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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Bloomingdale in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Separate Schools

Worthy Ambition

 

—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —

 
Separate Schools Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
1. Separate Schools Marker
Inscription.

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.

St. George's
Separate Schools Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
2. Separate Schools Marker
Episcopal Church, now at Second and U Street, was organized in 1930 to serve longtime residents as well as refugees from the gentrification and urban renewal of Georgetown and Tenleytown. Father Adolphus A. Birch, who led the church until 1966, is remembered for his warmth and easy manner. "He made me want to come to church," recalled Carolyn Giles Smith, who grew up nearby. The current church building opened in 1969.

Reverse:
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.

For
Separate Schools Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
3. Separate Schools Marker
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 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 AmericansChurches & ReligionEducation
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 5, 2017. This page originally submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 45 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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