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The Brightwood land was part of a land patent called White Mill Seat in 1756. Later, the area was called Crystal Springs, named after the pure water that flowed from several nearby springs. One of the springs was located near the modern-day intersection of Fourteenth and Kennedy streets, which still flows in the present day, creating a constant stream of water on the sidewalk of the western side of Fourteenth Street, across from the Metrobus building. The area had many chestnut trees, and it was considered a place to enjoy with family. The Passenger Railroad Company ran hourly stagecoaches from Fourteenth Street and Boundary Avenue to the springs, charging 25 cents per ride. The area was later known as Brighton, but residents decided to change the name to Brightwood because the postal service frequently confused it with Brighton, Maryland. Archibald White and Louis Brunett are generally given credit for coming up with the name Brightwood. The area has been known as Brightwood since the 1840s.
The boundaries of Brightwood are easy to define and have been for many years. In the mid-nineteenth century, Brightwood generally encompassed the region north of Brightwood Park, west of Fort Totten, east of Rock Creek, and south of the Maryland line. Today, the Brightwood Community Association, an association of residents and business owners from the western part of Brightwood, define the neighborhood’s boundaries as Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Aspen Street to the north, 16th Street and Rock Creek Park to the west, Georgia Avenue to the east, and Kennedy Street to the south. Other widely accepted variations bound Brightwood on the east by 5th Street. Nearby neighborhoods include Shepherd Park and Takoma to the north, Manor Park to the east, and Sixteenth Street Heights and Petworth to the south. According to the 2010 census, the neighborhood had 11,242 residents. Much of the retail in the neighborhood is located along Georgia Avenue. Although no Metrorail stations lie within the neighborhood, the Takoma Metrorail station is within walking distance from the northern end of the neighborhood. The Fort Totten Metro Station is also within walking distance from other areas of Brightwood. There are several Metrobus routes that serve the community.