We asked you to help describe the location of the city’s newest ice cream shop. Hint: It’s probably not Columbia Heights.

Hayden Higgins
Aug 23 · 6 min read
Flickr/William Murphy

Last week, Washingtonian wrote about the city’s newest ice cream shop, Here’s the Scoop. This story caught my eye mainly because I love ice cream. While DC has some solid offerings in this department — Columbus transplant Jeni’s, but also the gelato from Dolcezza, and Georgetown staple Thomas Sweet — I’m still searching for a favorite. Maybe this could be it!

The article also caught my eye because it said Here’s the Scoop was in Columbia Heights. Immediately, I thought to myself: Could that be right?

The article describes the location as “across the street from Howard University.” But of course, Howard is a big campus, and there are places “across from Howard” that could be described anything from Bloomingdale to Shaw to Cardozo.

Here’s where the new shop is on Google Maps:

Snipped so that we don’t see any neighborhood names!

Something to keep in mind: Place plays a major role in the article and in the shop’s positioning. Here’s a key passage from the interview:

Why did you choose Columbia Heights?

“Well, we do own the property and had a presence already in the neighborhood. I felt that people would be open to support. I believed it it would also make people happy. Plus, Georgia Avenue needs it, we need a place that people can come in and feel good, because we’ve been through a lot of a rough times. Even with the changes that are going on in the city. A lot of people aren’t really happy with gentrification — it is what it is — and we need to learn to come together and get to know one another. So I want to have events where people are willing to come and sit and maybe have discussions.”

To be clear, my interest isn’t in policing what a place is or isn’t called; call it whatever you want! I’m just interested in learning more about how people actually think about place and wayfinding in the city today. So we asked readers what they would call this location. 202 people responded.

Reading through the responses, a few themes emerge:

  • Neighborhoods exist at different scales. In conversation with a stranger I might say I’m from the Bay Area. For many this is specific enough, but if there is further inquiry I can be more granular. The same things happens with neighborhoods, and it appears some people are using “Columbia Heights” as a bigger basket than others. (The psychologist Barbara Tversky has argued that spatial reasoning underpins all cognitive processes, and introduced me to research that suggests categories basically work this way.)
  • “Columbia Heights” overreach is associated with gentrification. Many suggested that this neighborhood name has become palatable or buzzy in a way that others have not — hence a conscious attempt by businesses or developers with property on the periphery of the neighborhood to borrow or coopt its notoriety and/or acceptability to broader (often whiter) audiences. (C.f. “Columbia Whites” as one friend memorably called it.)
  • Corollary: Name choice is dynamic, historical, social and political. Many commenters noted that past attempts to name/rename neighborhoods have been tied to this process. Many also noted that the terms used by newcomers may be different than the terms used by oldtimers.
  • Georgia or Sherman as east/west dividing line. Many referenced one of these two mostly-parallel streets in their explanations of neighborhood name choice, with Columbia Heights understood to be west of the division.
  • New Hampshire or Harvard as north/south dividing line.
  • Transit modality shapes expectation of neighborhood boundary. If you take the Metro, you may think of the Columbia Heights Metro stop as the center of the neighborhood of that name. Another example: One commenter noted that it is “too far east to be Columbia Heights,” ergo it is Petworth — but I’ve talked to many Green/Yellow riders who essentially think Petworth is north of Columbia Heights.
  • Is Howard a neighborhood or a landmark? “Howard” was a popular choice, garnering a quarter of votes, but some explicitly denied that it was a neighborhood. (I put it in as a bit of an experiment, uncertain of where it would fall.) Many who didn’t choose it nonetheless referenced it in their explanations of neighborhood, cementing the importance of landmarks in wayfinding.

Here are some of the more interesting responses. (The full list is linked here.)

  • Voted for “Howard”: Howard. It’s across from Howard. Self-explanatory.
  • Voted for “Howard, Cardozo, Georgia Ave.”: The name “Columbia Heights” pre-dates its metro stop, and it would make sense if Columbia Road — where the hill from U Street levels off, or reaches its heights — was the source of the name, but these days most people think of the blocks nearest Target as Columbia Heights. I think of Park View as being East of Georgia Avenue and Cardozo being west of Georgia Avenue. If I were describing this location in conversation I would say it was a shop “on Georgia Ave, by Howard.”
  • Voted for “Park View”: I live here — people want to refer to it by more palatable names because gentrification this way comes. Don’t do that.
  • Voted for “Petworth”: Idk I just always associate Geo
  • Voted for “Pleasant Plains, Park View”: I’ve lived on this stretch for 3 years (Georgia and Harvard). You only call this Columbia Heights if you’ve never heard of Park View or Pleasant Plains. (Or if you’re assuming this of the person you’re talking to). It has been interesting to see how much more recognizable it is to say Park View recently, as opposed to 3 years ago.
  • Voted for “Park View”: It’s literally Park View…….Columbia Heights ends at Sherman and everyone knows that? Why are you letting gentrifiers comment on where neighborhood boundaries are anyways
  • Voted for “Columbia Heights”: Oh it’s in Park View! Okay… where tf is that.
  • Voted for “Pleasant Plains”: East of Sherman Ave is no longer Columbia Heights. South of Columbia Road is Pleasant Plains. Calling it Park View is acceptable, however.
  • Voted for “Pleasant Plains, Howard”: I always thought Howard and Pleasant plains were synonymous, but I could be wrong. I associate Sherman and New Hampshire as the eastern border of Columbia Heights.
  • Voted for “Park View”: If that’s not Park View, there is no Park View.
  • Voted for “Pleasant Plains, Park View”: If you are on Georgia Ave you aren’t in CoHo (sic) no matter what. Park View is from the reservoir north while Pleasant Plains is south. So since the ice cream shop is parallel to the reservoir its right on the line of Park View and Pleasant Plains. You know Park View has turned to Petworth when Warder St becomes 7th.
  • Voted for “Park View”: I live around the corner and I tell people who know DC well that I live in Park View and I tell people who don’t know the area as well that I live in Columbia Heights.
  • Voted for “Howard”: When I think of NuVegan, I think of it being near Howard, but Colony Club is in another territory. Almost a month ago, I was surprised to learn that Colony Club is only a 9 minute walk from NuVegan.
  • Voted for “Howard”: That is a LONG walk to Columbia Heights metro. Everyone calls it “Columbia Heights” when it’s a new business or a house for rent.
  • Voted for “Pleasant Plains”: I live right across the street from here’s the scoop. If I say I live in Columbia heights, people get mad at how far they have to walk from the CH metro stop. I’m trying to make Pleasant Plains happen!! This is visibility. Thank you.

730DC

Connecting Washingtonians to their city, to their communities, and to one another.

Hayden Higgins

Written by

here goes nothing. hype @worldresources. about town @730_DC. links ninja @themorningnews. feisty @dcdivest.

730DC

730DC

Connecting Washingtonians to their city, to their communities, and to one another.

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