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Washington Hospital Center in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Court Nullifies Racial Covenants

Worthy Ambition

 

—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —

 
Court Nullifies Racial Covenants Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
1. Court Nullifies Racial Covenants Marker
Inscription.

In the 1940s, Homeowners in the 100 block of Bryant Street breached a contract when they sold their houses to African Americans. Covenants, or agreements, in their real estate deeds prohibited "the sale of the house to anyone of the Negro race" or other specific groups. Although Washingtonians selling houses ignored these covenants when it suited them, a group of white homeowners at this end of the block didn't want African Americans moving in. Led by Frederic and Lena Hodge of 136 Bryant Street, they filed a lawsuit to reverse the sale of 116 Bryant to James and Mary Hurd, an African American couple.

The District Court sided with Hodge and his neighbors. But Howard University Law School Professor Charles Hamilton Houston appealed -- all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1948 Hurd v. Hodge was among a group of cases that outlawed the enforcement of racial covenants everywhere. The Hurds remained on Bryant Street.

McMillan Reservoir is just up the hill along First Street. Alberta Addison, who grew up at 225 V Street in the 1910s and 20s, remembers strolling beside its waters and rolling Easter eggs in its park. Neighbors would picnic and listen to band concerts there, treating its Olmstead-designed landscape as an extension of Howard's peaceful, green campus. During World War II, the reservoir
Court Nullifies Racial Covenants Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
2. Court Nullifies Racial Covenants Marker
was fenced off as a security measure.

In 1987 the DC government purchased the sand filtration plant and parkland east of First Street from the federal government and planned to have it developed. In 2013 the reservoir and filtration site were listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Back:
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 its first two decades, wealthy whites set up housekeeping in LeDroit Park. By 1893, African Americans began
Court Nullifies Racial Covenants Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
3. Court Nullifies Racial Covenants Marker
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 8 of 16.)
 
Location. 38° 55.272′ N, 77° 0.781′ W. Marker is in Washington
Court Nullifies Racial Covenants Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
4. Court Nullifies Racial Covenants Marker
Hospital Center, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on Bryant Street Northwest 0.1 miles west of 1st Street NW, on the left when traveling east. 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. Water for the City (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Bloomingdale (approx. ¼ mile away); Separate Schools (approx. ¼ mile away); Government Girls (approx. 0.3 miles away); Medical Care for All (approx. 0.3 miles away); Christian Fleetwood and Sara Fleetwood Residence Site (approx. 0.4 miles away); Best in the Country (approx. 0.4 miles away); Centennial Year, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (approx. 0.4 miles away).
 
Categories. African AmericansCivil RightsIndustry & Commerce
 
 
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 51 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. 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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