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Near Northeast in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Hub

Hub, Home, Heart

 

—Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail —

 
The Hub Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
1. The Hub Marker
Inscription. The starburst intersection of five major roads marks this spot as a transportation hub for the neighborhood and the region.

Shortly after Congress arrived in Washington in 1800, city leaders chose an old farm road to create a private toll turnpike to Bladensburg and points northeast. Its toll booth once sat at this intersection. During the War of 1812, British forces used the turnpike to reach the new capital city. Before they retreated, they had burned the Capitol, White House, and other key buildings.

In 1871 District officials made the Bladensburg Turnpike into a toll-free city street. Soon Columbia Railway Co., a horse-drawn streetcar line, opened, and for 30 years linked this spot to downtown via H Street. Then the streetcar line pushed farther east along Benning Road, spurring real estate development. A new rail line took commuters from here to Baltimore or Annapolis. With so much traffic, this hub soon anchored a busy commercial area.

In the early 1900s, H Street developers invited traveling circuses to use their vacant parcels so that audiences would see the area and consider buying here. A tradition was born: thrilling circus parades with camels and clowns and elephants lumbering down H Street. Circuses later set up near Union Terminal Market, in Uline Arena, and along Benning Road.

In 1930 Sidney
Streetcars image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
2. Streetcars
Left: Schoolchildren take a field trip on a Columbia Railway Co. streetcar, around 1900.

Center and right: The Columbia Railway's trolley barn, later a bus garage, on Benning Rd., is visible at the right of this aerial view of the late 1940s. The trolley barn was demolished six years after this 1967 photo was taken. (Center)
Hechinger opened a salvage and hardware store just east of here on Benning Road. Hechinger's soon became a Washington institution. After the 1968 riots many businesses abandoned the area. But Sidney's son, John W., Sr., showed his commitment to the city by opening the suburban style Hechinger Mall on Benning Road, anchored by his modern hardware store, in 1981.

(Back):
Trains and streetcars created the Near Northeast neighborhood around H Street. The B&O Railroad's arrival in 1835 made this a center of energetic, working-class life. Workmen living north of the Capitol staffed the Government Printing Office, ran the trains, stocked the warehouses, and built Union Station. When a streetcar arrived linking H Street to downtown, new construction quickly followed.

H Street bustled with shops and offices run by Jewish, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, Irish, and African American families. During the segregation era, which lasted into the 1950s, African Americans came to H Street for its department stores and sit-down restaurants. Most businesses welcomed all customers.

Then came the civil disturbances in the wake of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968. Decades of commercial decline followed. Just off H Street, though, the strong residential community endured. The 2005 opening of the Atlas Performing Arts Center signaled a revival,
British Soldiers and Circus Elephants image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
3. British Soldiers and Circus Elephants
Top: Soldiers marching to burn Washington during the War of 1812 as engraved by a British printer.

Bottom: Ringling Bros. elephants on parade on H St., 1979.
building evocatively on H Street's past. Hub, Home, Heart is a bridge to carry you from that past to the present.

Hub, Home, Heart: Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided, 3.2-mile tour of 18 signs offers about two hours of gentle exercise. Free keepsake guidebooks in English or Spanish are available at businesses and institutions along the way. For more on DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
 
Erected 2012 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 11.)
 
Location. 38° 54′ N, 76° 59.04′ W. Marker is in Near Northeast, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of H Street, NE and Maryland Avenue, NE (U.S. 1), on the right when traveling east on H Street, NE. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20002, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mediterranean Imports (approx. 0.2 miles away); Culture and Commerce (approx. 0.2 miles away); Enterprising Families (approx. ¼ mile away); The Changing Faces of H Street (approx. 0.4 miles away); Brickyards to Buildings
Hechinger Cornerstone Laying image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
4. Hechinger Cornerstone Laying
Sidney Hechninger, third from left, at the cornerstone laying of his first store at 15th and H Sts. Young John Hechinger, Sr., stands to the right of the cornerstone.
(approx. half a mile away); At the Crossroads (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Fires of 1968 (approx. 0.6 miles away); Education for All (approx. 0.7 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Near Northeast.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail
 
Dedication of Hechinger Mall image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
5. Dedication of Hechinger Mall
Right: H.D. Woodson High School band members ready to perform at the Hechinger Mall dedication, 1981.

Left: Mayor Marion Barry, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Samuel Pierce, Jr., DC Delegate Walter Fauntroy, and Hechinger Co. President John Hechinger, Sr., cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
6. Back of Marker
Finley Hospital image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
7. Finley Hospital
This Civil War artist's 1864 interpretation shows the Union Army's Finley Hospital, with this intersection in the lower left corner. A soldier stands in front of the tollbooth (just above the word "Finley") on Bladensburg Turnpike. The Mall, with the Capitol, Smithsonian castle, and half-finished Washington Monument, is visible along the horizon.
Map of the H Street Heritage Trail image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
8. Map of the H Street Heritage Trail
The Hub Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
9. The Hub Marker
Restaurants and Shops image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
10. Restaurants and Shops
The angle of the intersection between Maryland Avenue and H Streets forces one of Washington's trapezoidal building arrangements.
Five Roads Intersect image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
11. Five Roads Intersect
Florida Avenue, Maryland Avenue, Bladensburg Road, Benning Road, and H Street all intersect here.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 390 times since then. Last updated on , by A. Taylor of Laurel, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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