle is a park, neighborhood, historic attraction and a traffic circle designed by the architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant in 1791. The circle intersects the Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire Avenues, along with Nineteenth Street and P Street. The area where Dupont Circle lies today was originally named Pacific Circle until 1884 when a statue of Francis DuPont, a Civil War Naval hero, arrived in the center of the circle (Williams 7). Concurrently, Dupont transformed from a wooded and uncultivated area with large country estates, to a luxurious place where the wealthy, influential and people of high political standing subsided and spent their days shopping in their equally high class stores (Williams 9). Although many of the estates were transformed into office buildings, small shops and row homes, the high class feeling still persists in Dupont Circle today.
The first thing I noticed as I arrived to Dupont Circle was how eager Dupont was to have visitors. Although Dupont was originally a residential neighborhood, the plethora of shops and restaurants make the area seem like a tourist attraction. The neighborhood is incredibly accessible with its Metro system which was constructed in Dupont in the 1970s (Williams 9). Dupont’s circular design makes it very easy for a newcomer such as myself to visit any of the five intersecting streets and avenues. I walked out of the metro station, and simply followed the circle until I reached Connecticut Avenue where the Dupont Circle Club is located. As I walked around the circle, I saw many different types of people. There were business people dressed in suits, homeless people begging for money, families with little kids in strollers and people sitting at outdoor eateries. Amongst the congestion of people were high end shops such as Lou Lou Boutiques, Blue Mercury, Loft and plenty of other expensive stores along with a line of restaurants which all offer outdoor seating and happy hours. Dupont appeals to all economic classes with cheaper fast food options amongst bars and restaurants. As I walked to the AA club, I saw Subway, Smoothie King, Chipotle, and Starbucks. Roaming the streets, I heard the conversations of the people sitting at outdoor restaurants and smelt the delicious sweets from places like Larry’s Ice Cream and Cupcakes. Dupont is a place of convenience with a 7- Eleven, Walgreens and CVS for people to quickly stop in to grab whatever they need before they continue exploring Dupont or on their way to work.
Dupont Circle is a place filled with lots of contrast. “Homeless” people are intertwined with the wealthy, and a family park lies among business buildings. The contrast continues with the way the space in Dupont is utilized. The area appears large and spacious because the streets are wide with plenty of lanes and a big circle, but the sidewalks are crammed. The sidewalk is not big enough to accompany the stores, the pedestrians, the bicyclist and the homeless who sit on the sidewalks. While walking, I tried to avoid bumping into people besides me. As I looked towards the street, I realized that the traffic was also congested. There were at least four lanes all going in the same direction, but traffic still seemed chaotic; I felt like I was back home, looking at Center City Philadelphia traffic during rush hour. The line of empty parked cars and bikes also reminded me of Philly with these roadside obstacles that make the street harder to navigate. As a newcomer, the chaos on the sidewalk and on the streets overwhelmed me, but as I looked pass the traffic, I enjoyed the site of the architecture and felt calm again.
Though Dupont Circle possesses qualities of an urban center, its architectural environment creates a ritzy area. As I looked to the other side of the street, I saw auburn, tan, brown, white and blue buildings with intricate architectural designs. These structures were unique with rigid rectangular and triangular designs and appear to have been homes in their past life. Outside of these shops were little trees and strings of yellow lights which added to the jovial feeling. The outside of these buildings were very unique with rigid rectangular and triangular structures. The architectural detail of the buildings and the environment contributes to this high class feeling. Overall Dupont Circle is a busy and urban environment that appeals to various types of people based on its diversity of shops, attractions and people.
Williams, Paul. Images of America: Dupont Circle. Arcadia Publishing, 2000
Exterior Built Environment: Digital Record 1
This Dupont Circle sign appears on almost every other light pole. It welcomes people to Dupont Circle, allows people to know where they are, and advertises their website where people can learn about upcoming events, places to eat and the history of Dupont. The flag features the iconic fountain in the center of Dupont Circle which has been attracting kids on hot summer days since 1940s. The fountain was donated by the Library of Congress (Williams 8).
Exterior Built Environment: Digital Record 2
This is one of many high class stores which a visitor is bound to see. Dupont is filled with many shopping attractions which all follow the model of open doors and big windows. The windows act as exhibits that allow people to see the best of what the store has to offer, creating incentive for people to come in and shop, thus adding to D.C’s revenue.
Exterior Built Environment: Digital Record 3
This picture exhibits the congestion of the sidewalks and depicts how it is divided among people, stores, bikes and signs. The picture also shows the type of high end stores such as Blue Mercury and Lou Lou Boutique amongst the cheaper stores such as Smoothie King and Comfort Shoes. Lasty, the rigid, row home-like, architecture is apparent from this view.
Exterior Built Environment: Digital Record 4
Here is an example of the traffic. The parked cars makes the street seem more chaotic than it actually is. If one looks closely, they can see that there are at least four lanes. The traffic is likely to be congested due to the merging of streets where cars join traffic from below.
Exterior Built Environment: Digital Record 5
Many buildings in Dupont resemble this model. The buildings are three to four stories tall, with lots of windows. The buildings are very rigid with unique colors and shapes, and the layout of the structures confirms that the current stores were once rowhomes. Also, the trees and lights in front of the stores give that peaceful and ritzy feeling.