What you’ll learn about DC when you walk every street in every ward

What do you learn about D.C. when you walk down every street and every alley in all eight wards? Ask the man who did it, Austin Graff.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I did,” he told WTOP.

Graff said it took him two years to cover all 131 neighborhoods, and then write a guide on what to eat, drink, do and see in each of the city’s wards.

Austin Graff made a walking guide of all eight wards around D.C. after teaching his daughter the alphabet based on D.C. neighborhoods. (Courtesy Graff)

Graff said the idea to do this sprang from the pandemic, when he decided to walk with his daughter and teach her the alphabet.

“So we went from like ‘A,’ when went to Anacostia, which is really close to where we live, and ‘B,’ we went to Berkley, and ‘C’ we went to Cleveland Park,” he said.

What did he learn about the city, walking through it, talking to people and taking lots of pictures?

“D.C. is just small, land-wise, but it is still just so disconnected,” he said.

Graff said people don’t seem to understand each other’s lived experiences even though they’re in the same city, and that seems to stem from the city’s history.

“I didn’t realize that most neighborhoods had racial restrictive covenants on housing and excluded different people,” he said.

Graff said he learned through research that there are only a few neighborhoods in D.C.’s history that didn’t, at one time or another in the past, exclude people from the Black, Irish and Jewish communities.

“That did cause a divide in the city where’s it’s a pretty segregated city,” he said.

Graff said even though the divide is present, he hopes his guide might begin to change that.

“How do we make the city smaller for everyone, and just celebrate the beauty that happens in every neighborhood.”

Graff said he also learned, as he put it, that “local champions carry D.C.” because they love their neighborhoods and work to keep them great.

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Kyle Cooper

Weekend and fill-in anchor Kyle Cooper has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years, Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP, Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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