Mount Vernon Square in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
“Sweet Daddy” Grace
Midcity at the Crossroads
—Shaw Heritage Trail —
Bishop Grace’s mass baptisms were legendary. One year he baptized 208 people in front of 15,000 onlookers here on M Street, with water provided by local fire fighters. At the time of the flamboyant, charismatic evangelist’s death in 1960, his church claimed three million members in 14 states. Bishop Grace was succeeded by Bishop Walter McCollough, who expanded the church’s political influence. Under McCollough, the church purchased and built hundreds of units of affordable housing in Shaw and Southeast, as well as in North Carolina and Connecticut. The church is also known for its Saints Paradise Cafeteria, community service, music and outreach to the poor.
Over time nearly two dozen religious congregations have settled in Shaw. Congregations
Bishop Charles M. “Sweet Daddy” Grace preaches from an open car on M Street, around 1950. (United House of Prayer for All People.)
This Second Empire style mansion was the original church headquarters, 1950. Grace Magazine, left, distilled the evangelist’s message. (United House of Prayer for All People.)
Bishop McCollough, center, leads a groundbreaking for a church expansion. (United House of Prayer for All People.)
The decorated Bishop’s House, North Portal Drive, NW, a Christmas season local landmark. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
Mourners watch as Bishop Grace’s casket is removed from of sic the original United House of Prayer on this block. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
This neighborhood has always been "a place between places," where races and classes bumped and mingled as they got a foothold on the city. It has attracted the powerful seeking city conveniences as well as immigrants and migrants just starting out. By 1900
Longstanding local businesses took root here, and leaders flourished: Carter G. Woodson, Langston Hughes, John Wesley Powell, B. F. Saul, and A. Philip Randolph. The nation’s finest “colored” schools were here too. By the 1930s the area was known as Midcity or Shaw (for Shaw Junior High School).
Over time the shops of Seventh and Ninth streets became a bargain-rate alternative to downtown’s fancy department stores. There were juke joints, Irish saloons, storefront evangelists, delicatessens, and dozens of schools and houses of worship. As the city expanded, Shaw’s older housing became more affordable but crowded. In 1966 planners worked with local church leaders to create the Shaw School Urban Renewal District and improve conditions. Then in 1968, destructive riots followed the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Years later the community has succeeded in creating the mix of new and old that you’ll experience along Midcity at the Crossroads: Shaw Heritage Trail.
Midcity at the Crossroads: Shaw Heritage Trail, a booklet capturing highlights of the 17 trail markers, is available in English and Spanish at local businesses along the way. To learn
Bishop C. M. “Sweet Daddy” Grace and a mass baptism in the Potomac, 1934.
Photograph by Scurlock Studio for United House of Prayer
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 13.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Shaw Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 54.343′ N, 77° 1.216′ W. Marker is in Mount Vernon Square, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on M Street Northwest west of 6th Street Northwest, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 601 M Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Reaching for Equality (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Seventh Street Develops (about 700 feet away); To Market, To Market (about 700 feet away); The Place to Shop (about 700 feet away); Remembering "the Village" (about 700 feet away); Roots of Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral (about 700 feet away); Immaculate Conception Catholic School (approx. 0.2 miles away); History in a House (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mount Vernon Square.
Also see . . .
1. United House of Prayer for All People (Submitted on February 20, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Charles M. "Daddy" Grace (1881-1960). ...A combination of Daddy Grace's grandiosity, his followers' intense devotion, and popular confusion between Grace and the controversial Father Divine caused outsiders to be skeptical of the church for decades. After Grace's death, new leadership made superficial changes that allowed the United House of Prayer to move away from its marginal status and closer to the American religious mainstream. Early in the twenty-first century, its long-term stability invites an appreciation of the strength of the institutional foundations designed and laid by Grace. ... (Submitted on February 20, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Additional keywords. Marcelino Manuel da Graça; Cape Verdean Americans.
Categories. • African Americans • Churches & Religion • Notable Buildings • Notable Persons •
Credits. This page was last revised on March 23, 2019. This page originally submitted on February 19, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 5,208 times since then and 35 times this year. Last updated on March 8, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on February 19, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 4, 5, 6. submitted on October 27, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. 7, 8. submitted on October 27, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.