Getting to Know the DMV: Foggy Bottom

Getting to Know the DMV: Foggy Bottom (Image of row houses in Foggy Bottom belonging to the George Washington University)
Many George Washington University campus buildings are repurposed from the brick row houses of Foggy Bottom's industrial past. (William Atkins/GW Today)
August 23, 2018

Washington, D.C., is more than the seat of the national government. The DMV—the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia—is home to broad, diverse communities and neighborhoods that offer history, good eats, parks and waterfronts—much of it a quick Metro ride away. Once a month during the academic year, Getting to Know the DMV will offer a glimpse of selected neighborhoods.


By Ruth Steinhardt

Foggy Bottom draws its evocative name from the mist rolling off the Potomac River at its southern boundary—and perhaps from the industrial smog that once hung over its streets. As the 19th-century manufacturing hub of Washington, D.C., the neighborhood was home to breweries, glass factories and the Washington Gas and Light Company and to the predominantly immigrant population that worked them.

The George Washington University moved to 2023 G St. in 1912 and quickly established itself as a neighborhood presence. But a weak national economy and the austerity of Prohibition took their toll on the neighborhood’s industries in the 1920s, and by the 1940s the area included some of the city’s most notorious slums.

image of washington circle in foggy bottom

Washington Circle, where the George Washington University Hospital now stands, was once known as “Round Tops” after the notorious Irish gang that controlled it. (William Atkins/GW Today)


The final blow to the neighborhood’s industrial character came in 1949 with the closing of the Washington Gas Works. But a new tenant had moved in: the federal government. The Department of State moved its headquarters to Foggy Bottom that same year, and the government soon after targeted the entire area for redevelopment.

Foggy Bottom now serves as a home base for many GW students—and there’s a lot to explore between classes.

What to do:

Visit Museums and Historic Sites

image of museum exhibit

Pieces from a recent exhibition at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. (William Atkins/GW Today)


The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum combines two Foggy Bottom institutions: The Textile Museum’s vibrant collection of textile art spanning five continents and five millennia, and the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection of historic artifacts telling the story of the nation’s capital. Besides selections from the permanent collection, the museum also features rotating exhibitions on topics from historic costume to contemporary art.

The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s historic Flagg Building is home to a series of rotating fine-art exhibitions, including those belonging to the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.

The Octagon Museum, home to the Architects Foundation, features an unusually hands-on approach to historical immersion: Visitors can play board games in the drawing room or try out the housekeeper’s rope bed. (It’s also rumored to be haunted.)

If you’re on the Mount Vernon Campus, the historic Foxhall neighborhood includes some lesser-known gems. The Kreeger Museum, reopening Sept. 4, has an extensive collection including works by Alexander Calder, Wassily Kandinsky, Claude Monet and more.

The Foggy Bottom Historical District also includes the district’s oldest structure: a frame dwelling at the corner of 25th and Eye Streets said to have been associated with the Underground Railroad. (The structure now comprises 822, 824, 826 and 828 25th St. NW.)

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

GW sports are in the ascendancy. Cheer on GW’s own Colonials at the Charles E. Smith Center or on the Mount Vernon Athletic Fields.

Nature in the City

image of rock creek park sign

Rock Creek Park is just a few blocks from campus. (Courtesy National Park Service)


GW takes pride in its reputation as an urban campus, but opportunities to commune with nature are never far away. Joggers, cyclists, birdwatchers and others can enjoy the tree-shaded paths of Rock Creek Park. Or if you’re craving a taste of the life aquatic, rent a boat at the Thompson Boat Center and take a float down the Potomac.

Take In a Performance

Lisner Auditorium is a neighborhood mainstay for theater and concerts, having hosted entertainers from Solange to David Sedaris. And culture vultures can catch the complimentary shuttle from the Foggy Bottom Metro to the Kennedy Center, where options range from splurge-worthy tickets like “Hamilton” to free daily shows at Millennium Stage

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The Kennedy Center doesn't just offer plays and concerts. Visitors also can ascend to the terrace to take in a different kind of show: the panoramic view across the Potomac.  (William Atkins/GW Today)


Where to Eat:

Options around Foggy Bottom are varied and numerous, and luckily for GWorld card holders, more than 90 dining and grocery partners on and near campus accept Colonial Cash or Dining Dollars. For a start, try new spins on healthy cuisine at José Andrés’ Beefsteak (800 22nd St., NW), or locally-founded chain Sweetgreen (2221 I St., NW). Stop into local favorite GW Deli (2133 G St., NW). Or sample poké, the Hawaiian raw tuna salad that’s a relatively recent import to D.C., at Abunai Poke on 19th and L.

image of FRESHFARM farmers market

The FRESHFARM Farmer's Market comes to 23rd and I streets Wednesdays at 3 p.m. (Jessica McConnell Burt/GW Today)


Residence hall District House offers a range of cuisines, including Chick-Fil-A, Peet’s Coffee, Wiseguy NY Pizza and more, and food trucks serving local and global cuisine line H Street between 21st and 22nd streets at lunchtime. And the shopping center at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, contains plenty of tasty options, including popular dairy bar and bakery Captain Cookie and the Milkman and the critically-acclaimed Indian street food joint Bindaas.

If you’re going out in Foggy Bottom, students recommend Tonic (2036 G St., NW) and Stoney’s (2101 L St., NW), both of which offer trivia nights and bustling social scenes.

The walls of Tonic are lined with photos of Foggy Bottom through the last century. (Robert Stewart/GW Today)


For special occasions in the Foggy Bottom area, try seasonal and regional pioneer Equinox (818 Connecticut Ave., NW) or farm-sourced cuisine at the Michelin-starred Blue Duck Tavern (1201 24th St., NW).

map of foggy bottom