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LeDroit Park in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Best in the Country

Worthy Ambition

 

—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —

 
Best in the Country Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
1. Best in the Country Marker
Inscription. Poet May Miller once remarked that unlike New York's Harlem, LeDroit Park “didn't have to have a renaissance.” In fact, before they joined the cultural movement of the 1920s and '30s, most Harlem Renaissance intellectuals spent time at Howard University and in LeDroit Park.

Miller and her father, Howard University dean and Sociologist Kelly Miller, hosted poet Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1897 when Dunbar first moved here from Dayton, Ohio. Soon after he moved to 1934 Fourth Street, at this corner. “The best Negroes in the country find their way to the capital,” Dunbar wrote, “and I have a very congenial and delightful circle of friends.” Among them were Robert and Mary Church Terrell, who purchased number 1936 Fourth Street in 1893 through a “straw,” a white person acting on their behalf.

Poet Langston Hughes lived with cousins nearby at 2213 Fourth Street in 1924. Unlike Dunbar, Hughes found Washington's black society “as unbearable and snobbish a group of people as I have ever come in contact with.” In fact his high-class cousins looked down on the series of menial jobs Hughes was forced to take. Fortunately he was able to enjoy evenings at Seventh Street's nightclubs, where he found inspiration for his innovative jazz poetry.

The rowhouses
Best in the Country Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
2. Best in the Country Marker
and apartments just north of here along V and W Streets were constructed as public housing in the 1930s and early '40s. They replaced the dilapidated structures of Howardtown, which developed during the Civil War (1861-1865) when refugees from slavery came to Washington's Union Army encampments for shelter, work, and protection.

Back:
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 son and father-in-law. Bloomingdale was developed shortly thereafter.

For its first two decades, wealthy whites set up housekeeping in LeDroit Park. By 1893,
Best in the Country Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
3. Best in the Country Marker
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 2015 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 6 of 16.)
 
Location. 38° 55.044′ N, 77° 1.062′ 
Best in the Country Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
4. Best in the Country Marker
W. Marker is in LeDroit Park, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of Elm Street Northwest and 4th Street NW, on the right when traveling west on Elm Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 407 Elm Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Christian Fleetwood and Sara Fleetwood Residence Site (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The University Next Door (about 400 feet away); Government Girls (about 500 feet away); T Street Elites (about 500 feet away); Willis Richardson Residence (about 500 feet away); Robert and Mary Church Terrell House (about 600 feet away); A Voice from the South (about 700 feet away); The Doctor Is In (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in LeDroit Park.
 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicEntertainment
 
Trio of Houses image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
5. Trio of Houses
Robert and Mary Terrell once lived in the middle of this trio of houses on Fourth Street. Paul Laurence Dunbar moved into the house on the left.
Close-up of photo on reverse of marker
<i>Young Man Studying</i> [Lanston Hughes] image. Click for full size.
6. Young Man Studying [Lanston Hughes]
by LeDroit Park artist Hilda Wilkinson Brown.
Close-up of image on marker
Paul Laurence Dunbar image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
7. Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar worked at the Library of Congress when he and his wife Alice Dunbar-Nelson lived on fourth Street.
Close-up of photo on marker
Alice Dunbar-Nelson image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
8. Alice Dunbar-Nelson
Close-up of photo on marker
“Duke” Ellington image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
9. “Duke” Ellington
Legendary Jazz impresario Edward K. “Duke” Ellington lived at 420 Elm St. as a child.
Close-up of photo on marker
Howardtown image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
10. Howardtown
A dilapidated remnant of Howardtown, left, was slated for replacement In 1939 with subsidized housing, The aerial photo captures the Kelly Miller Dwellings under construction near Griffith Stadlum. the newly completed V Street houses with their distinctive U shape. and the Williston Apartments.
Close-up of photo on marker
V Street houses image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
11. V Street houses
Close-up of photo on marker
Williston Apartments image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
12. Williston Apartments
Close-up of photo on marker
Dilapidated Remnant of Howardtown image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
13. Dilapidated Remnant of Howardtown
Close-up of photo on marker
1934 - 1936 - 1938 4th Street image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
14. 1934 - 1936 - 1938 4th Street
Robert and Mary Church Terrell lived at 1936 (in the middle) and Paul Laurence Dunbar lived at 1934 (on the left)
420 Elm Street image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, August 8, 2015
15. 420 Elm Street
One of many houses in Washington DC where “Duke” Ellington lived.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 4, 2017. This page originally submitted on August 29, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 198 times since then and 66 times this year. Last updated on November 19, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. Photos:   1. submitted on August 29, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   2. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland.   3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. submitted on August 29, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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