I had lived in Washington for several years before I discovered the very logical system the District has for street names. So, for new arrivals and short-term visitors, here's the plan:
- The District has four quadrants centered on the Capitol and with major streets radiating in three directions. The Mall is to the west. Most official buildings are in the Northwest quadrant. Much of what once was the Southwest quadrant, the area across the Potomac River, was returned to Virginia in 1847 and now is Arlington.
- Streets are named in a regular sequence north and south. First come the lettered streets: A, B [now renamed Constitution and Independence Avenues in different quadrants] C, through W. Then there are streets with two-syllable names, in alphabetical order. Then there are three-syllable streets. Finally, there are streets with the names of trees or flowers, again in alphabetical order.
- Avenues, and there are many, including one for each state, are at angles to the regular grid. There are also streets and "places" of only one or a few blocks, though many have the same first letter as their nearby main grid street.
- East and West of North and South Capitol Streets are numbered streets.
It's almost impossible to get lost. Right?