The area’s rowhouses, primarily built before 1900, feature variations on the Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque revival styles. Rarer are the palatial mansions and large freestanding houses that line the broad, tree-lined diagonal avenues that intersect the circle. Many of these larger dwellings were built in the styles popular between 1895 and 1910. Today’s Dupont Circle includes the Strivers’ Section, a small residential area west of 16th Street roughly between Swann Street and Florida Avenue. The Strivers’ Section was an enclave of upper-middle-class African Americans—often community leaders—in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The area includes a row of houses on 17th Street owned by Frederick Douglass and occupied by his son. It takes its name from a turn-of-the-century writer who described the district as “the Striver’s section, a community of Negro aristocracy”. The area, which was once considered an overlap of the Dupont Circle and Shaw neighborhoods, is today a historic district. Many of its buildings are the original Edwardian-era residences, along with several apartment and condominium buildings and a few small businesses.
The neighborhood is centered around the traffic circle, which is divided between two counterclockwise roads. The park within the circle is maintained by the National Park Service. The central fountain designed by Daniel Chester French provides seating, and long, curved benches around the central area were installed in 1964. The park within the circle is a gathering place for those wishing to play chess on the permanent stone chessboards. The Dupont Circle neighborhood is home to numerous embassies, many of which are located in historic residences. Other landmarks, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, include the International Temple, Embassy Gulf Service Station, Christian Heurich Mansion (also known as Brewmaster’s Castle), Whittemore House (headquarters to the Woman’s National Democratic Club), and the Phillips Collection, the country’s first museum of modern art. The Richard H. Townsend House located on Massachusetts Avenue now houses the Cosmos Club.