“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Bloomingdale in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Great Expectations

Worthy Ambition


—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —

Great Expectations Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
1. Great Expectations Marker

Bloomingdale of the 1940s and '50s was a village of high expectations. Within a block of this sign lived four young women who grew up to be judges.

Anna Diggs Taylor rose to chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Michigan. The daughter of Howard University's first black treasurer Virginius D. Johnston, Taylor was best known for her 2006 ruling that wiretapping citizens without a warrant is unconstitutional. Alice Gail Pollard (later Clark) was the first black District Court judge in Howard County, Maryland. Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Norma Holloway Johnson famously oversaw the 1998 grand jury investigation into President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. As a girl, Johnson left Louisiana to live with a Randolph Place relative so she could attend DC's prestigious Dunbar High School.

Retired DC Court of Appeals Chief Judge Annice Wagner, who grew up nearby on First Street, remembered a neighborhood filled with homes and offices of black professionals. "We believed that we could become doctors, lawyers, and teachers," she said, "because we observed their achievements and they encouraged us."

Chief Justice of Tennessee's Supreme Court Adolpho Birch, Jr., a Dunbar graduate, grew up in the nearby St. George's Episcopal Church
Great Expectations Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
2. Great Expectations Marker
parsonage as the son of the church's first rector.

Physician and public health advocate Dorothy Ferebee lived at 1809 Second Street. In 1929 Dr. Ferebee opened Southeast Neighborhood House to provide health and social services in Anacostia. Later she organized the Mississippi Health Project, bringing Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority volunteers to staff mobile clinics for tenant farmers. At home, she presided over the National Council of Negro Women and directed Howard University's health services.

LeDroit Park and its younger sibling Bloomingdale share a rich history here. Boundary Street (today's Florida Avenue) was the City of Washington's northern border until 1871. Beyond lay farms, a few sprawling country estates, and undeveloped land where suburban communities would rise. Nearby Civil War hospitals and temporary housing for the formerly enslaved brought African Americans to this area in the 1860s. Howard University opened just north of here in 1867. Boundary Street (today's Florida Avenue) was the City of Washington's northern edge until 1871.

Around this time, a Howard University professor and trustee and his brother-in-law, a real estate speculator, began purchasing land from Howard University to create LeDroit Park, a suburban retreat close to streetcar lines and downtown. It took its name from the first name of both
Great Expectations Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
3. Great Expectations Marker
Barber's son and father-in-law. Bloomingdale was developed shortly thereafter.

For its first two decades, wealthy whites set up housekeeping in LeDroit Park. By 1893, African Americans began moving in. Soon LeDroit Park became the city's premier black neighborhood. Bloomingdale remained a middle- and upper-class white neighborhood until the 1920s, when affluent African Americans began buying houses in the area south of Rhode Island Avenue.

Among the intellectual elites drawn here was poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The trail's title, Worthy Ambition, comes from his poem, "Emancipation": Toward noble deeds every effort be straining./Worthy ambition is food for the soul!

Although this area declined in the mid-20th century as affluent homeowners sought newer housing elsewhere, revitalization began in the 1970s. The stories you find on Worthy Ambition: LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail reflect the neighborhood's -- and Washington's -- complicated racial history and the aspirations on its citizens.

Worthy Ambition: LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided, 2.5-mile tour of 16 signs offers about 90 minutes of gentle exercise. For more DC neighborhoods, please visit
Erected 2015 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 14 of 16.)
Location. 38° 54.803′ N, 77° 0.839′ W. Marker is in Bloomingdale, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of Randolph Place Northwest and 2nd Street NW, on the right on Randolph Place Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 161 Randolph Place NW, Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Barnett Aden Gallery (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Home to Headliners (about 500 feet away); The Prettiest Place (about 500 feet away); Elks Columbia Lodge No. 85 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Anna Julia Hayward Cooper Residence (approx. 0.2 miles away); Dividing Line (approx. 0.2 miles away); A Voice from the South (approx. 0.2 miles away); Robert and Mary Church Terrell House (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bloomingdale.
Categories. African AmericansChurches & ReligionScience & MedicineWomen
Credits. This page was last revised on December 5, 2017. This page originally submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 97 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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