LeDroit Park in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The University Next Door
—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —
Howard University's Employment, educational, and cultural opportunities have attracted and kept families in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale for generations. Ettyce Hill Moore, a third generation Washingtonian who grew up at 128 V Street in the 1930s and '40s, remembered taking lessons at Howard's Junior Music School, complete with recitals in Rankin Chapel. "People from all over the city would come," she recalled, "and we had to dress in evening gowns." Renowned jazz singer Shirley Horn lived with relatives at 47 R Street to study at the music school. May Miller Sullivan, who grew up in faculty housing here as the daughter of Howard University's Dean Kelly Miller, became a noted playwright and poet.
Howard University also has physically influenced its neighborhood. By the 1970s many early LeDroit Park houses were abandoned in the aftermath of desegregation and the 1968 disturbances following the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The university bough properties with plans to raze them for a hospital expansion. But when LeDroit Park residents sought and won Historic District protection, the university let its houses sit neglected. Finally in the 1990s, under pressure from its neighbors and with support from Fannie Mae, the university secured financing to rehabilitate neighborhood
Howard University Hospital occupies the former site of the Griffith Stadium (1911-1965). The stadium hosted the Homestead Grays, Washington Senators, Washington Redskins, and community events. On a legendary, gusty afternoon in 1953, Mickey Mantle hit a record home run out of the park all the way to Oakdale Place.
LeDroit Park and its younger sibling Bloomindale 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 Barber's
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 www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
Erected 2013 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 5 of 16.)
Location. 38° 55.001′ N, 77° 1.118′ W. Marker is in LeDroit Park, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 5th Street NW and U Street NW, on the right when traveling north on 5th Street NW. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Willis Richardson Residence (within shouting distance of this marker); T Street Elites (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Best in the Country (about 400 feet away); Robert and Mary Church Terrell House (about 600 feet away); The Doctor Is In (about 600 feet away); Christian Fleetwood and Sara Fleetwood Residence Site (about 600 feet away); The Flower Garden of Washington (about 600 feet away); Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in LeDroit Park.
Categories. • African Americans •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 4, 2017. This page originally submitted on November 18, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 57 times since then. Photos: 1. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. 2, 3. submitted on November 18, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.