LeDroit Park in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The Doctor Is In
—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —
When I was at Dunbar, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. In our community, doctors were the men who made the most money, earned the most respect and had the prettiest wives."
Sen. Edward W. Brooke, Bridging the Divide: My Life
The Doctor Is In
Across the street at 518 Florida Avenue, African American pharmacists Lewis S. Terry and Leo Williams established Ethical Prescription Pharmacy in 1929. Black-owned pharmacies provided dignified service as well as employment in an era of limited opportunity for black professionals. By 1941 this pharmacy employed 14 people. In 1950 it filled its millionth prescription and had seeded four other pharmacies. Customers valued "ethical" drug stores -- which sold medications only and did not offer sundries or soda fountains -- for their personalized service. Dr. Terry sold the business in 1966. In 2013 the building became part of Shaw's Tavern.
With so many physicians operating home-based private practices nearby, Ethical Pharmacy was well situated. Ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Hamilton Martin lived and worked from his home where New Jersey Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue, and S Street intersect. A 1905 Howard Medical School graduate, "Dr. Ham" (as he was known to his students) taught at Howard until 1936 and practiced
Until the 1950s, Freedmen's (later Howard University) Hospital was the only DC facility where black physicians could see patients. Thus it was not surprising that his private hospital at 1822 Fourth Street, Dr. Simeon Carson performed more than 6,000 surgeries between 1918 and 1938.
Dentist John E. Washington lived at 463 Florida Avenue. In his spare time, Dr. Washington spent years researching and interviewing African Americans who worked for, or knew, President Abraham Lincoln. The results, They Knew Lincoln, were published in 1942.
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, 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 2013 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 16 of 16.)
Location. 38° 54.916′ N, 77° 1.163′ W. Marker is in LeDroit Park, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on Florida Avenue Northwest 0.1 miles west of 5th Street NW, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 529 Florida Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Flower Garden of Washington (within shouting distance of this marker); Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Willis Richardson Residence (about 400 feet away); T Street Elites (about 500 feet away); Howard Theatre (was about 500 feet away but has been reported missing. ); The University Next Door (about 600 feet away); Armed Resistance (about 700 feet away); Dunbar Theater/Southern Aid Society (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in LeDroit Park.
Categories. • African Americans • Science & Medicine •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 4, 2017. This page originally submitted on November 19, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 48 times since then. Last updated on November 23, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.