Bloomingdale in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —
The Nathaniel Gage School for white children opened here in 1904, when Washington's public school system was segregated. By the 1930s, even though LeDroit Park was an African American neighborhood, Gage remained white only. "I had to walk by the white elementary school to get to the black Lucretia Mott elementary school at Fourth and W," explained Louise Anderson Young, who grew up at 137 T Street. Young went on to teach at Mott for 18 years. Her students included "children of the people who taught at [Howard] University" and resident of public housing next door to the school. Like many urban schools, Mott remained nearly 100 percent African American long after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in 1954.
Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., who was named the U.S. Army's first African American general in 1940, attended Mott in the 1880s. As a young boy growing up at 381 W Street, Davis cared for two family cows kept on open land between his house and Howard University. He and friends hunted rabbits and squirrels on the Soldier's Home grounds north of the university.
The Mott School closed in 1977 and was replaced with a parking lot. Desegregated in 1954, the Gage School also closed in the 1970s. Like many of DC's historic school buildings, it has been converted into condominiums.
LeDroit Park and its younger sibling Bloomingdale 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.
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 7 of 16.)
Location. 38° 55.062′ N, 77° 0.87′ W. Marker is in Bloomingdale, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 2nd Street Northwest near Elm Street NW, on the right when traveling north. 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. Government Girls (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Christian Fleetwood and Sara Fleetwood Residence Site (about 700 feet away); A Voice from the South (about 800 feet away); Bloomingdale (about 800 feet away); Best in the Country (approx. 0.2 miles away); Robert and Mary Church Terrell House (approx. 0.2 miles away); Water for the City (approx. 0.2 miles away); Elks Columbia Lodge No. 85 (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bloomingdale.
Categories. • African Americans • Churches & Religion • Education •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 5, 2017. This page originally submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 63 times since then and 16 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.