Brookland’s roots go back to the early 19th century, when Colonel Jehiel Brooks (originally of Vermont) built Brooks Mansion: a Greek Revival house on Newton Street from which the neighborhood eventually got its name.
Farmland eventually gave way defensive forts during the Civil War and, afterwards, to post-war housing tracts. Both the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and DC’s growing streetcar system helped Brookland complete its transformation from farmland to suburban enclave.
In 1887, the Catholic University of America was established. With it came a host of other Catholic institutions that are still considered symbols of the neighborhood, including the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Thus the neighborhood’s popular nickname: “Little Rome.”
NOT SO LITTLE ANYMORE
But DC’s “Little Rome” isn’t so little anymore.
Recent years have seen a development boom in and around the neighborhood, especially along Monroe Street NE and 12th Street NE. Both the Arts Walk and Monroe Street Market have become popular shopping and dining destinations, and are also where you’ll find the neighborhood’s ever-popular farmer’s market in the spring, summer, and fall.
Take a casual stroll along these and other streets and you’re likely to encounter everyone from new families and young professionals to college students and neighbors whose Brookland roots go back decades. Now, small local businesses live in harmony with popular bars and restaurants, art studios, and food laboratories.
There’s no more fitting symbol for Brookland’s growing prominence than the name of the neighborhood itself, painted in giant white letters on the exterior of the Brookland Works building. It’s an impressive sight to see as you ride along the Metro or the Metropolitan Branch Trail.