The neighborhood that is now called Capitol Hill started to develop when the government began work at two locations, the Capitol and the Washington Navy Yard. It became a distinct community between 1799 and 1810 as the federal government became a major employer. The first stage in its early history was that of a boarding house community developed for members of Congress. In the early years of the Republic, few Congressmen wished to establish permanent residence in the city. Instead, most preferred to live in boarding houses within walking distance of the Capitol.
It is, however, largely a residential neighborhood composed predominantly of rowhouses of different stylistic varieties and periods. Side by side exist early 19th century manor houses, Federal townhouses, small frame dwellings, ornate Italianate bracketed houses, and the late 19th century press brick rowhouses with their often whimsical decorative elements combining Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Eastlakian motifs.
The main non-residential corridor of Capitol Hill is Pennsylvania Avenue, a lively commercial street with shops, restaurants and bars. Eastern Market is an 1873 public market on 7th Street SE, where vendors sell fresh meat and produce in indoor stalls and at outdoor farmers' stands. It is also the site of an outdoor flea market every weekend. After a major fire gutted the main market building on April 30, 2007, it underwent restoration and reopened on June 26, 2009.
Barracks Row (8th Street SE), so called because of its proximity to the U.S. Marine Barracks, is one of the city's oldest commercial corridors. It dates to the late 18th century and has recently been revitalized.
A new addition to Capitol Hill is the Community Center aptly named Hill Center. Hill Center is housed in the restored Old Naval Hospital at the corner of 9th and Pennsylvania Avenue SE. The rehabilitation of the Old Naval Hospital combines the restoration of a historically significant landmark with the cutting edge technologies of modern “green” architecture. Hill Center is a vibrant new home for cultural, educational, and civic life on Capitol Hill.
Recent estimates in Capitol Hill newspapers suggest as many as a third of all Members of Congress live on Capitol Hill while in Washington.
Famous people who were born in the Capitol Hill neighborhood include John Philip Sousa (whose birthplace, on G St., near Christ Church is still standing) and J. Edgar Hoover. Frederick Douglass's former house can be found in the 300 block of A Street Northeast. In the 1970s, the Douglass house was used as an African Art Museum by Warren M. Robbins.
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