Southwest in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Renewal and Loss
River Farms to Urban Towers
—Southwest Heritage Trail —
Directly across Fourth Street from this sign is the Capitol Park complex of high-rise and townhouse residences. Designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith of Satterlee and Smith, the high-rise (now Potomac Place) opened in 1959 as the first new structure in the redeveloping Southwest. Critics hailed it as a "beautiful building, inside and out" with inspiring views of the Capitol and the Washington Monument. Smith won awards for her creative design (efficiencies had a "folding wall" to create a separate bedroom) and materials. Soon she was the leading choice for designing other new Southwest buildings.
Capitol Park replaced Dixon Court, a set of alleys inside the block bordered by Third, Fourth, H, and I streets. For years the press and social reformers presented Dixon Court as a blighted environment that incubated crime and disease. Its 43 tiny houses, lacking plumbing and green spaces, were chronically overcrowded and in need of repairs. Yet when the court was the first to be demolished in 1954, a close-knit community was also destroyed. Neighbors had worked together and watched out for one another.
The relocation of 23,500 Southwesters was an enormous job. Many who were financially able left Southwest when urban renewal plans became public. Workers with the Redevelopment Land Agency helped others find affordable
From 1800 until 1950, Southwest was Washington's largest working-class, waterfront neighborhood. Then beginning in 1954, nearly all of Southwest was razed to create an entirely new city in the nation's first experiment in urban renewal. The 17 signs of River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail lead you through the Modernist buildings erected in the 1960s while marking the sites and stories—and the few remaining structures—of the neighborhood that was. Follow this trail to discover the area's first colonial settlers and the waves of immigrants drawn to jobs on the waterfront or in nearby federal government offices. Here Chesapeake Bay watermen sold oysters and fish off their boats. The once-gritty streets were childhood homes to singer Marvin Gaye and movie star Al Jolson. Later residents included Senator Hubert H. Humphrey and other legislators.
River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail, a booklet capturing the trail's highlights, is available at local businesses along the way. To learn about other DC neighborhoods, visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
Location. 38° 52.87′ N, 77° 1.058′ W. Marker is in Southwest, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 4th Street SW and G Street SW, on the right when traveling south on 4th Street SW. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20024, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Mixing Bowl (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Heyday of Four-and-a-Half Street (about 700 feet away); Dr. Dorothy Height (approx. ¼ mile away); Can you identify these famous Civil Rights leaders? (approx. ¼ mile away); ADA: Landmark Declaration of Equality for Americans with Disabilities (approx. ¼ mile away); 20th Anniversary of ADA July 24, 2010 (approx. ¼ mile away); Equality in Public Education (approx. ¼ mile away); St. Dominic Church: Community Anchor (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southwest.
Also see . . . River Farms to Urban Towers Booklet. (Submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland.)
Categories. • Architecture • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page was last revised on February 13, 2018. This page originally submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 77 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.