The “Now and Then” historic books series describes Adams Morgan (Washington DC) as a study in contradiction. This neighborhood was named after two once-segregated schools (Adams – white and Morgan – black) but is remembered for the biracial cooperation of their principals. It prides itself on being the polar opposite of the homogeneous cookie-cutter suburbs, yet it itself was once a suburb. It rightfully decries and fears gentrification as being right around the corner, though it has been doing so for nearly five decades, and despite the fact that before the neighborhood was rich it was poor, but before it was poor, it was originally rich.
When I moved to Washington Dc, almost four years ago, I decided to move to Adams Morgan because it was known as a melting pot, near the city center in which cultures, languages and people of different origins merged. Since then I have moved 3 times and 3 times I have chosen to live in Adams Morgan. I love calling this place home and part of it is due to the fact that I identify with its melting pot culture, enjoy its human scale design and the uniqueness of its restaurants. In only three blocks of radius I can eat Afghan (Lapis), Indian (Himalayan), French (La Fourchette), Latin (Rumba Café), Korean and Ethiopian. I can even find an old lady from El Salvador selling chopped mangos with salt (just like home).
Living in Adams Morgan I became increasingly aware of the efforts of both its residents and its businesses in promoting the neighborhood. We are welcomed to the neighborhood by Eat, Shop, Play & Live (Adams Morgan) signs. We can find in its bus stops lists of restaurants and shops as if we were in a mall and we come together once a year to celebrate Adams Morgan’s day. A couple of years ago brand new bike racks appeared on 18th Street with a unique design (not found elsewhere in DC). It is through these efforts that I became aware of Neighborhood Branding.
While Neighborhood Branding is often used as a tool to revitalize neighborhoods that are in decay, it is also often used by neighborhoods who want to emphasize their strengths or differentiate themselves from others. But what does it mean to come or live in Adams Morgan? While it is a rapidly changing and evolving neighborhood, the video below presents a good summary.
Are you aware of similar Neighborhood Branding experiments? What is your neighborhood’s brand?
Below are some links and references if you want to know more:
Celestino Zapata and Josh Gibson: Adams Morgan Then and Now series – Arcadia Publishing