LeDroit Park in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Best in the Country
—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —
Miller and her father, Howard University dean and Sociologist Kelly Miller, hosted poet Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1897 when Dunbar first moved here from Dayton, Ohio. Soon after he moved to 1934 Fourth Street, at this corner. “The best Negroes in the country find their way to the capital,” Dunbar wrote, “and I have a very congenial and delightful circle of friends.” Among them were Robert and Mary Church Terrell, who purchased number 1936 Fourth Street in 1893 through a “straw,” a white person acting on their behalf.
Poet Langston Hughes lived with cousins nearby at 2213 Fourth Street in 1924. Unlike Dunbar, Hughes found Washington's black society “as unbearable and snobbish a group of people as I have ever come in contact with.” In fact his high-class cousins looked down on the series of menial
The rowhouses and apartments just north of here along V and W Streets were constructed as public housing in the 1930s and early '40s. They replaced the dilapidated structures of Howardtown, which developed during the Civil War (1861-1865) when refugees from slavery came to Washington's Union Army encampments for shelter, work, and protection.
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
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.
Marker series. This marker is included in the LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 55.044′ N, 77° 1.062′ W. Marker is in LeDroit Park, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of Elm Street Northwest and 4th Street Northwest, on the right when traveling west on Elm Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 407 Elm Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Christian Fleetwood and Sara Fleetwood Residence Site (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The University Next Door (about 400 feet away); Government Girls (about 500 feet away); T Street Elites (about 500 feet away); Willis Richardson Residence (about 500 feet away); Robert and Mary Church Terrell House (about 600 feet away); A Voice from the South (about 700 feet away); The Doctor Is In (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in LeDroit Park.
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment •
Credits. This page was last revised on March 20, 2019. This page originally submitted on August 29, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 240 times since then and 12 times this year. Last updated on March 8, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos: 1. submitted on August 29, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. 2. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. submitted on August 29, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.