Washington, D.C. is a political powerhouse, a historical hot spot, and home to some of the most iconic monuments in the United States. When you think of the avenues in D.C., only one truly stands out: Pennsylvania Avenue.
Knowing it’s the location of the most famous address in the U.S.—the White House, housing the president of the United States at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW—you would probably assume it’s the most iconic avenue in the District. But did you know it’s not the longest?
That’s where the truly iconic Massachusetts Avenue comes in!
Massachusetts Avenue is the longest avenue, specifically the longest state-named avenue, in D.C., coming in at 11 miles long with roughly 8.5 miles running through D.C. proper. (Georgia Avenue is technically longer at about 24 miles long, but only about 5.6 miles of the avenue are within D.C. limits!)
While it might not be home to the president, Massachusetts Avenue is famous in its own right, with a large part of its layout planned by Pierre “Peter” Charles L’Enfant—a French artist and engineer for the Continental Army. He was appointed by President George Washington to design the new capital of the U.S. and the layout of Washington in 1791. The locations of the White House, the Capitol, and D.C.’s grid system layout were all determined by L’Enfant.
The wealthy and political elite were the first to inhabit Massachusetts Avenue, largely considered some of the most-sought after addresses, living in large and extravagant mansions and townhouses through the 19th and into the 20th century. When the Great Depression struck in 1929, many of the elite were forced to sell their luxurious homes.
Crossing through three of the District’s four quadrants—Northwest, Northeast, and Southeast—Massachusetts Avenue then came to comprise a large portion of what is known as Embassy Row. Thanks to its already-established large and illustrious housing, Massachusetts Avenue easily became home to embassies from around the world, many of which are still housed there today.
This area of the avenue was designated as the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District in 1973, protecting it from the destruction of many historic townhomes in the area.
Running across a number of prominent areas in the city, Massachusetts Avenue is easily accessible walking, driving, and biking, but it doesn’t have a single Metro line running along it, though it does have some Metro stops and Metro Bus stops.
Today, tourists, diplomats, and Washingtonians alike flock to different areas of Massachusetts Avenue to take in the glorious embassies—including the Embassies of Australia, Belize, Croatia, Greece, and the Republic of South Africa, among others—prominent buildings and historical landmarks, such as the Congressional Cemetery, Carnegie Library (now an Apple Store), Union Station, Dupont Circle, Washington National Cathedral, American University, and more!