A Shared Neighborhood
City Within a City
—Greater U Street Heritage Trail —
The modern building across 15th Street sits on the site of Portner Flats, demolished in 1974. An 1897 apartment building, the Portner was occupied by white residents until the end of World War II. Its grand public dining room and parlors, large, high-ceilinged apartments, and many resident services made it a sought after address. Its elaborate drugstore entrance was a landmark on the corner.
In 1945, the Portner Flats became the Dunbar Hotel, at one time the largest black hotel in the nation. It was named for poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who once lived in the adjacent neighborhood of LeDroit Park. The hotel became a popular gathering place for famous sports and entertainment figures, Howard University faculty, and other black professionals. Just up 15th Street stands St. Augustine Catholic Church, the city’s oldest predominantly black Catholic congregation, founded in 1858 at 15th and L Streets. In 1961, the congregation took the dramatic step and merged with a white congregation,
Photo captions (clockwise from top):
The Portner Flats, top, became the Dunbar Hotel after World War II, with an elaborate drugstore on the corner of 15th and U, right.
St. Augustine Catholic Church is a landmark at 15th and V Streets. Its 1920s church choir is pictured top right and a 1990s worship service, right.
(Reverse side, same for all markers in this series)
For the first half of the twentieth century, this U Street neighborhood inspired and sustained the rich social, civic, and cultural life of Washington's African American community. Here in the shadow of the renowned Howard University, neighbors responded to the injustices of a segregated city by creating their own self-reliant culture as well as generating leaders for the city and the nation in science, medicine, law, the military, education, literature, and the arts. Edward Kennedy 'Duke' Ellington, though only one of many celebrated residents, personified their achievements. Follow this trail to the places that tell the story of this exceptional community in the heart
Map of the Greater U Street Heritage Trail.
A resident relaxes on the porch of the elegant Portner Flats apartment buildings in 1897, shortly after its construction. It once stood directly across 15th Street. The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 11.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Greater U Street Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 55.025′ N, 77° 2.087′ W. Marker is in U Street Corridor, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of U Street Northwest and 15th Street Northwest, on the right when traveling west on U Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1501 U Street Northwest, Washington DC 20009, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Living Mural: Paul Laurence Dunbar (within shouting distance of this marker); Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments (within shouting distance of this marker); Saint Augustine Roman Catholic Church
Categories. • African Americans • Churches & Religion •
Credits. This page was last revised on March 16, 2019. This page originally submitted on January 25, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. This page has been viewed 311 times since then and 10 times this year. Last updated on March 7, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on January 25, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.