Mount Vernon Square in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
To Market, To Market
Midcity at the Crossroads
—Shaw Heritage Trail —
When the Center Market downtown on Pennsylvania Avenue was razed in 1931 to build the National Archives, many vendors moved here. Convention Hall Market became New Center Market. Then in 1946 the building burned in a spectacular fire, visible for miles. Partially rebuilt with a low, flat roof, it continued to sell foodstuffs despite the arrival of modern supermarkets. But by 1966 the vendors were gone, and the building became the National Historical Wax Museum. When the museum closed, rock 'n' rollers flocked to "The Wax" for concerts. The city's second Convention Center opened in
As you walk to sign 17, notice the handsome rowhouses on your right. These are part of a full square of 53 houses designed and built in 1890 by the prolific T. Franklin Schneider. Developing an entire square, though common in most city neighborhoods, was unusual in Shaw, where most houses were built individually.
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 the Shaw neighborhood lay just north of the downtown federal offices and white businesses, and south of the African-American-dominated U Street commercial corridor and Howard University.
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,
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 about other DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
Architect James McGill's innovative Convention Hall Market, 1909.
The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Erected 2006 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 16.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Shaw Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 54.253′ N, 77° 1.127′ W. Marker is in Mount Vernon Square, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of L Street Northwest and 5th Street Northwest, on the right when Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 501 L 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. “Sweet Daddy” Grace (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); History in a House (about 700 feet away); On the Path (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Place to Shop (approx. 0.2 miles away); Roots of Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral (approx. 0.2 miles away); Remembering "the Village" (approx. 0.2 miles away); Words and Deeds (approx. 0.2 miles away); Reaching for Equality (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mount Vernon Square.
Categories. • Architecture • Arts, Letters, Music • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page was last revised on March 21, 2019. This page originally submitted on July 14, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 49 times since then and 10 times this year. Last updated on March 8, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on July 14, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.