Southwest in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The Heyday of Four-and-a-Half Street
River Farms to Urban Towers
—Southwest Heritage Trail —
This quiet street was once Washington's answer to New York's Lower East Side. Fourth Street, known until 1934 as a 4½ Street, and nearly Seventh Street were Southwest's shopping centers.
Around 1900 this street was the dividing line between a mostly African American community living to the east and mostly Irish, Italian, and Jewish communities to the west. Yet black and white adults came together over life's necessities in the small shops along 4½ Street. Grocers, butchers, cobblers, and merchants supplied flour and sugar, fresh meat, clothing, and dry goods. German Jewish immigrants moved in during the Civil War, living above their small businesses. A larger wave of Eastern European Jews began arriving after 1880.
This street was the center of Jewish life in Southwest, but it was never exclusive. The Jewell Theater, showing movies to African American audiences, once sat here across from today's Amidon Elementary School. Children played together in alleys and schoolyards, and roamed to the Mall to visit the Smithsonian museums or play on the open fields.
Southwest's Jewish community produced a civic leader for the entire city, Attorney Harry S. Wender worked to make DC streets safer and to create playgrounds. In 1934, he helped bring black and white citizens together to persuade the
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.
Erected 2004 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 3 of 17.)
Location. 38° 52.749′ N, 77° 1.068′ W. Marker is in Southwest, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of I Street SW and 4th Street SW on I Street SW. Touch for map. Southwest corner of 4th & I Streets SW. Marker is at or near this postal address: 400 I Street SW, 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 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); ADA: Landmark Declaration of Equality for Americans with Disabilities (about 700 feet away); 20th Anniversary of ADA July 24, 2010 (about 700 feet away); Renewal and Loss (about 700 feet away); Change on the Waterfront (approx. 0.2 miles away); Can you identify these famous Civil Rights leaders? (approx. ¼ mile away); Dr. Dorothy Height (approx. ¼ mile away); Thomas Law (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 Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland.)
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page was last revised on February 13, 2018. This page originally submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 77 times since then and 16 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.