Brookland, together with its surrounding neighborhoods, has been at times referred to as "Little Rome" because of the many Catholic organizations and institutions clustered around the Catholic University of America. The university itself does not lie within Brookland's borders, but since the Catholic Church purchased the Middletown estate, adjacent to Brookland, in 1887, many Catholic groups have established themselves there and in the neighboring communities of Edgewood and Michigan Park. With its residents mostly of European descent at its founding, Brookland integrated in the 20th century, especially after white flight took place following World War II. During the mid-twentieth century, Brookland could boast of such prominent residents as Ralph Bunche, Sterling Allen Brown, Edward Brooke, Ellis O. Knox, Rayford W. Logan, Pearl Bailey, John P. Davis, Marvin Gaye, Paul Tsongas, Lucy Diggs Slowe, Lois Mailou Jones, and Robert C. Weaver.
Brookland Hardware anchored 12th Street NE for many years until it closed in November 2015. However, many full-service restaurants still make the thoroughfare a bustling corridor. These include Smith Public Trust, Brookland's Finest, Menomale, Steel Plate, San Antonio Grill, Askale Cafe, and Murray and Paul's, which is only open for breakfast. New additions in 2016 included Pho12 and Salumeria Italiana, an Italian deli from the owners of Menomale. Additionally, there are also a few carry out restaurants including Today's Pizza, Pizza Boli's, Sammy Carry-Out, and New Tong-Shing. Other businesses found along the street include Yes! Organic Market, Openbox9 Graphic Design Studio, along with realtors, auto-mechanics, nail and hair salons, florists, liquors stores and District Veterinary Hospital opened by local veterinarian Dr. Dan Teich.