Southwest in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
A Mixing Bowl
River Farms to Urban Towers
—Southwest Heritage Trail —
Al Jolson, star of the first "talking" movie, The Jazz Singer, grew up as Asa Yoelson at 713 4½ Street (once near this sign). The Yoelsons arrived from Lithuania in 1880. Asa's father Rabbi Moses Yoelson served as cantor and schochet (ritual butcher) for Talmud Torah Congregation nearby at Fourth and E. Here young Asa soaked up the African American speech and music that contributed to his later stardom. After The Jazz Singer thrilled the world as the first "talking" picture, Jolson moved his family uptown to Adams Morgan. Meanwhile the family of Rabbi Arthur Rosen moved into 713.
One block to your right, John T. Rhines ran a successful funeral home serving the African American community from 1906 until his death in 1946. A civic leader, Rhines presided over the Southwest Civic Association. Though childless, Rhines led the nearby Anthony Bowen School PTA and was popularly known as the "Mayor of Southwest."
Across Fourth Street was Schneider's Hardware, owned in 1949 by Goldie Schneider. She was one of many Southwesters who fought the planned demolition when Congress passed urban renewal in 1945. Southwesters argued that few of the displaced black residents would be able to afford future rents. Businessmen saw their livelihoods vanishing. So Schneider and fellow store owner
From 1800 until 1950, Southwest was Washington's largest working-class, waterfront neighborhood. Then beginning in 1954, nearly all of Southwest was razed to create an entirely new city in the nation's first experiment in urban renewal. The 17 signs of River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail lead you through the Modernist buildings erected in the 1960s while marking the sites and stories—and the few remaining structures—of the neighborhood that was. Follow this trail to discover the area's first colonial settlers and the waves of immigrants drawn to jobs on the waterfront or in nearby federal government offices. Here Chesapeake Bay waterment sold oysters and fish off their boats. The once-gritty streets were childhood homes to singer Marvin Gaye and movie star Al Jolson. Later residents included Senator Hubert H. Humphrey and other legislators.
River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail, a booklet capturing the trail's highlights, is available at local businesses along the way. To learn about other DC neighborhoods, visit
Erected 2004 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 4 of 17.)
Location. 38° 52.817′ N, 77° 1.058′ W. Marker is in Southwest, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 4th Street SW 0.1 miles south of G Street SW. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 401 I Street SW, Washington DC 20024, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Renewal and Loss (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Heyday of Four-and-a-Half Street (about 400 feet away); ADA: Landmark Declaration of Equality for Americans with Disabilities (approx. 0.2 miles away); 20th Anniversary of ADA July 24, 2010 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Can you identify these famous Civil Rights leaders? (approx. ¼ mile away); Dr. Dorothy Height (approx. ¼ mile away); Equality in Public Education (approx. ¼ mile away); Change on the Waterfront (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southwest.
Also see . . . River Farms to Urban Towers Booklet. (Submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland.)
Categories. • African Americans • Architecture • Entertainment • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 28, 2017. This page originally submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 73 times since then. Last updated on December 27, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.