Walk through many residential areas of inner Washington, D.C., today, and the architecture gives an impression of enduring grandeur. The city’s elegant Victorian era row houses — some elaborately decorated in historic styles, and others more staid — have a look of deep-rooted solidity. But there’s more beneath the row houses than meets the eye.
Many of these grand-looking houses contain within them a separate unit not always immediately apparent from the sidewalk, one that reveals a different side of the city’s character. It’s a unit that, accessed down steps, has long been the home to the less wealthy or established, to the people who once served the stately houses, or those who are now looking for an affordable foothold in an expensive city: the English Basement.