Bloomingdale in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Fathers and Sons
—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —
St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church celebrated its first Mass in 1901 in a nearby mansion. Father Eugene Hannan, a graduate of Gonzaga High School just south of here, founded St. Martin's to serve the growing Catholic population that dated to the city's very beginnings. To create the nation's capital, Irish laborers and Italian craftsmen worked beside free and enslaved African Americans as well as German and English immigrants. This church was built in 1939.
African Americans began attending St. Martin's around 1950, two years after Archbishop Patrick O'Boyle directed DC's white parishes and schools to integrate. The desegregation of public schools in 1954 and a suburban building boom accelerated white flight from Bloomingdale and other urban neighborhoods. By the early 1960s, the St. Martin's congregation was nearly all African American. Leslie Branch, whose family lived on the 100 block of U Street, was St. Martin's first black altar boy, and in 1982 he became the U.S. Navy's first black Catholic chaplain. His brother Edward also entered the priesthood. Because St. Martin's priests regularly visited parishioners' homes, Father Edward Branch recalled, "there was a real relationship between our family and the church."
St. Martin's School operated across North Capitol Street at 62 T Street,
In the 1990s the North Capitol Street and Rhode Island Avenue Ecumenical Council formed to pressure city officials to clean up the neighborhood. St. Martin's worked on issues with Metropolitan Wesley AME Zion, just ahead at R Street, Mt. Pleasant Baptist at 215 Rhode Island Avenue, and St. George's Episcopal at Second and U Street. The council also launched festivals and wellness fairs.
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
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
Erected 2015 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 12 of 16.)
Location. 38° 54.937′ N, 77° 0.559′ W. Marker is in Bloomingdale, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of T Street Northwest and North Capitol Street NW on T Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1908 North Capitol Street NW, Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Dividing Line (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Metropolitan Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Bloomingdale (approx. 0.2 miles away); Home to Headliners (approx. ¼ mile away); Barnett Aden Gallery (approx. ¼ mile away); Great Expectations (approx. 0.3 miles away); Separate Schools (approx. 0.3 miles away); Elks Columbia Lodge No. 85 (approx. 0.4 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 72 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.